An expat’s advice on culture, job market, and cost of living in Japan

cost of living in Japan | Living in Japan as an expat can be a fascinating experience. That is because Japan offers the best of two worlds – large metropolitan cities like Tokyo and Osaka and serene countrysides like Kyoto and Matsumoto. One day, you can enjoy Japan’s pop culture, vibrant art scene, and many young people doing things you have never seen before. And the next day you can surround your self with some of the most mesmerizing and peaceful hot springs where you can not only bathe, but also try authentic Japanese food and hear their traditional music. But if you want to live in Japan as an expat, and not a tourist, you have to take other things into consideration as well. So, if you need an expat’s advice on culture, job market and the cost of living in Japan, keep on reading.

Japanese Culture – What to know

So, if you decide to start over in Japan, you must do your homework and learn a lot about your future home. Bear in mind that although Japan sounds amazing, their culture is quite different from others. So, if you want to fit in, you must be familiar with their customs and culture. That does not mean that you should know everything, but those important basics that we will mention soon are a must. Bear in mind, that if you do not follow them, you might end up really offending or insulting someone. So, without further ado, here are some things you must know about Japanese culture:

  • When you are addressing someone – bow! When bowing you show respect. The position and duration of your bow depend on the situation, but if other people see that you are trying, there will be no hard feelings.
  • Attach the suffix ‘SAN‘ to the Japanese’ last names – For example, instead of saying Mr. Smith, say Smith San. This is an important custom in Japan that everybody follows. You can also use “chan” for girls and “kun” for boys.
  • Never tip anyone – Whether it is a cab, a restaurant or a coffee shop. Giving tips is considered rude and insulting.
  • Use chopsticks – Try to learn this skill before coming to Japan. If you manage to use your chopsticks with ease while eating, you will receive a look of amazement as well as gratitude.
  • Take off your shoes – Shoes must be taken off before entering any house or a hotel.
  • Do not draw attention to yourself – this means, no blowing your nose in the public, eating on the go, or using your phone while walking.
  • Use your English – Many Japanese people will feel honored if you speak to them in English. If you have not mastered the Japanese language, do not bother using it.

Whether you are meeting someone for the first time or greeting an old friend – bow! Alt.tag: Japanese people bowing. 

Job Market in Japan

For Japanese people, changing jobs is not a common thing. Finding a job is just as easy as learning how to ride a bike. That is, it is once in a lifetime event. This is because the Japanese job market was dominated largely by massive companies that offered jobs for life. There are still companies like that, but a part-time job or ‘arubaito’ is gaining popularity, especially among younger generations.

Jobs for foreigners in Japan 

So, the easy job-finding situation in Japan is applicable only to the locals, that is, to the Japanese. For foreigners, the situation is quite different. This is because the Japanese government does its best to protect native job-seekers from unemployment by regulating the arrival of foreign workers. So, before you decide to start packing your bags and finding reliable international relocation professionals from Japan, be sure that you can get a job first. Basically, foreign workers can choose between two categories: Unskilled workers and workers with special skills. Unskilled workers usually do jobs that Japanese rather wouldn’t like industrial manufacture, menial labor and similar. And, workers with special skills include mostly language teachers, international businesspeople, and technology specialists. The jobs that are definitely in demand are English teachers and businessmen. Bear in mind that if you want to be a teacher, you must be a native; and if you want to be a businessman you must possess Japanese skills. 

Unless you have a secure job in Japan, do not pack your bags! Alt.tag: A business meeting. 

Cost of Living in Japan 

It is a known fact that Japan is one of the most expensive countires to live in. Especially if you plan on settling in Tokyo, its capital. Well, that is the price you have to pay if you want to live in a metropolitan city. However, that does not mean that things are unmanageable. Of course, if you live in the city center, you will pay more for everything. And you will have to adjust to living tiny, so consider donating or selling some of your unwanted stuff online before moving for good. But, if you live in some other city suburbs outskirts, you will be able to live and pay your bills just fine. It all depends on the location. Moreover, the fact that living standard is high and the prices are higher only means one thing – higher salaries. 

The official currency in Japan is Yen. Alt.tag: Yen sign. 

  • Cost of accommodation and utilities – bear in mind that some of the world’s most expensive land can be found in central Tokyo. This is because Japan is a very small country, so buying a property can break the bank. However, rent can vary depending on your needs and location. Approximately, you will have to prepare between 50,000 and 70,000 yen for monthly rent, and around 10,000 yen a month for utilities. 
  • Cost of entertainment – when you mention entertainment, the first thing that the Japanese people think about are movie theaters, game centers, and karaoke. These are not that expensive, but if you prefer going out and spending weekends in clubs and pubs, you will need to bring all your money for it. 
  • Cost of groceries and eating out – If you prefer cooking by yourself, you will save a lot of money as supermarkets are rather cheap here. Of course, as long as you are willing to choose fresh seafood and seasonal vegetables. And when it comes to restaurants, there are many of them, suitable for everybody’s flavor and budget.