For months before coming to Japan I read blogs of ex-pats living here to give me some insight into what the experience might be like. Since arriving, I have become involved in a small online community of ex-pat bloggers. I have now ‘met’ and communicated with many of those bloggers I used to read and it’s been both fun and a great support. One of those bloggers is Shane (of the blogs The Tokyo Traveller and A typical life) who, like me, is not an English teacher or married to a Japanese citizen (mind you she is female so that one is less likely anyway teehee) but the wife of a man who is working here. Shane recently saw a comment I had made on Twitter and shared an old blog post with me on being an ex-pat wife and the assumptions many people make about we strangely old fashioned creatures. I related to it immediately and was quite touched by it and so I thought I’d link it here.
Shane has had the gig longer than I and has obviously got her act together while I am still finding my way/identity here. I don’t have the multiple international households to run and don’t have enough visitors to be run off my feet like Shane has been the last couple of months (hope you’re enjoying the rest now, Shane ^_^) However, moving to Japan doesn’t mean that I’ve suddenly started to see “shopping” as an activity in itself nor do I desperately need to know where the closest “international” food store is so that I can find “real” food, the Japanese supermarket does me fine. Nor do I want to spend my social life with other ex-pats simply because they are not Japanese, occasionally taking a class in some “quaint little Japanese traditional craft” as one’s tightly controlled ‘cultural experience’ once a month (with said ex-pat acquaintances, preferably in the safety of the home of one of us, of course).
Certainly, there are many ex-pat wives who live their lives in essentially this way (especially in Tokyo) and I imagine falling into this life is a great way of insulating yourself from the stress of changing cultures constantly. If one develops a life wherein you arrive in a country and become part of ‘the foreign wives club’ which is amazingly similar to the club anywhere else then I’m sure it’s a wonderful support for many but it is just not my scene. Maybe one day it will be but, for the moment at least, I am not trying to emulate my life in my home country and so need to buffer myself against everything I therefore feel I am lacking. That does not mean I’m trying to be pseudo-Japanese, either – as the wonderful people who gave us our inter-cultural training before we left said “You want to be a first class Australian not a second-class Japanese.”
All that being said, due to language and not working, I don’t have that much opportunity to meet Japanese people and the friends I have made so far are ex-pats (some are ex-pat wives) but they are people with whom I share interests and with whom I can have a good conversation and a good laugh because we have things in common other than that we are strangers here. To quote another of my online community in his comments on Shane’s post: “…my foreign friends here in Japan are cool people who would be my friends back home, too.” Obviously being a foreigner and new to Japan is a great ice-breaker and it does make it easier to find new friends than it is being at home, but it can’t be the only thing you have to talk about – for my money anyway.