Expats Around The World Series: Interview With Social Travel Experiment Blog

JAPAN

I grew up in Germany as the second child to a programmer dad and a mom who grew up in Venezuela. In my childhood we used to go on family holiday at least once a year.

One of the best experiences was when the whole family went to Venezuela for 4 weeks to see where my mom had grown up. Venezuela being so completely different from what I had previously known in Europe awoke my curiosity about other cultures and my interest in traveling to other countries.
In my teens I became obsessed with Anime and the Japanese language. I grew out of the Anime phase quickly but the love for Japan remained. Since then I have been to Japan multiple times. First to learn the language at a language school, then to study there for one year during university and last I have come here to work. And since then stayed in this wonderful country.

I have used the time living here to explore the country from top to bottom. And I have to say all areas in Japan have wonderful things to offer. My favourite city is Kyoto, with it’s beautiful traditional temples and streets. Next year me and my partner are off on a trip around the world. We have started planning our route and everything else there is to plan before such a big trip. You can follow our progress and the adventures we have in the meantime on Social Travel Experiment.

Where are you living now and where did you live originally?
I am German, and have lived there until I was 20. I left to study in Japan for 11 months and came back to Germany to finish university. After graduation I found a job with a Japanese company and have been living in Japan ever since.

How long have you lived your current destination or last destination as an expat?
It has been 2 and a half years now. I was originally planning on staying for 1 year. But it wasn’t enough so I decided to stay a bit longer.

How may countries have you lived in as an expat?
Only Japan.

What made you decide to move to the current country as an expat?
I wanted to use my learned Japanese skills and I also wanted to see how working in another country was like. It is very different from working for example in Germany that much I can tell by now.

What were your biggest fears of moving if any?
I wasn’t very good at Japanese at the time of my move (enough for daily conversation but not enough to work in Japanese full time). It was quite hard in the beginning. Not only the work but also finding friends. But I learned the hard way and was able to find friends and a boyfriend with whom I speak Japanese, which improved my Japanese skills greatly.

How do you keep in contact with friends and family and do you get to see them often?
Technology is a great thing. My friends communicate mainly via WhatsApp. And whenever I am in Germany we meet up. With my family I skype about every two to three weeks depending on how busy we all are. I try to visit Germany as often as possible. About once or twice a year. I can usually only go during holidays, when the flights are most expensive, which is really unfortunate.

Did you encounter any immigration or visa issues ? (work permits / visas) etc.
No, the company took care of everything.

How did you decide what countries or country you would become an expat in?
Due to my love for Japanese I wanted to go only to Japan. Having lived here for a while now I am ready for new adventures, and I could imagine going somewhere else.

How do you make you living as an expat in Japan?
It is hard to say because the Japanese pay system is very different from the German or US systems. They pay relatively low base salary and very high bonus payments twice a year. But these depend on performance.
Also the taxation of income is different in every country.
As an IT consultant I am paid much better than many other jobs in Japan comparatively and I am happy with my pay.

As and expect in the current country your are living in or any previous countries (did you speak the languages or learn any of the languages) if so what languages do you speak or did you learn? Any tips for people wanting to learn languages (self taught sites etc) or any other tips?
I speak German (native language), English and Japanese fluent. And am learning Spanish.
I like the Duolingo App for learning languages.
For Japanese I like imiwa as a dictionary.
To learn a language the most important thing is to speak it. So get a tandem partner (someone who is fluent and wants to learn your language) or best of all a boyfriend or girlfriend fluent in the language. It is often stated and it is true. It is the quickest way to learn a language.

What are the approx costs of living where you are now or any previous place you have lived as an expat?
I live in Tokyo so the cost of living is quite high.

Rent + Utilities
40 square meter apartment with my partner for 180000 Yen (1650 USD) split by two people.

Transport (local or car)
Transportation to the company is paid in full by the company. I don’t own a car, I get around by train.

Weekly food shopping
Good question. Food is about 20 USD per day. We mostly eat out. And lunch is quite expensive in the area I work.

Health Insurance
Company paid.

Internet:
30 USD

Phone:
15 USD

How do rate the standard of living in Japan. 
Tokyo is famous for being an expensive city, but it also has a lot to offer in terms of safety, cleanliness and overall comfort.

What is the tax system there like?  
Income tax is low compared to Germany. At around 20%. The consumption tax is only 8%. Both quite low compared to Germany.

What have been some of the pros and cons about living in Japan.
Pros:
I love Japanese food a lot. So living here is real heaven. There is a lot to experience around the city on the weekends and there is always something new to do.
Cons:
Working in Japan can be quite challenging, they have a work ethic of long hours and quite stiff rules about everything, which can be annoying sometimes.

Do you have any tips for people that might want to visit or move to Japan as an expat. 
If you want to live here, the most important thing is to try to learn the language, even if it’s just on a basic level.
Japan has so much to do and see I definitely recommend coming here and taking the time to experience the whole country. Travel around.
Food is delicious. I love sushi, but there is so much other delicious stuff to discover, so be adventurous and try anything!
It can be quite cheap to eat out in Japan. You usually don’t have to pay for drinks, you get free water or tea. There is also no culture for tipping, and the consumption tax is quite low.
I stay in the center of Tokyo which is incredibly expensive. If you want to save some money, try to live outside of the city.

 

Do you have any future plans here to move somewhere else? if so where are you thinking? why this place?
We are planning a trip around the world from next year for one year. After that we plan on coming back to Japan for another year (to experience the Tokyo Olympics). After that we will go live in Germany, which in turn will be a new experience for my Japanese boyfriend.

 

Can you give any insights into the local culture / customs where you live as an expat (either now you previously). How important is it for people to be aware of these when living here to visiting?
Japan is famous for its richness in culture and traditions and I believe it is a good thing to learn about them.

For example learning the proper manners when invited to someone’s house is very important. (Taking of shoes at the entrance, being polite, bringing a gift etc.)

Do you travel around from this destination where you are living as an expat? What are some places you have visited from here / any countries close by that you recommend / what are the travel costs like to these places?
I travel around a lot within Japan. I can recommend visiting Okinawa for beautiful beaches and snorkeling.

Hokkaido for the snow festival in February but also as a great destination in Summer:

Read about it here: Japanese Melons and Lavender Fields – Furano In Summer 

 

Of course Kyoto is always nice to visit. You can read about a one day trip to Kyoto here: From Tokyo to the Kiyomizudera -Kyoto Day 1 

 

How are the locals where you live (were they easy to make friends with)? Are there any expat clubs or similar that you have joined? How easy was it to make new friends or associates here?
I became friends with my coworkers and I have some friends from my German university who now also live in Japan. Overall there are many opportunities in Tokyo to find foreign friends or make friends of Japanese people who are interested in finding foreign friends, for example by going to one of many Hubs in Tokyo.

How do you spend your time off here or at weekends.
Tokyo has everything to offer. Delicious food, entertainment like Karaoke, or game centers, but also culture like beautiful gardens and temples. You can also go shopping or just explore the many areas of one of the biggest cities in the world.

And if you should run out of something to do, there are a lot of exciting day trips from Tokyo that you shouldn’t miss. Like Kamakura or Nikko, two beautiful cities to get to know Japans culture.

What is the climate where you live. 
Tokyo has 4 seasons and they are all quite beautiful. No matter when you come there is always something to experience.

Travel Blog details: 

Social Travel Experiment 

It is a blog covering our trip around the world from next year. We are still in the planning phase right now, so you can read about our adventures in Japan and about the travel preparations.
Our trip around the world is a social trip, we are planning to stay with local hosts to get an indebt experience of the local culture and traditions.

Please share one life quote or any quote you love.

Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

Comments
  • Petya Miteva
    Reply

    Very interesting interview and I found inspiration for me to be even more adventurous!

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