Seven Signs You've Been Living in Tokyo Too Long
There really isn’t anywhere else in the world quite like Tokyo with its unique mix of elegance and history, combined with its modern kitsch appeal of anime, robots and owl cafes.
However, while expat life is certainly an exciting one in Japan’s capital, it’s not always plain sailing and there are several cultural adjustments you will find yourself making:
1) You get used to being hungry and thirsty at work events
Respect is still a huge part of Japanese culture, so much so that when you are at a client dinner it is not the done thing for anyone to start eating until their immediate superior has taken the first bite or sip.
This means that if the most important person at the table is caught up in conversation, and doesn’t touch their food or drink, neither can anyone else. You get used to grabbing a quick snack beforehand!
2) Though you feel weird eating and drinking on the streets
And on the subject of eating, after a while you’ll start noticing the odd looks you get if you grab a snack and eat it on to go. The Japanese have a huge sense of how they appear and even young people think there is something rude and unappealing about being seen eating in public. The lack of bins on Japan’s streets also makes eating on the go quite hard, unless you want to be carrying food wrappers around with you all day.
3) You light up when you enter a bar
That’s right, smoking is banned on the streets of Tokyo and you can get fined for walking and smoking. Incredibly, smoking in bars and restaurants is fine though. So if you’re travelling between the UK and Tokyo a fair bit and are partial to the odd cigarette, make sure you get it the right way around!
4) Working 60 hours a week seems short
Japan’s mentality that the machine is greater than the part is one that has helped propel it to such prosperity and you’ll notice at work there is pride to be had for an individual making sacrifices for the good of his or her team. The pros of this are great; you’ll rarely find an office show-off or a colleague who claims ownership of your ideas, but there are some pretty big downsides; taking holiday or leaving on time is seen as a weakness, so much so people will brag about how many years (!) it has been since they took a day off.
5) You don’t understand when your toilet doesn’t make noises and wash you
Ah yes, the famous Japanese loos. Well where to begin? Not only do they have heated seats which makes braving the toilet in winter a pleasure, they also play noises to detract away from whatever may be going on in the cubicle. However, while most loos have instructions in English as well as Japanese, if you come across one that doesn’t you could be in for a shock if you press the wrong button.
6) You get used to carrying huge wads of cash around with you
For all its modernity, Japan has yet to embrace the debit card. So if you set up a Japanese bank account you have to pay for everything with cash. If you have a foreign card and you’re in a big shop you might get by, but otherwise you have to get used to stuffing your wallet with notes!
7) You begin to think the world is a wonderful place filled with honest and decent people
Japan has one of the world’s lowest crime rates, bikes are left unlocked and if you were to leave something in a shop it would be unusual for a diligent staff member not to chase you down the road even if it is something of low value like a biro.
It can therefore be something of a shock to leave Japan and people not offer you help and a friendly smile when you look a little lost.