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Living in Japan as an Expat

Are you planning on moving to Japan? That is great news! But, be sure that you will experience a major life transition and everything you are used will change. Many things will be different in Japan – language, culture, cuisine… However, this does not mean that adjusting will be that difficult. You will see that the standard of living here is high, the education is top-notch and the health system is one of the best in the world. Moreover, as an expat, you can choose to live in urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka or go for something more rural like Kyoto and Matsumoto. So, if interested what living in Japan as an expat looks like, keep on reading.! Who knows, maybe you will stumble upon some tips and tricks that will make your life as an expat in Japan simply easier.

Cost Of Living in Japan

As previously mentioned, the living standard in Japan is high. And that means that the cost of living is high too! Believe it or not, but according to recent research, Tokyo and Osaka are the two most expensive cities in the world to live in. So, you must prepare for your Tokyo relocation well. Do not even think about relocating to Japan without having a secure job waiting for you there. You will certainly need it if planning to live there comfortably as an expat. Be sure that things there cost a lot! For example:

  • Accommodation is definitely the most expensive thing you will have to pay for. Moreover, here you will have to adjust to living tiny as well. So, be prepared to pay 180.000 Yen for 40 square meter apartment. That means bringing only what is necessary with you and not splurging when it comes to home stuff!
  • Food prices can vary depending on your preferences. If you prefer eating at home and cooking by yourself with fresh vegetables and meat, it can be quite expensive. Avoid buying food products at supermarkets, it is much cheaper to buy everything at the farmer’s market. Restaurants are expensive too! However, you can get fast-food meals for a relatively low price.
  • Transportation will cost roughly around 200 Yen, however, that too depends on where you are traveling. The good news is that your transportation to work and back home will be free, that is, it will be covered by the company you are working for.

Career Opportunities when Living in Japan

Japan was, and it still is, in most ways separated from the rest of the world. That is why you will not see many expats living there. The reason for that is not being able to find a job unless you have good marketable skills and personal connections. So, before packing your bags and going to Japan, talk to your fellow expatriates first. Right now, there are two types of work opportunities for expats in Japan:

  • Unskilled, low paid work – Basically, you will be doing menial labor work that the Japanese simply do not like doing.
  • Skilled work – these are usually engineers, technologists and most commonly – English teachers. The demand for English teachers in Japan is massive. You can work online, in all kinds of schools, as a translator or interpreter and in a lot more positions! So, if your English is great, or even better if you have an English diploma, you will have plenty of opportunities here.

 A business meeting you will have once you start living in Japan
Be sure that you have a job waiting for you in Japan if you want to live pleasantly.

Language

Well, it goes without saying that the official language spoken in Japan is of course Japanese. However, the biggest problem many expats experience once they settle in some Japanese city is when they realize that nobody around them speaks any English. Yes, English is a kind of universal language, but be sure that that does not apply to this country. That is why it is highly recommended that you learn to speak at least some Japanese before you go there. You will need it for those most basic things like grocery shopping, paying the bills, using the train, etc.

Japanese street restaurant
Wherever you go, you will only see Japanese letters.

Japanese Cuisine

Well, be prepared for entirely different cuisine and a change of diet. Japanese do things quite differently when it comes to food and drinks and there are things you should know about dining out and buying food in Japan. So, of course, the most common and popular food is sushi. That is probably the first thing you think of when somebody mentions Japanese traditional food. But, besides sushi, locals love eating sashimi (raw seafood served only with soy sauce or wasabi), ramen noodles, miso soup, and many different products made from matcha (matcha powder is added to tees, icecreams, chocolate and used as a spice). Also, do not forget to enjoy the ritual and ceremony of tea.

These things are best if bought form locals, so do not try making them by yourself. You can go to Kaitenzushi, which is a typical conveyor belt sushi restaurant, very common in Japan. This, together with fast-food restaurants, and street sellers are quite affordable. However, if you want, you can always splurge in a nice restaurant too! And, when you start missing home, do not worry, there are plenty of places that sell American, Italian, and Balkan food.

People eating sashimi.
When in Japan, do not hesitate to try some authentic and local foods.

Accommodation

When you first move to Japan, it is a good idea to settle in some of the bigger cities like Tokyo or Osaka. This is because it will be much easier to find a job there and you might stumble upon a person or two who speaks English. Then, try to look for an apartment that is close to the subway as that will make your life soo much easier. However, when you do look for apartments, do not be surprised when you see the prices. As previously mentioned, accommodation is the most expensive thing you will have to pay for. So, if possible, consider finding a roommate with whom you can split the costs. And, do not go overboard with your stuff. Relocate only what is absolutely necessary and with what you can not live without.

Lisa Roberts Author
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