[Blogtober Special] Moving Abroad (Japan) as an Escape

Many foreigners move to Japan for very similar reasons. They want to teach English abroad. They need a job and work experience. They want to travel and explore. They want to go and live in Japan, experience the culture.

Whatever your motivation is, I only have one advice for aspiring foreigners:

Do not come to Japan looking for an escape from life.

Moving abroad will not and does not magically solve your problems in your home country.

Sure, it seems like a good idea. Maybe you have just lost your job, or you're had multiple failed relationships, or someone close to you passed away, or maybe you had just graduated with a degree you don't even want to pursue a career in... And you're miserable. You're lost. Your family has left you to fend for yourself. You're in debt from school. You don't have a lot of friends at home so why not? Why not go to a new country and make new friends? Heck, there's all these teaching jobs in Japan everywhere! You can just get a new job, and start fresh.

So you come to Japan. New country, new scenery, new language to learn.

Everything is dandy in the first two weeks. You love it here. Work orientation just finished and you'll start your new job. Everything's great.

One month in – your job is still new. All the students treat you like a king/queen. All the teachers are super nice and helpful, and they seem to want to be friends with you and want to get to know you. On the weekends, you travel out to new places, drink a bit at your local bar and meet new folks. Practice a bit of Japanese. Still great.

Month two and three kicks in. New job is still challenging. But you're starting to settle in. Students and teachers are starting to go back into their normal routine. There's still new places to explore around you. Maybe you go out to the nearby city more often and drink, meet more new people. Life is good.

Month four, five and six. Some of your past is starting to catch up to you again. You can't seem to find a bond between the people you meet at the bars. Your job is starting to get boring – you're teaching kids who seem to have little to no motivation to be in school. The scenery around you is become all too familiar. Some days you're force to stay home because you don't have the money to spend out drinking. And on the days you are staying home, there is no one to talk to.

Your spirits start to dampen at this point. Everything seems like a waste of time. All the things you had hope for in Japan seems so pointless again.

And once again you're back to square one.

Moving to a country for work demands a person to have a strong willpower. A certain type of mental stability is necessary to survive in a foreign country. This is especially true in Japan, and it is especially the case if you do not have a strong mastery of the native language (Japanese).

Moving to a country will not suddenly make new friends appear.

If you have had trouble looking for friends before, it will not suddenly become easier. Many people in Japan only speak Japanese. Even if they can speak English, most will prefer to speak Japanese as it is most comfortable. Your pool of English speakers for friendship shrinks as it is a foreign country. People form their own cliques very quickly and you'll be left behind again.

Chances are, when your past comes to haunt you again, you will revert back to old habits that led you to become miserable back home in the first place.

Don't get me wrong – I'm not saying you cannot have one or two of these reasons as a motivation for moving abroad. I think it's normal if people want to have a change of pace for a few minor things that are not going right in their lives. I too had a few “push factors” that made me want to leave Canada. I was bored of my surrounding. I was ready to move out and not have to deal with my overprotective parents. I was a fresh graduate and lost duckling wandering around looking for career options.

However, when one or two of these things pile up and escalates, taking a toll on your life and your mental health, moving to a new country will not make these issues disappear. The problems will only be magnified if and when you return home.

Likewise, your mental stability may even deteriorate more after living abroad, making it much more difficult to tackle the original issues in the first place.

Japan is not Disneyland (even though we have two Disney parks in Tokyo). It's not a place of magic and miracles. Fairy godmothers will not swoop in and tap away your mental illness, your painful past memories. No magical anime girls will come falling from the sky making your dreams come true or give you a life of harem. Japan is a place just as real as any other place in the world. Moving here will not make your life suddenly easier or better.

Only you yourself can fix your own problems. And the solution is not by moving to a new country.

Reevaluate your choices. Rethink the reasons why you want to move abroad.

Truly ask yourself this: “Why Japan?”

If the push factor outweigh all the pull factors of Japan, I would reconsider your choice to leave.

Get your life together back home first. Take a few weeks and travel. Travel to the destination you want to live abroad in if you have the cash flow. Get a good feel of the place, talk to locals, relax and refresh yourself.

Talk to a professional back home. Don't make rash decisions to leave and resettle in a country when you're not ready. It will only worsen your current situation in the future, and wasting your time in the end.

I promise you, once you have a more stable lifestyle, it will make your experience living abroad much more positive.

All the best and see you in Japan someday!

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