One of the biggest hurdles I’ve seen expats have trouble with while living in Japan is finding ‘love’. I use quotations here because not everyone has the same idea of what love is, and some want different forms of love than others. Generally speaking, however, most tend to look for either friends, partners, or lovers to spend time with. Yet, when facing the hurdle of being an expat living in Japan, sometimes finding love isn’t as easy as one would think.
So, what exactly are the biggest hurdles for expats in Japan looking for a little love to add to their lives? Although there’s plenty to be said about uprooting yourself from everything you’ve ever known and planting yourself in a new environment, we’ll stick with some of the more simple setbacks that most expats face in day to day life. Frankly, the biggest setbacks most encounter are the language barrier and misunderstanding cultural norms.
Most expats coming to Japan will either have little or no Japanese language comprehension. Even those that do study before making the move can still have difficulties putting their knowledge into practice, making it especially challenging to communicate their thoughts and feelings properly.
There are two ways to overcome this hurdle: learn the native language, or find those that speak your native language.
By learning the language, expats will open their social circle possibilities to include both natives and other expats. Seeing as how there’s a greater number of Japanese natives than expats currently living in Japan, that opens the dating/friendship/partner pool up considerably.
If an expat isn’t a fan of trying to learn the language well enough to share their deepest secrets and most intimate feelings with someone in Japanese, then perhaps finding others who speak English is a better path to take. Expats have numerous meetup opportunities in almost every corner of the country, and said meetups can easily be found through social media platforms and online forums.
Whether an expat chooses to embrace learning Japanese or circumvent it entirely, there are still plenty of ways to make connections with others while living in Japan.
Just because you used to do certain activities with friends or partners in your home country doesn’t mean that it’s socially acceptable to do so in Japan. One of the biggest and most obvious cultural differences between other countries and Japan is the general disapproval for PDA (public displays of affection) in public. It’s not often that you’ll see a Japanese couple holding hands while out and about; though the younger generations are beginning to do so more regularly with the influences of Western media.
There are plenty of ways to cross the line or misinterpret actions when dating a Japanese person as an expat, although it’s important to remember that every person is a unique individual and might not share the usual hangups of their country’s culture and traditions. There are no steadfast ‘rules’ when it comes to dating in Japan, and a person’s openness to certain activities or displays of affection depend entirely upon that person and not necessarily their birth country.
It’s good to remember that you can’t define a person just by the country that they were born in. Think of your own country’s traditions and cultural expectations that others consider to be the standard when they think about your homeland. Do you follow such traditions to the letter? As an American, I don’t sleep with a gun in my nightstand, nor do I enjoy wearing as little clothing as possible and eating a burger on the hood of a muscle car. Sure, some of my fellow Americans may follow or reinforce how others view us as a country, but that doesn’t mean we’re all the same.
Adapting and Changing
Having talked about cultural misconceptions, it is important to note that many expats fail to change or adapt their mannerisms to better suit them to making friends or finding connections with natives. I’ve written several blogs about the numerous changes I’ve had to make to my own lifestyle and mindset to better fit into my community and position, but others might not have understood or undertaken such a transformation while living in Japan.
Many expats have a hard time socializing with their Japanese coworkers and acquaintances because they carry over the mindset of their home country with them to Japan. Although it may be fine to be loud or noisy in a public area back home, in Japan it’s frowned upon and puts you in a bad light. An expat speaking their mind might have gotten them points in their motherland, but in Japan it can make other hesitant to interact with them and taint the team mentality.
Though it seems ridiculous to have to change yourself to better your social circumstances, those that find successful relationships while living in Japan usually do so by altering their mindset and adapting to their environment. For every handful of stories about a crazy foreigner that went too far or did something to upset their community, there’s at least one or two who have settled into a comfortable lifestyle by making adjustments to their way of life that ultimately benefit themselves and those around them.
Though this little blog took a bit of a turn from what most readers would be expecting from the title, finding love in Japan is pretty similar to finding love just about anywhere else. You meet like-minded individuals (or those that don’t share your thoughts or beliefs, but can respect your way of thinking and support you regardless), you make connections, and you grow as a person. We’re all just trying to get by in life, and living in another country shouldn’t stop anyone from finding their own little slice of happiness.