2 Years After Leaving: Life in Germany vs Japan
I know it’s been quite a while since I last posted, but trust me, this blog isn’t dead yet.
Actually I’m hitting the 2-year mark since my return from Japan soon.
I figured it might be interesting to share my experience and current opinion about life in Germany vs Japan.
As some of you might know, I’ve lived in Japan for 7 years until 2014/15.
It’s not like I grew tired of Japan or started hating it. I had different reasons for leaving.
Also, as I left for Japan right after graduating university, I simply had not experienced working life in Germany yet.
I just wanted to be able to compare it to my lifestyle in Japan – and then decide where to live and what to do in the future.
Do I regret my 7 years in Japan?
No, not at all. Would do it over and over again!
Do I regret moving back to Germany?
No, because it was a necessary step – although I sometimes feel a little bit lost in terms of what to do next.
Reversed Culture Shock is still kicking
I’ve already written about the reversed culture shock I had shortly after my return.
Now, almost 2 years later, I have to admit that I’m still not over it completely.
I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever overcome it.
Moving from a very homogenous population in Japan into a country that is pretty much the opposite was quite the shock.
Germany had changed a lot in that regard in my absence. On top of this, around 1 million refugees immigrated in 2015.
Sometimes I sit in the waiting room of a clinic and I’m the only one speaking German there.
In situations like that I definitely think I felt more at home in Japan.
At least in Japan I was able to understand the languages people around me were using.
Also, the crime rate surely is higher here in Europe.
After all, Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
In many countries crime rates have recently gone up due to the huge amount of refugees and immigrants. Germany is no exception.
The right wing is getting stronger in Germany, people get angry and unfortunately use violence against refugees.
On the other hand, there have been many cases where refugees raped or sexually harassed women in Germany. Almost every week, there was another act of violence reported in the news like this one refugee who tried to kill Chinese tourists with an axe in a train. Asian tourists are too frightened to visit Europe these days.
And yet Germany can look so peaceful at times. :)
I can’t blame them.
2016 has been a crazy year in general. There have been so many terror attacks everywhere.
I feel that Japan is still a sanctuary when it comes to this.
(And I’ve never been that worried about the natural disasters in Japan. I find criminal acts a lot worse.)
In short, I’m not very happy with the current situation / politics.
Work in Germany vs Japan
Jobwise things are different as well.
Luckily I’m working in a job where I still get to use Japanese on a daily basis.
Taxes are rather high in Germany – at least compared to Japan. So, I’m having less money to support myself now. While I do earn about the same before taxes, it’s a completely different story after tax reduction.
Living expenses are more or less the same.
However, I used to live in the Japanese countryside where everything is naturally cheaper, especially rents.
Now I live in a big city in Germany, so I guess it’s unfair to try to compare that.
Concerning working hours and free time – and this one might surprise most of you – I had it much better in Japan.
Yes, Japan is known for crazy working hours and unpaid overtime, but not in the job field I worked in.
I also have to admit that I was quite lucky with my last job in Japan where I essentially only worked 6,5 h on most days although it was a normal full-time job. That was about 34 h per week including lunch/dinner breaks.
Here in Germany I work a normal full-time job with 40 h per week excluding lunchtime breaks.
PTO / vacation is about the same.
The difference is that in Japan as a teacher, I couldn’t freely choose when to take time off. I had to follow the school vacations and unfortunately that was always during the high season for travelling (e.g. cherry blossom season, Golden Week etc.) – on the other hand it was easy to plan trips far, far ahead as you knew exactly when you would have days off.
But that has to do with the nature of the job – it’s exactly the same for a teacher in Germany.
Unfortunately sick leave (esp. in English teaching positions) is not really a thing in Japan.
Either you don’t get paid when you’re sick or you have to make up those lessons.
And in most “regular” jobs, (Japanese) people simply don’t DARE to be sick… and rather drag their half-dead body to work.
Here in Germany it’s not really limited. If you’re sick, you’re sick.
But I guess depending on the job, it’s hard to stay at home if there’s nobody to replace you.
I truly enjoyed my job in Japan.
Otherwise I wouldn’t have done it for 7 years.
I never imagined that being a teacher could be so fulfilling.
Then again, educational science is what I’ve studied at university, so it’s not like I had gone out of my way.
As sad as it is, I can’t be a teacher in Germany. So, I’m glad that I at least found a job where I can use Japanese every day.
Free time and hobbies in Germany vs Japan
To tell you the truth, I had a LOT more free time in Japan.
I once calculated and was quite shocked about the difference.
In Japan I had about 700 h of additional free time per year.
SEVENHUNDRED HOURS! Wow! Insane!
So, no wonder that this blog isn’t being updated anymore.
It’s obvious that I used all of that extra time for travelling and blogging back then.
Of course, that had to do with the nature of my job and not with working in Japan in general.
I do consider myself lucky in that regard.
But that is also why it’s harder to get used to a “normal” full-time job here in Germany, I guess.
In terms of travelling, I feel like I’ve been in a cage for almost 2 years.
The only place I’ve travelled to was ….. Japan! (And I’ll be off to Japan in a few weeks again.)
Okay, okay, I’ve been to Austria for hiking .. but that’s about it! (Tannheimer Tal, Tirol)
There are several reasons for that.
Settling down here in Germany has taken up much more time than I expected.
Furthermore I have less money, less free time – and it’s also not as easy and comfortable to travel around compared to Japan.
Also, I guess Japan was a lot more exciting for me than Germany / Europe is.
Nonetheless there are quite a few countries I’m eager to visit (e.g. Canada, Norway, New Zealand).
Needless to say, I do miss travelling in Japan.
Yes, despite having been to all 47 prefectures more than once, I think there are still so many places to explore (and castles to conquer)!
I also want to visit other Asian countries and regret it a little that I didn’t do so while I still lived in Japan. (But I was so busy exploring Japan … it would have taken another 7 years until I had made it to Korea or China. *g*)
“A Japanese Alien in Germany”
Maybe I should rename this category now.
It’s funny to see how “Japanese” I still (after 2 years!) react without even noticing.
I stopped using surgical masks when entering a clinic or a train full of people.
But there are still so many other things I unconsciously keep doing. Even my co-workers keep telling me I turn into a completely different person when interacting with Japanese customers.
Bowing while on the phone, anyone?
I really do feel like an alien in my own country at times.
I guess, this is still all part of the “reversed culture shock”, but it’s also because people who have lived abroad might just have a broader and different view of things.
Also, my interests have changed quite a bit – and sometimes it’s difficult to satisfy them while being in Germany. (Gimme Japanese castles, dammit!)
Well, … I guess after living in Japan for such a long time, even a car like this seems perfectly normal.
Yes, that’s my car. Nope, I didn’t turn it into this! I purchased it second-hand right after moving back from Japan.
And let me defend myself by saying that I got so used to driving an automatic car in Japan that I didn’t want to go back to manual.
Unfortunately, the majority of available cars in Germany have manual transmission… so, I was rather limited in my choice and I love “unique” colors.
I’m not a fan of Hello Kitty at all, but when I saw this car right after my return from Japan, I just knew I had to get it.
So, if you ever see a car like this in Germany … it’s probably mine. ^^; ….
One good thing about being a “Japanese Alien in Germany” is that I finally qualify as a “tourist in Japan“.
That gives me a lot of options that I didn’t have before.
For example, I can finally use the Japan Railpass now which is not available for residents of Japan.
I have to consider how to get wi-fi for my phone when travelling, how to get a driving permit now that my Japanese driving license has expired (and cannot be renewed as a non-resident). (Don’t worry, figured it all out!)
And guess what? I’ll write about all of these things in my blog soon as I’m experiencing them first-hand now. Something I couldn’t do before.
So, at least I hope it’ll be useful for some of you.
My Conclusion: Life in Germany vs Japan
To cut a long story short: I had more money, more free time, could travel a lot more in a country with an extremely low crime rate while doing a job that was probably my true calling.
Now, I bet you’re wondering what the hell I’m still doing in Germany then.
And, to be completely honest with you, I’ve been wondering about the exact same thing ever since I came back from Japan.
Then again, by being challenged on so many different levels here in Germany, I’ve grown quite a bit.
I’ve also learned to see Japan as well as Germany with different eyes.
If I could return to Japan to the exact same situation, the exact same job with the exact same conditions, I probably would.
However, I was extremely lucky back then – and even that job wouldn’t have continued forever.
And I’m also sure I wouldn’t be happy in any other job field in Japan with more working hours and less pay.
Just being in Japan alone, wouldn’t do. And I guess that’s something that many people underestimate.
A lot of people force themselves to be teachers as it’s the only job they can do without proficiency in Japanese.
But they end up hating the job, the kids – and Japan in general.
At some point my Japanese was good enough to get a job in a different field.
However, I liked teaching so much and other jobs often came with a lower salary and more working hours. So, I simply didn’t see the point of changing jobs.
I’m still not completely used to my life here in Germany.
In fact, there were so many things I had to learn that I could do with ease in Japan (tax declaration, anyone? …).
That’s what happens if you move to Japan right after graduating from university and learn everything about being a working member of society in a foreign country.
Back home you suddenly feel like a toddler.
Germany is my home, but I can say the exact same thing about Japan.
And sometimes I feel like Japan is my true home.
I doubt that those biased feelings will ever change, no matter where I’ll live in the future.
That might just be the fate of people who’ve lived a certain amount of time in a foreign country.
And I suppose it’ll take at least until I hit 7 years back in Germany before I get completely rid of this reversed culture shock.
So, this was just a short update to let you know I’m still alive.
I do not intend to shut this blog down, but it’s true that due to the lack of free time, I probably won’t be able to post as regularly as I used to.
There’s still so much material (photos, travel logs, etc.) lingering around.
Stay tuned for more – even if it takes a while.
Also, if you’ve been in a similar situation, I’d love to hear about how your life has changed after moving back to your home country.
Let me know in the comments below.
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Events in Feb/Mar 2017:
- Feb 3: Setsubun (nationwide)
- Feb 3-12: Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi
- Feb 6-12: Sapporo Snow Festival
- Feb 7-12: Asahikawa Winter Festival
- Feb 15-16: Yokote Kamakura Festival
- Feb 17-19: Tokamachi Snow Festival
- Feb 18: Naked Festival at Saidai-ji
- Mar 1-3: Awashima Jinja Grand Festival
- Mar 1-14 : Omizutori (Nara)
- Mar 3: Hina Nagashi Matsuri (Wakayama)
- Mar 11-12: Sagicho Matsuri (Shiga)
- Mar 12: Takaosan Hiwatari Matsuri