You’ve been teaching in Japan and your contract is up. You like it but then again, there are other things you want to do. Should you renew your visa and stay longer in Japan or have you had enough and it’s time to go home? This is a tough decision and nobody can make it for you. It’s so case by case that any kind of advice from anyone is pretty much useless. So, here I am offering some advice.
Actually, I just want to offer some things to think about. I’ve been in Japan for ten years and I plan to stay permanently (probably). But I’ve had many friends come and go here and I’ve seen what factors made them decide.
Most people go through the worst of their culture shock in the second year or so. It’s not all in the beginning, like most people assume. During this time, it’s easy to get frustrated and decide to head home. But if you do that, you could be missing out on lots of great experiences later. I’ve known many people who went home only to miss Japan and hatch plots to return. If you’re on the fence, you may want to give it a bit more time. Remember, culture shock passes.
Your Work History
On the other hand, if you have long-term plans for a lucrative career back home, you should limit your stay in Japan. I’ve heard that employers look at your time in Japan as a black hole in your resume. Even if you were running a successful English school here, it’s not likely to impress recruiters back home. They tend to see your time in Japan as an extended vacation.
Few expats find full-time English teaching to be a rewarding permanent career. The expats I know who have stayed long-term and enjoyed their life the most in Japan were the ones who found something else they could do for work. There’s not much opportunity in the English teaching industry because teachers are seen as a temporary workforce and not given much in the way of raises, promotions and benefits. But if you have other skills, like IT, translating, running a business, or acting, you can find much more rewarding long-term work.
Time for a Change of Pace
If you’re really struggling with whether to go home or not, you may just need a change of pace. Maybe your job is a soul-drainer and you need something new. You might live in a small town in the country and now it’s time to head for the big city lights. I recommend making a change and staying before you pack your bags and head home.
The only time I ever considered moving out of Japan was my second year in when I was working as an ALT in a junior high school. The position, which I prefer to call ‘Human Tape Recorder,’ was dull and unrewarding. I was right in the middle of my culture shock and I also suffer from an allergy to any kind of structured schooling (and let’s face it, junior high is the worst). I quit and found a new job, and the desire to head home never hit me again.
Whether to stay or go is a question only you can answer. But for anybody struggling here in Japan, I recommend making Japanese friends and doing what you love here. If you can find ‘your thing,’ you can settle into life and really enjoy it here.
Written by: Greg Scott
Living in Japan and taking in everything it has to offer.