Japan gets a lot of media buzz. I'm not surprised, because it is an awesome country with a rich culture. However, it isn't exactly like what the media portrays. If you're visiting Japan, you may find that your expectations differ widely from reality.
Here are the top five myths that I was told about Japan.
Myth #1: Japan's trains are never late and always on time.
It's true that Japan has a very efficient public transportation system. Especially in big cities like Tokyo, which have different train companies in operation, you will find that you have different route options. Suppose a train is late? You can always take a different company's train or different line to the same station. (Keeping in mind, of course, that other people might be thinking the same thing and it may be crowded.)
But it's a different story outside of the big cities. Delays are more frequent and a bike and walking may actually be more efficient. Personally, I've encountered many delays and more than once, I've had to wait over two hours for a train.
My advice is that to always plan ahead and try to get to your work or destination earlier as train delays can and do occur.
Myth #2: Japanese students are very well behaved.
Kids are kids no matter which country you go to. You will have students that are extremely obedient, however, you will also have students that are badly behaved. Being an English teacher isn’t easy, which is true regardless of the country you're working in. There will be good days and there will be stressful days.
Myth #3: All Japanese foods are healthy.
It is true that Japanese pride themselves in preparing foods with fresh ingredients. You will still find that there are some Japanese foods that are actually unhealthy when eaten every day. A lot of carbohydrates are eaten here, especially white rice and white toast. (Japanese people love toast as dessert.) I also noticed that because Japanese people like to use the freshest ingredients possible, they don't trim fat from meat. I've found that beef, pork and chicken aren't as lean as back home. And finally, compared to Canada, fruit is extremely expensive. One apple costs the same as a bag of apples would in Canada.
I had never used a fax machine before in my life until I started working in Japan.
My advice is to eat in moderation, and if you love fruit, try to budget for it. The good thing about Japan is that vegetables can be cheap and you can find a variety of foods both Japanese and Western-style.
Myth #4: Japan's customer service is legendary.
My experience with Japanese customer service has been amazing so far. However, it is completely different than what you might experience back home.
In Canada, catering to individual customers is the popular business trend, reflecting the motto: “The customer is always right.” In Japan, customers are treated with the utmost respect, however, there is no customization or flexibility in what you buy or order at a restaurant or store. You cannot ask for extra cheese on your pizza or substitute a salad for fries. This means that you will have to adapt to the different customer service practices and follow the rules.
Myth #5: Japan is technologically advanced.
Japan is a leader in technology, as many well-known companies such as Sony, Toyota and Canon are Japanese. Yet, at my work, I use a fax machine to communicate with my boss and I do my administrative work with a pen and paper. (I had never used a fax machine before in my life until I started working here.) From my experience and what I have observed, Japan is a country that is stuck on traditions so I feel that what was working in the past (the fax machines) will continue to be used as practice until the method is broken. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
If you are thinking about working in Japan, my advice is to come to Japan with an open mind and have expectations to match.Add this article to your reading list