Making the Most of Life in Japan: An Insider’s Guide
Some TEFL teachers find it easy to adapt to life in a new country, whereas others find it more difficult. Whether it’s getting used to a new climate, adjusting to a foreign culture or cuisine, or simply learning the best ways to save money abroad, living in Japan isn’t always straightforward. Read our top tips to find out how to get the most out of your time in Japan.
Wherever you live in the world, the cheapest (and often, most exciting) way to live is just like a local. If you want to buy foreign food or products all the time then not only does it cost a bomb but it also means you aren’t immersing yourself in the culture – if you’ve made the effort to come all the way to Japan, do something Japanese! Rather than forking out for an imported steak or a pizza that’s twice the price as back home and half the quality, see what local people are eating and choose that instead. You can get great deals in Japan, especially at lunchtime, by choosing simple local dishes such as curry rice, gyudon, ramen, and 100-Yen sushi.
Eco-Friendly Is Wallet-Friendly, Too
If you find it difficult to adapt to the temperature in Japan (be it the heat of the summer or the winters that feel much colder than they are through lack of central heating) it can be tempting to stay home on the weekends in the comfort of your air-conditioned apartment. However, turning on the air-con at every opportunity will cost a pretty penny, and make you all the more uncomfortable when you have no choice about experiencing the weather.
If you want to save money but still feel comfortable, get out of the house and go somewhere with free air-con. Shopping malls, cafes and museums will usually be cooled or warmed to an ideal temperature, and spending time there means you can save electricity bills at home. As for when you have no choice, try to use the air-con in short bursts. For example, in the summer when you feel like you won’t be able to sleep through the night in the heat, use the air-con for 30 minutes before you go to sleep and then turn it off – you’ll feel more comfortable, but it won’t break the bank.
Japan is an awesome country to live in with so much to see and do, but the fact is that many foreigners find their annual holidays are minimal at best, and transport is very expensive. (Though positions with Shane English School Japan include 6 weeks paid leave.) Buying cheap train tickets is almost impossible as a foreigner, and amazing deals like the Japan Rail Pass are sadly only available to citizens, not residents. However, if you want to travel on the cheap, look into the Japan Bus Pass – it’s not as fast as the trains, but if you live in Japan then you won’t have the same time constraints as a tourist. The pass is available for 3, 5 or 7 day time periods and makes it possible to visit a number of different places in a short time, and at a bargain rate.
As for the limited holiday periods, you’ve just got to plan carefully to make the most of it. Prepare in advance when it comes to booking accommodation to avoid places filling up, and do some research on peak days and times so you know when to avoid. Also, check out off-season locations – many Japanese tourists shy away from hiking and beach locations when it’s not the absolute best time of year, but you can still have a brilliant trip in these places when it’s a few months before or after peak season.
About the Author
Celia Jenkins has taught English in China, Japan and the UK to students from all over the world. As well as teaching, she is also a professional writer and part-time knitting enthusiast.