Life in Japan

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.

Life in Germany vs Japan

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.
Life in Germany vs Japan

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 timeand 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.

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.)

Life in Germany vs Japan

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. cute emoticon laugh
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!)

Life in Germany vs Japan

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. cute emoticon wink


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.

Life in Germany vs Japan

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. cute thumb up

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.


  • Very interesting post. Thank u for this!!
    I also felt like “an alien in Germany” when I came back after my Working Holiday year in Japan. Even it was just short time, so many things seemed to be strange. Now I have stayed in Germany for two years and go back to Japan. Let’s see how it will be.

    I can’t compare my working life of Japan vs. Germany well.
    In Germany I had 40 hours full time job, went to Japanese class and meeting Japanese students once a week. So I was kind of busy within the week, but often I didn’t go anywhere on weekends because there is nothing to do.
    In Japan I just had a part time job (so far, let’s see what will come next). I often had days off, but sure, I got less money for it. I went somewhere nearly every weekend because there was so much to explore.

    However, mainly I go back to Japan because of my husband. We will see what future will be like for us.

    • If one feels like that after just a year, maybe it’s no wonder I feel like that after 7 years! ^^;

      It does sound like Japan suited you well, though.
      Maybe you’d still live there now if you had a full-time job – and if it were easier to obtain a work visa.

      If you have a Japanese(?) husband already, then it’s likely you’ll move to Japan in the long run, right? :)

  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about being back in Germany. And I totally understand. After living in Japan for 6 years I returned to Germany for some good reasons. And the first years in Germany I felt as you do – like a foreigner in my own country. The culture shok hit hard on us, still does after 7 years.

    At the same time I appreciate having this feeling of two home counties. And I appreciate my time in Japan so much more than I did, while I was living there.

    For us, I married to a Japanese, it was always a challange moving to Germany. We thought of moving back to Japan a lot, mostly because we miss food so much. But we overcome and after 7 a while in Germany our relationship got to another level. We are able to communicate now in German (and Englisch and Japanese). That’s great.

    My working situation in Japan was much better than here. The same you talked about: less work, more traveling, more money. But on the other hand, the workingsituation for my husband was much harder in Japan. He was not as happy as he is now and always felt not fitting to japanese society, specially with his german wife.

    We always thought, we could move back whenever we liked to, but then, 2011 everything changed. Our hometown is Fukushima and for the first time we realised, moving back to our family and friends is no options for us at the moment – since we were thinking of having kids one day. So it became a turning point. We tried hard to make the best out of our lifes in Germany, not always thinking of moving back and starting again from Zero. And as time goes by, maybe there will be a moment telling us: let’s move back to our second home JAPAN. Until then, we enjoy, the good things here. Always looking on the bright sight of life is something very important, I learnt these days. … But still missing the food ;-)

    • Hi Daniela! :)
      Oha, you say you still have these feelings after 7 years? Uhh … I suppose it’ll be the same for me then.
      At the moment I really can’t imagine that they’ll ever disappear. ^^;

      I agree with you. It’s nice to know you have two homes, but it always comes with biased feelings.

      I’m sorry to hear that your hometown is Fukushima.
      I understand that one wouldn’t want to live there at the moment, especially not if you’re planning to have kids.

      But I’m glad to hear you came to accept the situation and are looking positively in the future.
      I hope I can do that as well. I’m trying. :)

      And yes, I always miss the food. THAT will never change. *g*

  • Hello Jasmine,
    to be completely honest I expected a post like this when I read that you decided to come back.
    It was clear that in Japan you felt like something was missing and I think you want a boyfriend, a family and everything connected (gomen-ne if I’m wrong), but I guess in the seven years you’ve been missing from Europe, you missed all the changes, mostly for the worse, that our continent has experienced. Mass, constant influx of immigrants (and Germany is a heaven compared to Italy, which is the first country usually they arrive), a stagnating economy (and again Germany is much better off than the rest of EU!), lack of jobs, higher unemployment rate, lower wages, a crime rate that is soaring pretty much in every EU country, nevermind the terrorist attacks which happen from time to time.
    Japan is heaven compared to what EU is becoming by the day.
    With what I see and have around me here I asked myself if I wanted a family and kids to raise: the answer was NO. Not in this dubious environment, not with these grim projections of the future.
    Maybe I’m overly pessimistic, but I think EU has completely botched a lot of its policies (don’t get me wrong, but Germany has a lot to do with it because it’s the most powerful member) and there is a reason if a power like UK wanted out… and they went out. I really fear Europe is slowly fading away in many aspects.
    Of course I wish you all the best in Germany, but if I was you I’d get back to Japan as soon as I could, I seriously doubt we’ll see any kind of improvement in Europe in the next 10-15 years and probably more.

    • Hi Sputnik,
      To be completely honest with you I expected exactly the same.
      I knew this could happen. I knew about Germany’s situation at that time and I figured things COULD turn out that way, but I needed to try it at least. ;)

      Being away for 7 years, it also means your friends have moved on.
      While you start your life from zero, they have married, have kids, have built or bought houses.
      And you are at an entry level job, no partner, no kids, no way you’d ever be able to afford building or buying a house.
      I guess that’s something a lot of people can relate to that have just disappeared for almost a decade. Time has moved on.
      And you have changed as well.
      It’s only natural that things that fit together once, won’t fit anymore nowadays.

      I never had an issue with living in Germany. I didn’t leave Germany because I was discontent.
      But being away and learning how life could be somewhere else, you suddenly realize things you haven’t before … ^^;

      While I do think you’re right about Europe, I’m honestly not sure what’ll happen to Japan / Asia. There are also several issues, although they might not be that apparent yet.

      Thank you so much! :)

  • You make me want to go to Japan even more. I’ve been wanting to go there for so many years to teach English, but now I’ve been trying to keep my ducks in a row before going, thus pushing my opportunity to leave farther and farther back. I’m amazed that you were able to just drop everything and leave and found a job. I so wish I could do that. I also miss being able to read your entries when you lived in Japan. Everyone I’ve talked to had just returned to their home country after being in Japan for so many years. I feel like I’ve missed my time.

    • Joanna,
      Don’t hesitate! Time is running so fast and if you don’t have a good reason to postpone, don’t do it!
      I left right after graduating from university. I didn’t want to wait any longer – and it was the perfect timing as I had nothing to lose.
      I knew if I waited until I had a job in Germany, I would never do it.

      And it’s never too late! Don’t take this as an excuse.
      If you really want to go, DO IT! :)
      I’m sure you won’t regret it. ^^

      • The only thing that kept me at home was my church. Now, things are changing and I’m possibly moving away and going to a different one. This time I won’t be as involved and I’ll actually have a church to really call my own. But there’s still a pull to go to Japan, and I want to make sure to do it right. I feel like I need a list of everything I need to do in order to make it there.

  • I really feel so sad for you….Yes ! if the opportunity is given, please follow your heart. I love the Purple Hello Kitty Smart car (My favourite colour). It really will be your comfort, feeling, home in Japan.

    I read a lot about the refugees rape, molesting and attacking German women and little girls got rape in parks. In the first place, mercy was given by your government to them, they don’t appreciate it instead pay back what is evil. In this case, the government should consider to deport them.

    Yes! the Japanese were taught from young to be respectful to others and be well manner. They do not lock their homes because they trust their community. And every where you go, one will feel so happy surrounded by kindness.

    Even if you were to stay in Germany, your heart is not there….anymore.

    You belong here, you have planted your roots in the soil of Happiness.

    Follow your heart.

    God Bless you.

    P/s I have a Japanese friend in Amsterdam…he was my EX -Boss. His name is Tajiri Masahii, he is living with his wife and two kids, I think his wife is European, if you wish add him as a friend at FB. I think he will be so happy cos he is a Japanese in a foreign Land. Now at least you found a new Japanese friend nearest to you.

    • Thank you so much!

      Actually, I think my heart belongs to both countries – that’s what makes it so hard. ;)

      That’s very nice of you. But in fact, I have a few Japanese friends here in Germany who are my age and have experienced something similar just vice versa (leaving Japan and having lived in Germany for quite some years etc.). ^^

  • Thank you for this interesting post and insight into ,life after Japan’. I think you are very brave for leaving a comfortable life here in Japan and moving back, but I am also convinced that this was the right decision for you at that time. Otherwise you would have always wondered, what it might be like to live and work in Germany.
    As for myself, after four years of living in Japan now, it gets harder and harder for me to imagine a life back in Germany. Although it is nice to be able to speak my one language there, I feel more and more like a foreigner, when traveling to Germany. On the other hand, I work here 50 or more hours a week plus a commute of 2 hours every day, so living and working in Tokyo is not really something that I want to do forever …

    • Hallo Hanna! ^_^

      It was a tough decision back then.
      I knew I’d leave my comfort zone to go to a life that could turn out the way it did now.
      But I had to try at least.
      While living in Japan, years passed where I kept asking myself if I should go back or continue living in Japan.
      No matter how hard I was thinking about it, I never got an answer. The only solution was to go back home and to actually live that alternative life and THEN hopefully be able to decide…

      That’s the exact same thing I went through. And the longer you stay, the harder it gets.
      Not only mentally, but the older you get, the more difficult it might be to find a job in Germany.
      Your friends will have moved on and are at a totally different level while you start from zero. It’s tough!

      Personally I don’t mind starting from zero as long as I have the feeling it’ll lead me to a happier lifestyle. ^___^

      Yah … that’s exactly what I always wanted to avoid … working in Tokyo. 50 h + commuting .. just insane! :(

  • That is an interesting experience and thanks for sharing! Leaving oversea really broadens one’s perspectives as evident in your case. Truly, while Japan has issues like those of many countries, there is not a place with a culture and way of life like the one in Japan. I understand you went back to Germany for a good reason, but am confident one day you will leave your dream in which you get the best of both worlds, Germany and Japan. Best of luck and keep us posted. :)

    • Thank you, Kenny.
      I’m waiting until someone finally invents a “beaming machine”. That way I could travel freely between both countries.
      I suppose I’d be the happiest if I could spend 50% of the time in Japan (preferably in spring and autumn) and 50% in Germany. ;)

  • So ein Komplettbild der touristischen Seite Japans aus Sicht einer Deutschen hatte ich eigentlich für ein wirtschaftlich tragfähiges Alleinstellungsmerkmal gehalten, jedenfalls mit einer umfassenden Vernetzung und eher mit Schwerpunkt in Japan selbst.

    Attraktive Stellen in Deutschland, für die erstklassige Bilingualität Vorausetzung ist, gibt es meiner Beobachtung nach tatsächlich immer mal wieder.
    Ich wünschte Dir, daß das, was läuft, nicht zu sehr an Dir vorbeiläuft, weil Du hier wie dort genug Leute kennen mögest.

  • Gute Natch, Jasmine!
    I have to assume I was less frequent in visiting your site since you went back to Germany. But, after i saw this article, when I see some bad news about migrants there(which has been very usual nowadays), I become worried with you and check this site to see if everything is fine. Kind of distance empathy that I developed after years following your blog.

    I admire you for the fact that you threw yourself for a far far away country with no contacts and a cursive knowledge of language and turned to live there for 7 years (and did all the things you did!),
    especially when this country is Japan. But I think it’s difficulty to “make it” for a gaijin in the Land of Rising Sun. I’m glad things turned fine with you in those years, after this long absence in Germany.

    Career-wise, it’s still look for me that Germany is better. Notwithstanding the gaijin problem, the gender disparity is.worse. Also, the best jobs are closed to people which studied in Japan’s best universities, you have to enter early because they’re locked for life in a corporation and they dont believe in work/life balance either. Germany have more job flexibility and you can do some soul-searching-job-hopping.

    I hope things got better in Germany and you can find yourself,wherever you are. And, if someday I go to Deustchland and I see a pink Smart Hello Kitty version, I’ll make sure that I wave a hello to you, even you very probably dont recognize why. I probably wont know if this car is still yours and I’ll waiving for the right person, indeed :-P

    • Aww, that’s really nice of you. ^_^

      I’m not sure. I have the feeling that there are good job opportunities in Japan – even for “gaijin” – espcially if you can speak Japanese.
      I’ve noticed that it all depends on what kind of lifestyle you expect – and for me the lifestyle in Japan just worked out extremely well.

      We’ll see what happens.

      And yes, definitely wave – or even better – say something when you happen to see me / my car! XD

  • Your blogs are really fun to read.
    I am in my 6th year in Japan and in same situation as yours.
    Since last few months I am completely going back and forth on the idea whether to continue living in Japan or to leave.
    Japan always has been incredibly amazing and addictive place for me while in was in 20s – Now I am in my 30s and it keeps me bothering whether one should be here for long haul as a foreigner? It’s fun when you are young but when you age and want to have real career, family etc then being treated as a permanent outsider is not so fun. One seeks for feeling of being accepted and furthermore it would be unfair compromise lives of people dependent on you.Its my personal opinion that if you are here for too long then it becomes tough to find work overseas and one may end being not able to fit perfectly in either of places.

    • I agree that if you stay too long, it’s hard to adapt to life back home.
      That’s probably exactly what happened to me.

      I hope you’ll be able to make a decision you’re happy with. ^_^
      Good luck and thanks for your comment.

  • Germany actually ranks higher than Japan for quality of life, but I guess it depends on the individual. I guess living in Japan simply suited your preferences, and living there for 7 years gives you the “I don’t belong in either place” type feeling.

    About Germany… Honestly, nowadays the media is just too negative, focusing only on the negative things that happen in this world, making everywhere, not just the EU, but everywhere, appear unsafe. I last visited Germany myself in July 2016, and let me say this, it was my BEST traveling experience. I was originally a minuscule bit scared because of what I heard on the news, the refugees, the women/girls getting raped, etc., but it wasn’t until I arrived there when I realized that the situation is not nearly as bad as the media makes it to be. Man, the whole country was just beautiful and peaceful, like in the picture of the German countryside, but the streets, the overall vibe was just great. We’re humans, and we’re resilient. Go to Germany, and what you see is that everybody is just carrying on with their lives. Girls are going shopping, people are lying in the grass enjoying life, kids are running around licking their ice cream, and I’m there asking myself “okay, now show me the gloom and doom.” There’s no gloom or doom! Or at least not as much as the media makes it to be. That being said, I’ve never been to Japan, but I don’t know if I would live there given the amount of pressure on workers. Germans generally have more work-life balance, so that suits me. Plus, I’m from the USA, so “nuff said.”

    From articles like this, you see the power of the media, which is clearly a lot nicer to Japan than it is to Germany. I guess it’s because Japan is not as open for third-world immigrants than Western countries, but I do see assimilation as an issue.

    So the person who wrote this article, please respond to me and tell me what you think, with my piece of mind…

    • I’m always very curious when the OECD releases the next “happiness” survey.
      Japan has never managed to rank higher than Germany, but it’s exactly as you say. It depends on the individual.
      I’m sure that a lot of my German friends wouldn’t like life in Japan, but for me it was good (not perfect, though).

      If you follow the right media, you also see reports of bad things that happen in Japan.

      There’s no recipe for happiness and there’s not the “best country in the world”.
      But for me and for the lifesytle I had there, it’s always been Japan.

  • Hey Hello,

    Nice piece to read. Thanks for posting.

    I got a job offer in Japan and I am hesitant to do it. I am not in my 20’s nor my 30’s. I am in my 40’s. So.. eh…it is a rather exceptional situation. Or not?

    I understand cultureshock quite well. I’ve moved from country to country because of my studies abroad and work and eventually ended up in Stuttgart, Germany as a Dutchman of Armenian descent. Moving from Stuttgart to a small town in Bavaria, because of a tempting job offer, was probably the biggest culture shock I had to date. Oh boy, what was I thinking??

    The think what makes me hesitate is the solitude experienced when “starting from zero”. I had this at every station I was at. But my current station is probably the hardest because of a new unknown factor: Age! When I was “younger” It was easier to connect with people, or it was considered more normal? And being a non-conventional bloke like me I do not immediately fit in.

    My question to you: How easy/hard is it to connect to people in Japan. If, only if i am going to take this job, I am probably going to work a hell of a lot more than in Germany.
    Me being a dark skinned Gaijin, in a highly specialized design-engineering job…I will problably end up with other expats or colleagues after my long working days.
    What about your “social network”? How did you manage without your social safety net ( family and friends )

    You wrote that you had more holidays in Japan than in Germany? How come? Because of the teaching job? I will only get 14.. darn. Germany is “schlaraffenland” with their 28 days!

    Oh, I got this job offer by pure chance… I was on holiday travelling Japan and through a connection I got invited for an interview. Oh boy…

    So. would you advise to go?
    Also the commute. But the food….and the country..and Yakushima…


    All the best!


    • Hello Sarkis,

      It depends on the kind of job.
      For English teaching jobs with young children, they often prefer younger people.
      Apart from that I don’t see a problem with being in your 40s.

      Starting from zero is always scary and I have the feeling it’s getting more and more difficult the older you get.

      As a Western foreigner you won’t blend in anyway. You really worry too much!
      I understand that you’re scared, but what could happen in the worst case?
      I’d say just give it a try!

      I would highly recommend to not only hang around with other foreigners. If you live in a big city, it’s so easy to find other foreigners – and it’s good to have someone to talk about how to deal with certain situations.
      But it’s probably a much better experience if you interact with the locals as much as possible.
      It’s not always that easy to get close to Japanese people, but it’s usually easier in bigger cities.

      Personally I had no problem at all being away from family and friends. I went back home every other year.
      There was so much to discover in Japan. It never got boring.

      Like somebody else already mentioned, you have a lot of national holidays in Japan. More than in Germany.
      And yes, I had a lot of vacation time thanks to my teaching job (5 weeks), but what was really great were my working hours (less than 8 h per day although it was a full-time job).

      So, I’d totally go if I were you!

  • Hi, A very interesting piece of read. Thank you.

    Myself, a brown skinned, Asian guy, whom dreamt of settling in Germany through higher studies and job, but rather fate immigrated me to Japan. Its been 5 years since moving here.
    I came here as a single guy, now I am a family man.

    Your blog reminds me of those aspects that I will face, when i move back to home country after few years.It feels scary. What can I say about Japan. Being from a developed country, you compared germany vs Japan. If i have to compare my home country, India vs Japan, I can see only positives for continuing to stay in Japan. Job in a MNC engineering company,7+ million salary, a country of top notch safe environment to bring up kids, ever humble and helpful Japanese, with honesty a way of life, a non political office environment, perfect 9 – 6 job, 100% performing government offices, bullet trains, 24*7 convenient stores, ramen shops, respectful and helpful police officers ,,,and the list goes on and on…I have to leave all these :( …. Now it feels scary isnt it ?

    But my biggest con, I cant bring my parents here with me :( .. Particularly , while they are growing old now, I have the moral responsibility to take care of them..But i cant bring them here on a long term….So I am left out with no other option other than moving back there…

    The only thing that I curse about, had i been in UK or germany, I could have become a PR. But, in japan , I need to wait for another 5 years. Also , even if i become a PR, still the con remains.

    Sarkis san, Congrats. FYI, Japan has one of the highest number of public holidays in the world. So add that to your 14 days of paid leave. FYI, i have only 10 days of paid leaves every year..I am also coming under CAE engineering. But , you know it doesnt matter. Public holidays will make up for that.

    • Hello,

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us.
      I think being an engineer in Japan is generally one of the best options for foreigners in Japan.

      I think that’s the biggest con for all of us. We’re apart from family and friends and they cannot always visit us or vice versa.

      Japan is not really an immigration-friendly country (although it has improved a bit in the past few years).
      In Europe, especially in Germany, it’s much easier!
      In fact, in Germany we have about 45% of foreign residents (or migrants) in most cities and towns. Compare that to the 1% in Japan.
      But having too many foreign people in a country also bears a lot of negative aspects.

      Also, I agree with you on paid leave and national holidays.
      I had a lot more free time in Japan compared to now in Germany. :)

  • Interesting article! It may be lovely too to compare two countries in a third party point of view too. It is like when you mean nothing much to do in Germany over the weekend vs exploring in Japan over the weekend, would that be because you have already explore everything there? As in Germany you have so many places you can go over Europe by car and each country is different by its culture? :)
    A big shock to me as well I thought living in Europe is much higher than in Japan? Compare the bottled water, coca cola, Mcdonald, for examples. I am planning to take a trip to Germany for a few weeks to see if I should spend my next few years here. Any tips? ;)
    I love Japan. but when you are doing business there, it is very difficult as they do have a very unique mindset toward business. Would that be the same in Germany?
    Thank you once again for your sharing!!

    • No, I haven’t explored anything in Germany (or Europe).
      For me, that’s simply not of interest.
      The weather is often really bad, the structures and buildings are by far not as interesting … and for many parts the nature is neither. At least for my taste. :)
      I was just fascinated about Japan’s nature and buildings. Exploring something new was always exciting and never got boring. Even nowadays when I occasionally go back.

      I can give you easily travel tips for Japan, but not for Germany.
      I know it’s ridiculous, but I just haven’t travelled here at all, so ….. sorry. ^^;

      I hope you enjoy Germany!

  • I’m glad I’m not the only one. I lived in Japan for 13 years. I lived in Shizuoka, Kanagawa and my favorite, Okinawa. I also absolutely love Japan. I have moved to Germany and after a year I still haven’t really gone out. I am shocked at the Southern Italian drivers on the road who seem to want to fight me because I exist in front of them. The right wing (which would be considered extreme even by American standards) constantly gives my wife problems in the neighborhood we live in. Some of them even give her the middle finger. My area is saturated with ADP and as soon as they realize I’m a foreigner they throw their hand in my face and refuse to provide service. This includes retail clerks that work at Obi. The cost of living is killing me. I’m paying 3,400 Euros a month for a four bedroom apartment but I am paid in dollars. It’s costing me over $4,000 USD a month to have a place to live. I hear that’s only a problem in Stuttgart however and most other places in Germany aren’t that expensive. The work culture is completely different here as well. In Japan if you’re competitive and no one has to go behind you and do your job you will be liked. Here it’s all personality based. If they like you then you can slack off all you want, do bad work when you do decide to budge and you’ll stay employed. Probably won’t ever get a promotion but you can eek by. In Japan if you tried that people wouldn’t like you period and the company simply wouldn’t renew your contract. Transitioning to life in Japan was relatively easy for me but I do have a Japanese wife who handles most of the domestic issues. In Japan however if I need something done I can simply pay money and it happens. Here in Stuttgart paying money doesn’t guarantee you service or goods. I am still missing several packages from Amazon that never arrived. The delivery drivers here have been filmed pulling up on streets and taking naps. Later that afternoon customers would film that driver walking up to their residence with a card claiming that they tried to make a delivery but no one was home. I paid over $6,000 USD cash for furnishings from a store called Hoffmeister and scheduled delivery with them. The soonest they could deliver was two months later. My household goods weren’t due to arrive until three months later and I needed furniture. Three months later my furnishings from Japan arrived and I still didn’t have my furniture delivered from Hoffmeister. On the original delivery date I used a day of vacation to await the arrival of my furniture from Hoffmeister. When I called to let them know I was waiting they kindly informed me that they’re not ready and they’ll reschedule for next week. Three reschedules later is when they brought the furniture. By then my family had already completed the school year in Japan and moved out here. I already had all my other household goods from Japan (which came on a boat). The services outside the tourist areas, at least in Stuttgart, are horrific. No one seems to be worried about losing their job because the socialist system will give them a stipend to live off of. That’s an educated guess of course. I have no idea why people in the service industry in Stuttgart don’t seem to care about giving services. I am actively trying to get back to Japan now. What I described happening here in Stuttgart has been happening in my Native country, The U.S., as well. As a matter of fact most of the Germans I come across regardless of their personality all seem to speak multiple languages. In the U.S. the arrogant service workers I run across can’t even speak their own native language correctly and really have no idea about how anything they utilize works. I miss Japan. I miss everything about it. I can’t wait to go home. That’s what Japan is to me now.

    • Hi Aaron,

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience!
      I’m so glad to hear that you have some similar opinion about life in Germany. And I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling here, of course.
      By the way, Stuttgart is still harmless, there are more expensive cities in Germany. I know, cuz I live in the most expensive one. :(

      I’m jealous you got to live in Okinawa. If I hadn’t gone back to Germany, I would have moved to Okinawa next. ^^

      I hope you can get back soon. The only reason why I’m here is because Germany is my home country. I would never deliberately choose this as a country to live in. ^^;
      As you have a Japanese spouse, returning to Japan shouldn’t be so difficult. :)

    • hi Aaron,

      I know your post is old, but there might be a little possibility that it could help you or someone else. Therefore, I will reply.

      “3,400 Euros a month for a four bedroom apartment” –> you are getting ripped off huge time. I can assure you, you can find a really decent 4 room apartment within the Stuttgart city in less than 2000 Euros. I can not imagine someone paying so much price for 4 room apartment in Stuttgart and then complain, because one who pays so much money just to complain afterwards is “selber schuld”. Please translate this title to English ;)

      I agree to your observation about work culture. But than it might be valid for many other countries in the world.

      Problem with Amazon deliveries, I never had. I have lived in three different cities in Germany, and never had such issues. It seems that the area where you live has this specific issue. Hard luck man!

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