Expat survey puts Japan on hold as an expat professional destination

Expat survey puts Japan on hold as an expat professional destination

Expat survey puts Japan on hold as an expat professional destination

Japan is now seeing more expat arrivals than ever before, but isn’t doing well on world-wide surveys.

The latest Expat Explorer survey conducted by HSBC has revealed Japan as one of the least popular destinations for expat professionals, but those who’ve been there and are doing that can’t quite understand why. Most respondents seem to feel the country is great for a visit or even for living in, but the workplace is best avoided. Given that foreign residents are now making up an important sector demographically, surely these increased numbers aren’t just arriving, finding accommodation and doing nothing?

In the survey sector on lifestyle, Japan took an overall 15th place, not a bad showing and backed up by 13th place in the quality of life section, 20th in physical and mental wellbeing, 18th in fulfilment and 6th in the all-important political stability section. For career progression it scored 19th, similarly for disposable income, but scraped only 33rd place for its work/life balance. Fortunately for the country’s overall reputation, the numbers don’t tell the entire story of life in this unique, fascinating land.

Potential expatriates should realise that Japan’s unique culture is treasured by its equally unique society, meaning that, for expatriate job searchers, cultural familiarity doesn’t equate with economic opportunity. This makes the necessary adjustments and cultural transitions tricky for new arrivals. For a start, Japanese companies traditionally promote from within, making them unenthusiastic about hiring foreigners for top jobs with attractive salaries, with the pay itself usually less than would be normal in the West.

Another problem for expat families is the Japanese education system, limited to international schools for expat children due to the difficulties of the local language. Although expatriates living and working in Japan find locals friendly and helpful, the language is again a barrier for closer relationships. However, those expats who find it a fascinating challenge seem to find ways to adjust and enjoy, no matter what surveys make of the country’s complexity and culture.

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