Advice for female expats heading for Japan

Advice for female expats heading for Japan

Advice for female expats heading for Japan

Japan is one of the world’s most fascinating countries on many different levels, especially if you’re a female expat looking to stay for a good while.

The transition from the Western world to anywhere in Asia can be more than the challenge of relocating within Europe, and it’s not just the language, it’s the totally different culture based on Asia’s unique history. Japan is even further from the Western norm, especially if you’re female. Totally first world in its cities, with every convenience including the planet’s best long-distance train service, Japan itself lurks behind its 21st century infrastructure, rarely showing itself to expats, however long they stay.

However, before you can immerse yourself in this unique culture, you’ll need a visa from your home country Japanese Embassy or consulate, with the easiest long-term options being for students or employees, with sponsors required. Women with specialised skills including engineers, artists, instructors and journalists as well as investors shouldn’t have any problems getting a one to three year visa and English teachers will find it easier still. Other options include working holiday visas and student visas.

Living in Japan is actually cheaper than is generally believed, with jobs paying enough to compensate for the cost of living in one of the country’s massive cities. Healthcare is excellent and reasonably priced, with most incomers finding they can save for emergencies or treats. Female expats who’ve ‘been there and done that’ suggest bringing extra capital in order to get settled quickly, as well as mentioning that Japanese fashions are to die for. Almost all household items can be had at the famous 100 yen stores and used furniture stores also have their uses. As regards finding your home, using an expat-friendly housing company is the best way forward.

Your first shock is likely to be the minuscule size of Japanese rental apartments – swingeing the proverbial cat just isn’t possible – but the storage cabinets are huge by comparison and smaller units mean far less housework. If you’re on a very tight budget, shared houses are the answer, and can be a great way to make new friends. Of concern to most female expats is safety and security, with Japan probably the safest country on the planet, but proceeding with caution is still recommended.

As regards packing for your stay, remember that Japan is a very long, narrow country and has a variety of climates dependent on location. The weather in northernmost Hokkaido resembles a Russian winter, and far southern Okinawa is totally tropical, with every possible weather scenario in between. Also, clothing etiquette is likely to be different than at home, especially in the workplace. Japanese tend to dress well but relatively conservatively, and removing shoes when entering your home, office or even in restaurants is an inflexible rule.

Japanese healthcare is affordable and high quality, although some medical facilities actually close on weekends! As regards the Japanese language, it’s one of the world’s trickiest to learn and even has three alphabets. Even so, learning the basics will make your time here far easier, especially if you’re planning on living in a rural or semi-rural area. Free language lessons can be had at city halls, but going out drinking with your new Japanese friends works even better. Don’t worry too much about earthquakes, as Japanese construction technology allows for all but the seriously big ones!

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