My first “tragic” days in Japan

The first days of moving to Japan are complicated.

Ahhh … Japan. A country that is all manga, kindness and soy sauce. Most of those who come here on vacation fall in love with everything. When they return home, they stress you with telling all the things they did here. Practically, they kill all your enthusiasm to go, since you already know everything. #spoilerseverywhere

In my case, I missed the tourist phase. We moved here without ever having been on vacation before – thinking about it now, I think we were pretty crazy – and we had to live the reality of being expats, all at once.

Don’t you speak Japanese? Best wishes.

In this Country, English is a sore point.

All the labels of products at the supermarket are only in Japanese. The first months – in the best cases – you spend your time buying things that you don’t have the slightest idea of what they are, like shaving foam that you later discover to be a foam for hair regrowth, hand soap that is a facial make-up remover. Don’t ask me why I know. I understood that the illustrative images often deceive.

The only solution is Google Translate, which ,thanks to the photo translation feature, allows you to translate in real time.

Real estate agencies allow you to see different apartments, but then they will tell you that the owner doesn’t rent to foreigners.

It’s all true, yes. We, foreigners, have all found ourselves in this situation, and we still wonder if the real problem is the language or the fact of not being Japanese. The first two weeks we contacted various agencies and we often found ourselves at that point. Why making us spend precious time knowing already that the deal cannot conclude? #wtf

Looking house japan suumo
Looking for a house in Japan, Suumo

Do you have two names and two surnames? Oh my…

Yes, I know. You almost certainly have only one name and one surname. My husband, for example, has two names and two surnames. It’s a massacre.

We went to the bank to open a Japanese account. Panic. “The full name is too long”. The employee enters into a nervous crisis. Japanese people don’t deal very well in situations out of the ordinary. Oh God, “what am I supposed to do?”. “Wait, I’ll call the manager!”–Oh well, call him then. There were moments of stress behind the counter. After an hour of waiting, here comes the debit card: the second surname is cut off in half. Yes, no problem, only because, months later, you realize that every time you write the name of the account holder you must remember to write it truncated. Otherwise, operations will be denied to you, but you won’t understand a bat because communications are all in Japanese #realstory

Frustrazione
Frustrazione

You cannot open a Japanese bank account if you don’t have a Japanese phone number. You cannot have a Japanese phone number if you don’t have a Japanese bank account.

You get frustrated – not to say stoned – like when you turn up the music volume on your PC, but then you realize that you are listening to it from your smartphone. Or like when you take out the house keys to enter the metro. Or like when you start toasting the toast in the fridge. No, sorry, that’s me.
The Japanese sim cards for residents are connected to the Japanese bank account, you cannot use a tourist one. How to solve this damn problem? In Italy, we are specialized: we lie. “A friend of ours who moved here used a Spanish account. And he did it right here, with you.” Boom. It worked out. It wasn’t true, but that was our only choice. Because without a phone you don’t have a bank account, and without a bank account you can’t rent a house, and without a house you don’t have the excuse to go to IKEA to steal the pencils at the entrance.  

Beware with natto

If there’s something in this world that I would classify as repulsive, this is called “natto”. For the lucky ones who have no idea of what it is… it’s fermented soy. It looks like something innocent, except that the taste, the texture and the smell make you think about the worst choices made during your whole life. Like moving to Japan, for example. Just joking…

Our first “clandestine” encounter with this so healthy as unpleasant food, goes back to the day when we went to buy a tray of sushi – What will this be filled with? It looks like tuna. Come on, let’s try it – and I couldn’t run to vomit because I wasn’t at home.

Natto’s maki

Remember. Never try natto. There are people whose lives are still marked by certain flavors… like me. #freenattozone

If you can say few words in Japanese, like “Arigatou gozaimasu” (thanks) and “Konbanwa” (good evening) they will immediately tell you “Wow, you speak very well!”

Hey, come on.

At first you’ll like it, you can believe it a little. What a beautiful feeling… isn’t it? Then you sign up for the Japanese Language course. You go to class. And there he is, Charon from Divine Comedy, who accompanies you to the dark side of your late return to books Leave behind all hope, you who enter“. And so, you immerse yourself full-time in this language, where just the illustrations in the book are easy to understand. Every time they tell you that you speak well, then you will feel like when a bird craps on you, and someone says “Don’t worry, is a sign of Hope in disguise!”.  
Yeah, sure.
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Beronika Massi
Made in Italy, emotionally modified in Spain, in testing stage in Japan. My name is Veronica: I'm an (ex) engineer, passionate about digital communication and creative writing. I created this blog because Japan asked me to. Contact: fujidalgiappone[at]gmail.com

16 Comments

  1. Very useful and interesting. Thank you

  2. Holy shit this was very culturally insensitive. Trash.

    • I don’t agree and I’m sorry if you think is trash. I like living in Japan, but when we just moved here it wasn’t easy at all. And I am trying to talk about it in an ironic way (let me know if I offended the Japanese Culture), and I’m sure it would be equally hard for a Japanese person to move to Italy, for example. Maybe I am not good in translating my humor in English.

    • Thank you 'Mericans, but I don't need any freedom
      Thank you 'Mericans, but I don't need any freedom

      Holy shit, have you ever heard of cultural shock? What she wrote wasn’t for the sake of complaining, just a tale on the struggles of a foreigner in a new (different) world.

      Thank you for being so sensitive though, your (garbage) comment was very much appreciated! ^___^ now please…gtfo

    • So, calling trash other people’s life experiences and ideas is a very “sensitive” thing… congratulations, you are the very definition of hypocrisy.

      • Thank you for your comment and support 🙂 Yeah, it wasn’t nice especially to read “trash”… Keyboard warrior.

  3. I don’t think a culture is owed any sensitivity. This was a refreshing look at an experience that wasn’t looked back on through rose-tinted glasses. Thanks for the article.

  4. Very interesting article.
    But I don’t understand you complaining about everything being in Japanese. What language would you expect it to be.

    • Hello! Thank you 🙂
      Of course it has to be Japanese (I’m in Japan!)
      I was just highlighting that If you think to come here and live using English, you’re wrong. And I wanted to lead to the fact that we bought things just based on the images and it was fun to discover that the products sometimes was quite the opposite we thought it was. Initially we didn’t had internet and we couldn’t use Google Translate. And, I’m sure it would be the same for a Japanese persone going to Italy.

  5. Really interesting ! And we’ll written… Up to the point where you bash Natto ? !

    Just not a huge fan of bashing stuff that you don’t like. But I guess this is not my type of humour and that’s it. I used to not like Natto but I got used to it and now I really love it with my rice 😉 ! So do try Natto and make up your own mind 😉 !

    • Hello! Thank you 🙂 I know a lot of people eating natto and loving it… I just wasn’t prepared to that flavour that time! I’ll give it another try maybe 🙂

  6. I have a japanese phone and no bank account. You’re doing something wrong.

    • Hello! It happened 2 years and half ago and all the expats I know had the same issue… maybe meanwhile something changed? Anyway, which telephone company do you use? It would be a nice info for people who will move here soon. Thank you 🙂

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