Is it your dream to teach English in Japan?

Isolated in Japan


When we are surrounded by people, it can still be a lonely experience. Making friends who really get you after moving to a new place is a challenge. It can be scary, but making the effort to go out and meet people when you don’t speak the language well is on another level of bravery.

Something to consider, if you are interested in making the move to Japan, is how you will deal with the feelings of isolation. You don’t have to feel isolated, but chances are, you will at least sometimes if you live abroad.


Dealing with stress is different for men and women, from what I’ve noticed. It turns out there are studies which show my observations are true.

The way that we adapt and deal with stress is what shapes our ability to live abroad, vs. giving up and going back home.

I see a lot more men in Japan long term, and I think there are several reasons for this.

First is the way that men deal with stress.

Men can deal with stress by playing or watching sports and having a drink. Exercise is something simple that can usually be done if we have some spare time.

Exercise is a great way to deal with stress for all of us, but it doesn’t help women to feel connected in society.

Women deal with stress more effectively by talking with their close friends and family. Not so easily done when your close friends and family live in another country.

I have heard that women feel like, even if they make local friends, those friendships are superficial. This is either because of different native languages or lack of points to really connect on. I would add that friendships are temporary while living and working abroad, because the job isn’t stable and the intended period of stay is limited to the work contract.


How Long Can You Realistically Do This?

Quite a few people start out working in Japan with the intention of staying a year, maybe more. That sometimes changes for various reasons: meeting someone, loving the job, no better prospects back home, etc. (It also sometimes becomes shorter than expected.)

It’s more common for me to meet foreign men than women living in Japan long term, often because they have found themselves a partner from Japan. I know of a handful of foreign women living in Japan for a while (at least five years), with or without Japanese partners, but most of the foreigners I meet living in Japan long term are men.

Attitudes about living abroad commonly change for women if they decide to have a family, plus in Japan women tend to be discriminated against because of age. If a woman is in her 40s and up, still working, some people wonder why she hasn’t had children yet. I think this perspective is slowly changing in Japan. There are plenty of women who haven’t met the right person or started a family, or who have children and continue to work full time. Of course there are single mothers (and fathers) in Japan too.

Unfortunately, Japanese employers are not very shy about asking a woman’s intention for marriage and children when they consider her for employment. Some still assume a woman will want to quit her job after getting married, old fashioned as it sounds. Their thought process seems to be,
“If you are single, you might want to quit when you get married or pregnant. If you don’t want kids, you might not like children so why do you want to be a teacher?”

Employers are much more likely to assume men are fully committed to their careers, for the long term. (As we know, this is not true and depends on the individual.) One thing they might have going for them is a spouse visa/spouse from the area, so they will be more attached to staying in the job/city they live in.


In The Short Term

Teaching English is a great experience short term, and working on the next step during your free time is always a good idea. Usually you won’t be at work more than 40 hours a week and without the social network you’re used to, there might be a lot of time left over. Studying Japanese (or rather, going out and using Japanese) is always smart. A side job, taking classes, or building up a home based business are a few productive moves.

English teachers and foreigners in Japan often find each other and socialize, but some of us love our alone time after a busy day surrounded by students. It’s important to find the right social balance for you. Once you get used to things, hopefully you’ll have extra time on your hands for feeling connected to your community and self improvement.

Don’t forget to enjoy living abroad and experience the culture while you can. There are sure to be things you will miss after returning home.


4 comments on “Isolated in Japan

  1. renmi86
    June 9, 2016

    I’ve started going on walks after work to de-stress. I love to walk and I love that I can go out at night and not have to worry as much as I did back home. That isn’t to say that I’m not careful, but if I’m feeling particularly antsy, I can always take a run to a convience store and look at all the odd things they carry.


    • helloalissa
      June 10, 2016

      Yeah, even after walking and riding a bike everywhere, I used to feel like going for a run (I hate running so it’s weird) or a long walk after work sometimes. It’s so good for processing thoughts and not overthinking things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • renmi86
        June 10, 2016

        I am a chronic over-thinker. While at work, I can’t stop thinking about how much I want to go out an explore.


  2. Pingback: How long will you live in Japan? | helloalissa

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This entry was posted on June 8, 2016 by in Living in Japan and tagged , .

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