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.


  • I find myself in this article and many comments here too. I came back to Germany 2 weeks ago and even if I just stayed for 14 months (WH + work until end of the school year), I got so used to everything, it’s hard to be back. Of course seeing my friends and family is fantastic, being able to communicate even about the most difficult topics, lovely. But I miss Japan. My countyside life and my friends. Living is so much more…. livable there. Nature, Respect, Kindness, Izakaya, Travelling, Service, Cleanliness and all the well dressed people as well as well behaved kids/teens….. It was simply the place I was happy from waking up. I wonder how I will cope here, there is so much negativity. or maybe that is just now all I can see because I don’t really wanna be back here.

    • Hi Joy,
      I totally understand how you feel. Although it’s hard to believe now, you’ll get used to living in Germany again and you’ll see the positive sides.
      For me it took many years, but I stayed 7 years in Japan, so I assume it will be a bit faster.

      And nobody will stop you from going back to Japan although I’d recommend to first travel back there in a while to see how you feel. :)

  • Hello and thank you for such a nice read.

    Being originally from Brazil but traveling around the world for 3 years until settling in Germany made me go through a lot of cultural shock too.

    But I have to say that what got me most in your post was the part about refugees from and some comments from readers here.

    It’s been three years so you probably already got a better view, but as a foreigner yourself in Japan and posting so many negativity about them as it was a crisis and supported by your readers is heart breaking.

    Japan don’t have the same immigration issue because they have very strict immigration laws with a very low acceptance of refugees. That might sound good for those who live there but for those seeking asylum is a nightmare.

    If you look at the statistics here in her though, women are way more likely to be abused by a citizen then by immigrants. I was living in cologne when the issue happened but I remember clearly the news talking about how in Oktoberfest the locals are frequent abusers but little is talked about it.

    There is some statistics here:

    So in general your post left me with a bad taste in my mouth as your call is generalized and I know some super sweet refugees that are thankful for being accepted and work together with the society, but I find that your post help to paint a bad picture about Germany’s immigration approach when we are dealing after all with humans and let’s not forget that western countries are greatly responsible to create the conflicts in many countries.

    I understand that for the victims of violence here in Germany there’s nothing to fix the trauma, but let’s consider that a considerable part of that number is not with Germans, but between refugees as well.

    And as you mentioned, the right wing perpetrators against immigrants are also a major issue.

    I’m from Brazil so I’ve never felt as safe as living in Germany. And please also remember that criminality is going down even with the refugees coming.

    So I hope you have figured out all that already, but this post made me feel like you being a foreigner in a very homogeneous country like Japan, made you come with a very biased perspective of humanitarian approach.

    I am a japanophile myself, but being a gay person and also very open minded about sexuality, living in Japan was always a desire that I didn’t hold because I love my freedom. And living in Germany made my life of having a husband and being well accepted even with public display of affection very much fulfilling. Just having a husband itself is a great thing that only in Tokyo I would be able to do. And I saw that trans-person now in Japan need to be sterilized during the surgery, while here in Germany such a personal offense is not even close to be questioned.

    I now see myself a German wherever I go, even if the Brazilian blood is always there. But after over 7 years, just like you, the mindset is completely different and I can’t imagine living in Brazil again, even if my whole family is there.

    But again, thank you for your honest share of personal experience. I just wanted to clear the cloud that this post and comments left.

    • To be honest, I really don’t know how to reply to your comment.
      Yes, my mindset surely has changed since coming back from Japan.

      Still I think Germany took in too many refugees compared to other countries. The sheer amount of people was too much to handle.
      There was no proper space / no facilities where those people could live. The paperwork was crazy.
      It would have been better to distribute the numbers equally to EU countries who had the capacities to handle the situation.

      That would have made the situation much better for the refugees as well.

      And I know there are many nice refugees. No doubt about it.
      But there are also severe cultural discrepancies. They have to learn that in Western countries it’s not OK to just randomly stab people on the street simply because it might have been daily business in their country. I’m exaggerating here on purpose.

      And the sheer number did cause many problems on so many levels.

      Japan is another extreme example as they take only a handful of refugees per year – which is probably also not okay.

      What I want to say is that I completely understand your point and I agree.

      On the other hand it’s still a little sad that certain cultures and languages will slowly vanish as things keep mixing up more and more.
      And it’s also sad that you sometimes rarely hear your mother tongue in your home country. :)

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