Expat Interview With Adrienne - Canadian Expat in Japan

Published: 19 Apr at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Japan
Adrienne is a Canadian expat in Nagoya, Japan. She has been teaching EFL (English as a Foreign Language) for four years to children and adults, and truly loves her job. Adrienne’s interest in Japan started when she was a teenager, and after a year on exchange, she realised that Japan still had a lot to show and to offer her, so she headed back. When she’s not at work she spends her time enjoying the city, seeing the sights, raising her bilingual puppy, and working on her websites. Adrienne's expat blog is called Adrienne in Japan (see listing here)

Meet Adrienne - Canadian expat in Japan - Dressed up in Kyoto as a Maiko
Meet Adrienne - Canadian expat in Japan - Dressed up in Kyoto as a Maiko

Here's the interview with Adrienne...

Where are you originally from?
Ontario, Canada. I grew up in the Niagara region, pretty close to Niagara Falls.

In which country and city are you living now?
Nagoya, Japan.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I’ve been living in Nagoya for about four years now. I don’t really have specific time frame in mind. As long as I’m happy with my life here, I’ll stay.

Why did you move and what do you do?
When I was in University I participated in an exchange program and spent a year in Japan. In school I majored in Applied Linguistics, with a focus on teaching ESL / EFL. I enjoyed Japan a lot the first time, so when I graduated I figured I’d come back!

I’m currently teaching EFL at an “eikaiwa”, or English Language school.

Did you bring family with you?
I did not. Getting on the plane to move here all alone was one of the scariest moments of my life. Last year I adopted a half Toy Poodle, half Chihuahua puppy, and named her Rhea. She’s now part of my family here!

Hanging out in Nagoya's own Central Park
Hanging out in Nagoya's own Central Park
How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Since I had already studied in Japan for a year, I had some idea of what to expect. However, studying at university and packing up your life and moving here isn’t quite the same thing. There’s definitely a learning curve for basic things, like how to pay your rent and bills, and going to the doctor. I just took things one step at a time, and asked for help when I needed it.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I really don’t know much about the local expat scene, and haven’t met a lot of other expats that I’ve created long-term friendships with, but everyone has always been pleasant. It seems like a lot of other expats in Japan already have established families, or are only staying for a year or so.

I wouldn’t say it’s easy to make good friends in Japan, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not possible! In a country with such a huge population, you’re bound to find a few awesome people that you just click with.

Having a dog has really given me the opportunity to meet a lot of different people, which has been great.

Rhea splashing around in the crystal clean water in Gero
Rhea splashing around in the crystal clean water in Gero
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Nagoya isn’t heavy on the tourist attractions, but you can always find something to do. If you’re into culture and history, Atsuta Shrine is a really nice place to visit. Osu Kannon is famous for little shops, with lots of odds and ends, or if you like something more upscale, you can walk around Sakae and Yaba-cho where you can find all of the brand name designers.

If you do come to Nagoya, make sure you try the city’s specialities! I especially recommend tebasaki (chicken wings), kishimen (a flat type of udon noodle), and misokatsu (pork cutlet with miso sauce).

Nagoya is pretty central, so you can easily do one or two day trips to popular places like Kyoto, and Nara. Iga is a really fun day trip if you want to learn about ninjas!

What do you enjoy most about living here?
Nagoya is a really easy and clean city to live in. It has all the conveniences of a big city, but it doesn’t feel as big as it is. Food in Japan is great. I never knew how much Japanese people loved food until I moved here. Even “cheap” food is generally higher quality, and better tasting than “cheap” food in North America. I like that I can walk pretty much everywhere for all of my basic needs, but when I do need to go somewhere a little farther away, the public transportation here is amazing.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
Of course apartments or living spaces are much smaller here for the amount that you pay, but I’ve found that eating out is cheaper (and faster), and the public transportation takes you farther for less. When it comes to buying food, as expected things that are grown in or near Japan are usually cheaper, so if you want to save some money, it helps to cook with food that’s commonly used in Japanese dishes. Fruit is more expensive, and it’s nearly impossible to find any decently priced raspberries.

Health insurance was a lot more than I was expecting, but on the plus side, vets here are much more reasonable. Other than that, nothing else really stands out to me as being that different. There is no tipping in Japan, tax is only 5%, and already included in the price that’s listed on items.

Taking photos of the cherry blossoms in Ogaki
Taking photos of the cherry blossoms in Ogaki
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Coming from a country where you have lots of space, and are used to big houses with yards, the cramped spaces, and lack of storage is really difficult for me. I’m also not good at getting rid of things (sentimental value!), but I am slowly learning to toss things I don’t use or need. There are a lot more people in Japan than in Canada, and I still don’t do well in big crowds. Rush hour on the subway is pretty rough. I need my personal space!

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Learn some basic Japanese. Even the basics will make living here a lot easier, and people are far more willing to help you if you at the least make an effort.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Of course being so far away from my family and friends in Canada is difficult, but I think that’s a given no matter where you go. So aside from that, I would have to say the language barrier. I studied some Japanese in University, and went on exchange for a year, but I still get nervous when I have to speak. Talking on the phone is the worst! Every day conversation isn’t a problem, but when you do things like visit the doctor or go to the salon, you want to make sure you can understand and convey yourself clearly.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I’m not sure when I’ll go back to Canada for good (I do plan to someday), but I do go back every Christmas. There’s always a bit of shock, especially when it comes to meal sizes, and waiting times. It’s also a bit strange to physically “fit in” again, as in Japan, I tend to stand out.

Wish boards at Atsuta Shrine
Wish boards at Atsuta Shrine
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Take the opportunities that are offered to you. You never know what could come of it, and at the very worst, you’ll have learned something.
  2. Travel. Japan isn’t a very big country, but there’s still lots to see!
  3. Take a dip in the onsen (hot springs). I’ll admit that I don’t really feel comfortable being naked around other strangers (everyone bathes together, usually separated by gender), but it’s definitely something you have to try, even if it’s just once.
  4. Bring cash. Japan isn’t big on credit and debit cards, and you’ll find getting around a lot easier if you have cold, hard cash on you.
  5. Be polite (mind your please and thank you’s), respectful, and smile. I’ve found that a friendly smile goes a long way.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog is about my experiences with living, travelling, and working in Japan. I share my thoughts and opinions, and write about topics that I’m interested in, as well as things I think other people would be interested in reading about. I’ve always liked photography, and recently started learning more about it, so hopefully the quality of my photos will improve! I love my job, and sometimes I share teaching ideas or resources that I have found and used in class.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I’m happy to answer any questions anyone has about life, or working in Japan! You can reach me via my website, and I can always be found on Twitter (@eidorien)!

Adrienne blogs at http://www.adrienneinjapan.com which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Adrienne in Japan has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Adrienne, please also drop her a quick comment below.

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