It’s mid March, which means I can count the number of days until Mark moves here on my fingers! I get more and more excited as that day gets closer and closer and he can start his new adult-y, expat-y life. Of course, I’m super excited that I will be able to a bit more often, but we do have some obstacles to overcome being that he will live about 3-5 hours away (depending on what kind of train I take). I will cherish every second that we’re able to spend with each other since we’ll be living quite a distance from each other, but at least we will be in the same country and time zone. There will be more opportunities for us to spend time together.
Mark has a wave of emotions running through right now, as do most people who move abroad. I thought about all the things I wish I knew before moving here, but sometimes it’s hard to know what to ask. Sometimes you have an image of what life will be like once you get there or you believe that it will be similar to life back at home. It’s not until you’re actually in your new country when you realize and think, hey, maybe I should have asked about this or read about that before moving here. It’s hard to know what to prepare for.
This is what we do when we video chat.
I “interviewed” Mark about moving abroad, since I could definitely relate to that feeling before moving to the other side of the world and was curious about what was on his mind. When I moved here, everything seemed like a blur. Looking back on it, I barely remember my first week or two here. I told Mark to brace himself for that, but it only made him more nervous. Ganbatte! がんばってマーク！ I’m sure many of us have been in the same position, even if you’re not an expat. Moving to anywhere new is daunting and exciting. Read on for Mark’s thoughts about moving to Japan!
An Interview with an Almost Expat
So Mark, you’re moving to Japan soon…
1. What are you most worried about in moving to Japan?
I’m most worried about Japan is being able to abide by their culture, whether it’s to remember to bow or be respectful in a certain manner. Also being able to communicate with others is one of my biggest worries.
2. What are you most excited for?
I’m most excited about living in a different country and experiencing an amazing culture. Even though I am scared, I know being in another country will help me build my character, whether it’s patience or understanding. I guess also to break out of the life I’m used to.
3. What kind of advice/pep talks are you giving yourself in preparation?
If I can give one advice to help prep myself, it would be to think positively, as simple as that, even though it may be difficult to do. For example, I am really sad that I am going to leave my friends and family, but I want to say WHO GETS A CHANCE TO LIVE IN JAPAN or this is a great opportunity for your career. I’ll always have my friends here in California but it’s time to make new friends. I wish I can give myself more advice but right now I am still nervous. But I still cling on that positive attitude.
4. What are some things do you want to know about life in Japan as an expat or being an English teacher?
Life in Japan – I want to know how to use the different services in Japan, like the postal service, transportation, and other government services. The types of services we take for granted back in the US. What if I want to go to the electronic store and buy a TV? I need to be able to communicate effectively.
Teaching – I feel confident about knowing the material, but I’m not confident in being able to get it through to the students and have them learn the material. That’s the biggest worry that I have. I’m reading these manuals about the definitions of what it means to be an ALT, but I worry about whether my students will learn from the way I teach. I want to know how to communicate at all levels, what I’m teaching.
5. What is something you want to know about moving to Japan?
How will I budget myself in a new environment? It’s my first job so I would like to learn how to budget accordingly. Also at the same time I want to learn how to spend my own money wisely. I want to know how to live independently and to be able to afford nice things.
I also want to know different holidays and cultural days and be able to celebrate accordingly. Pretend that day is some sort of sacred or religious holiday, it would be interesting for me to be engaged with it as much as possible. I want to enjoy the moment to its fullest.
Mark’s first international trip was when he came to visit me back in January, so this will be a very big change for him, but I know he’ll be okay. We talk about his move every time we video chat and I reassure him that everything will be okay. I’m always there for him. It’s important to remember to be patient and understanding, things will be different and people won’t be able to understand you, but those are just some of the hurdles you’ll face when you move to another country. I know that Mark will have an amazing time teaching English and living in Japan.
If you’re an expat, do you remember what you were worried about? What advice would you give to Mark and first time expats?