I’m Home! But Something’s Wrong…

I’m home again for the holiday season, and it’s been so great to see my friends and family in person — to be able to touch them and hug them and just be in their presence makes me happy yet…something’s wrong.

Since my first step off the plane, into the so obviously Canadian Pearson airport in Toronto, I felt a strange feeling, and it wasn’t the nervous bubbles of excitement I expected. This was a heavy feeling, and I couldn’t understand it or explain it, so I brushed it off.

It’s been a long flight, I’m tired and I just need to see my family in person.

And when I did see them, of course I was thrilled, but like a heartbeat the feeling was still there, and I realized with disbelief that I missed Japan.

Whoa whoa whoa…what the hell? I just got here! And yeah, I like Japan, but I have my problems there too. How can I want to be in Japan more than I want to be in my home country, where I was born and raised and that holds all the people I love most?

How peculiar. I noticed this feeling the first time I went home as well, a few days after the Earthquake in March during the nuclear scare. At the time I thought it was simply stress and depression. I didn’t know if I would lose my job, and I didn’t know if it would be safe to go back. But here I am, home again, among the festivities of the holiday season, and despite all the food and games and hilarious conversation, in quiet moments of contemplation, the feeling expands like the lengthening shadows cast by a setting sun. And it was only recently that I was able to understand and put into words what I felt. It’s the driving force behind my move to Japan in the first place.

I’ve simply outgrown my old life.

If I could use one phrase to describe the feeling it would be, “boxed in”. And this feeling seems to ooze like sap from everything familiar here. Taking the train brings back old memories of going to work at a stressful job every day.  Though my apartment in Tokyo is a minuscule studio, I don’t feel confined the way I do in my old room in my parent’s house. I love them and I’m grateful for the support they’ve given me, but I’m so over hearing, “wear your slippers! The floor is cold.” And, “You should drink more water, it’s good for you.” I wanna live in a world where I can prance around in barefooted glory. There’s something about being back that just feels depressingly mundane at times. The contrast between my codependent life in Canada, and the independence I have in Japan is so huge, it’s further confirmation that I’ve made a good choice.

And yet…

It’s also once again brought to light a problem that stalks most expats: what do I do after Japan? If I don’t want to come back to this old life, then what’s the next new thing? (And there will be an after Japan, because although this country has its charms, I don’t want to stay here forever).

I’m curious to hear about what it’s been like for other expats going home. Did you too feel like you were “over” your home country? Or was your reunion all sunshine and rainbows and joy?

 

My Experiences with Dating in Japan

Dating in Japan

 

I can’t lie, before I moved this was one of things I was the most interested in/concerned about.  What would it be like to date a Japanese guy?  how would we communicate? would Japanese men even find me attractive? should I only date foreign men? would I be able to date at all? or would this time in Japan just be one long dry spell?

I’ve decided to make an FAQ, to answer questions I know I had, that you might have as well. And if nothing else you can be nosy and read all about my dating life :p.

Do Japanese Men want to date Foreign women?

Yes, some do and no, some don’t, and it’s as simple as that as far as I’m concerned.

Do Japanese men find Black women attractive?

I think straight men in general find women in general attractive, and if you’re an attractive woman men will be attracted to your feminine charms, no matter what race or colour you are. I think there is more of, for lack of a better word, a “demand” for white women, particularly with blond hair and blue eyes. I talk more about that in this blog post. However, I’ve been hit on/flirted with by Japanese men, so yes some do. I’ve briefly dated two Japanese men.

The first was when I had just come to Japan. We met at a club and I gave him my number, but his English level was very low, and my Japanese was even lower. So when he called communication was pretty much impossible, as we had said all the basic stuff when we met, so there was really no way that could go anywhere.

The second I met at another club a few months later. I was actually first sitting outside on the patio and his friend started talking to me, but then he somehow “swooped in” and took over the conversation. His English was much better because he’d lived in Australia for a couple years. We went out a couple times, and it was cool and we had good conversation, but it fell apart, I believe, because we didn’t have so much in common. Hmm, maybe I should stop meeting guys in clubs.

Do foreigners date other foreigners?

Yes, I’ve dated foreigners as well, most recently a guy originally from Cameroon, but it depends on the people. Perhaps you’re aware or the charisma man, charisma girl stigma? These are people who come to Japan with the aim of “sowing their wild oats”. They’re like, I dunno, cheese. Not only because they’re usually kind of cheesy people, but also because cheese is cheap and widely available in the west, but here in Japan it’s expensive, more valuable… you get my drift? If you want to date other foreigners, avoid the cheese people. It shouldn’t be too difficult though, as these cheesy people are usually pretty scared of you, and only have eyes for their “prey”, Japanese people.

Do cultural differences make dating more difficult?

They can, yes. If you’re dating someone who has lived in the West, that mitigates it somewhat. But I don’t think “cultural differences” are a good excuse for not dating in Japan. When two people really like each other you can get over it. The main problem foreigners seem to have with dating Japanese people is not really knowing what they think. In Japan, people are expected to be more empathetic. Because people try to avoid giving offense, you’re supposed to know, or anticipate when something is making the other person unhappy. That can be really difficult for us Westerners who value verbal communication. When communication with the second guy stopped, I didn’t actually know something was wrong. He was still really polite and attentive. My single clue was at the end of the date where he didn’t hug me like usual.

How can I attract a Japanese guy or girl?

Just be your vivacious self! I wasn’t particularly trying to attract the guys I did, they just saw something in me that they liked and went for it.

Do Japanese guys/girls just want to date me because I’m foreign?

There are definitely some people like that in this country yes. And you’ll be able to tell pretty soon based on their behavior and the questions they ask you. (“Do foreigners like this? Do foreigners like that?” As opposed to “Do you like this? Do you like that? ) Then it’s up to you to decide whether you care or not.

So that’s my experience with dating in Japan. I plan to be here for another year at least, and it that time, especially as my Japanese improves, I’m sure I’ll have more stories to tell. And please, drop a comment with your stories about love and dating in Japan and abroad.

 

 

What We’ve Learned by Living Abroad

You lucky reader, you are in for something really special. I’ve been doing a lot of reflection and contemplation, and even though I’ve only been in Japan for a little over 10 months, I feel like I’ve aged a few years.

So I thought, if this is how I feel after a few months, imagine what my fellow expats, who have been abroad for years, have to say. I reached out to them and together we’ve come up with a great collection of posts that will really make you think about life abroad, and life in general.

 

 

Loco in Yokohama

SoaplandLoco starts us off with a bang — not just one post, but a whole, ongoing series about the revelations and self truths gained after close to a decade spent in Japan.

…And that’s when I realized that, remarkably, for the first time in my life I had been the victim of outright, Jim Crow-style racial discrimination, not so much because I was black (actually I’ll never know if my color was a factor) but because I wasn’t Japanese (or Asian.)

And, ironically, instead of feeling a victimized rage in the pit of my stomach, and an irrepressible urge to do harm to someone (which up til that point I imagined would be my reaction whenever this dark day came to be) there I was consoling a friend… keep reading

Life of a Foreign Hachikin

Screaming into the AbyssAfter two weeks of serious deliberation Indi reveals her top life lessons from living in rural Japan.

…I can’t say that I’ve changed drastically as a person either. Not that most people change 180 degrees when they have life changing experiences like living abroad, but I do know that I’ve gotten stronger in some regards. I can say with certainty that I’ve become a more confident person. While the simple idea of standing in front of people used to make my heart squeeze in anxiety, I am now ecstatically looking forward to the first live show with my band in January… keep reading

 

Haikugirl’s Japan

Haikugirl writes about a hot topic for expats regarding Japanese culture — western “assertiveness” vs. Japanese “submissiveness”, and how it has affected her.

…The Japanese business style is very different from the way I had worked in the UK before. Assertiveness wasn’t really acceptable, and I learned to keep my mouth shut and get on with things a lot more than I ever had before. I also learned to show respect to my colleagues and seniors a lot more than I had done in the UK. There were formal phrases to use, and certain manners like bowing which I needed to follow… keep reading

 

We Live in a Fantasy World

We Need A Good Slap Every Now and ThenToby gives us an excellent post about resisting the urge to be co-dependent when living abroad, especially when you don’t speak the language,  and also the importance of  giving yourself a wake-up slap every once in a while.

…Then, I started realizing that I had gradually stopped asking for help, and just started doing without these things. I would just decide that it was too difficult to get tickets to some event using the Konbini machines, so I wouldn’t go.

I didn’t realize how terrible this behaviour had become until I met *Yinsan… keep reading

 

 

 

 

 

The Japan Guy

Cherish Those Closest to YouWith the anniversary of his fourth year in Japan on the horizon, the Japan guy brings us a two-part list of the top 7 things he’s learned about life and himself during his time in Japan.

4. Cherish Those Closest to You

It’s heartbreaking to lose those you know, it’s even more heartbreaking to know that you can’t make it home to their funeral because you can’t afford the trip. I’ve been there on a couple of occasions. You want those who are close to you to live forever, but the sad reality is that they don’t.

Living abroad can keep you away from your family for extended periods of time, and things can happen. However, the memories you share with them can last a lifetime. So if you’re living abroad, but making that much needed visit home. Make some great memories with the people you love: take pictures, make DVDs, whatever you can. These memories are timeless… keep reading

Thanks so much to everyone who’s participated, everyone who retweeted and shared, and everyone who’s reading now. For all of us, it’s been a great journey with both highs and lows, but I hope I speak for everyone when I say I wouldn’t do it any different, and I’d never give up what I’ve learned.