I'm halfway through my first year of teaching English in Japan, and I feel like I've learned a few things that might be helpful for future teachers, or even future travelers.

1. 7/11 is your best friend

In the States, 7/11 is widely known as a gas station/convenience store, but in Asia, 7/11 is everything you need an more. Buying food and snacks is just the beginning of the list. You can also pay your bills, take out cash from both JP and international cards, print, scan, and fax documents, and even buy tickets for numerous events (games, movies, concerts). Convenience indeed.

2. Do not assume that everybody will know English

Sure, everybody probably learned English in primary and secondary school, but the Japanese are extremely reluctant to use it unless absolutely necessary. Use as much vocabulary as you know, and if all else fails, use simple English to try and get your point across. If that fails, you have an excellent chance to improve your charades skills.

3. Research before you go

It's always a good idea to research the country you are going to before actually going there. Research as much as possible, even if that means watching hours of anime and dramas. When I first came to Japan, I thought that I knew a reasonable amount of knowledge about Japan to get by, but there is just so much more to discover. To go off of that, be aware of you cultural sensitivity. Japan is a very rigid society. You could be walking down the street, drinking some water out of a bottle, and the Japanese will walk by you with disgust. Just be aware of what others are doing.

4. Everything has a reason

Everything that you do, say, see has a reason. In Japan, even if you have nothing to do, do something that could contribute to someone else. This mostly goes for teachers, but I've had many a days when I've been sitting in the teacher's room doing absolutely nothing. Even if you have to appear busy, do something that can contribute to either your co-workers or yourself. Be aware of your facials and how you say things, people can misinterpret quite easily in Japan.

5. Don't automatically assume that your co-workers will tell you everything

Okay, so you don't speak the language. The Japanese are very shy when it comes to speaking a language different from what they know. You always have to be one step ahead of your co-workers, so you know what is happening beforehand in case they forget to tell you, or they're just too shy to talk to you. If you know that your company is getting ready for an event, research online if there are any big holidays or celebrations you should be aware of. And if all else fails, just ask. Broken English, broken Japanese, it doesn't matter, they will answer to the best of their abilities. Remember, your co-workers probably want to learn English too, and if you try to ask in Japanese, they will be very impressed.

6. Adjusting will take a very long time

Even if you are the most outgoing person in the world, adjusting to life in a different country, even if you are there for a few days, can be a long and difficult task. I've been in Japan for almost five months, and I still feel like a complete outsider. Living in a society that is very quiet and reserved, it's always hard to tell what people want from you. If you are on holiday, it's easy to sweat the small things just by a small, side-eyed glance at you from an older lady on the street. Just remember that you are in a different country that has different rules than you own.

7. Have fun

Of course you should always try to enjoy yourself. If you work, like me, enjoy every free moment. 

Published by Maia Malanee