American Expat Living in Japan - Interview with Alex

Published: 8 Apr at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Japan
Alex is an American girl who had a dream of becoming a manga artist. She took the only logical route and saved up money teaching English, and spent it all on a 2 year manga school in Tokyo. She continues to draw manga and illustrations, continues to travel and try to eat good things, and also continues to be extremely poor. She works hard to keep up all three (one she wishes would change). She also likes to abuse parenthesis. Alex's expat blog is called Wanderlust Japan (see listing here)

Here's the interview with Alex...

Where are you originally from?
From the US. More specifically, I am from Connecticut.

In which country and city are you living now?
I live in Tokyo, Japan.

How long have you lived in Japan and how long are you planning to stay?
I have lived here 5 years...and will stay as long as I feel like it is worth staying.

Why did you move to Japan and what do you do?
Moved here to live the manga artist dream, and now I currently work at a manga advertisement company. Instead of make ads with photos and catch copy, we make ads with hand-drawn manga, photos and catch copy.

Did you bring family with you?
Nope. Just me and my bunny.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
It was not that hard because I had been to Japan several times previously. The hardest part is that you know no one, and have no friends or family in the beginning. Now I have some friends who are like family.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
It wasn't easy. In the countryside there was almost literally no one under 60.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
There are a lot of things...That is why I made the site. But I am someone who is interested in exploration, cuisine, etc. So I could only recommend you restaurants, hot springs, and interesting places to try and venture to.

What do you enjoy most about living in Japan?
The food...(seriously though).
I enjoy life here because it is easy, I don't need to drive a car, people are polite, I can go to hot springs and take baths whenever, and there is a general respect for quality (sometimes it gets out of control and fetishized).

How does the cost of living in Japan compare to home?
The rent is not bad compared to home, but the amount of space is a struggle. Supermarkets are generally more expensive, and there are not as many sales as in the US.

What negatives, if any, are there to living in Japan?
That I will, no matter what I do or say, be an outsider. Always.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Japan, what would it be?
Learn Japanese. People will open up to you. People here also do not like the idea of speaking a foreign language to communicate to someone in their home country (or anywhere).

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The cultural differences between me, my boss, and my coworkers. I don't understand if anyone is angry at me or not, or why. I'm constantly trying to figure out what they are thinking.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I have no idea. I have never been an independent adult in the US before.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn Japanese
  2. Get a smartphone (the streets have no names, literally)
  3. Download a train transfer app
  4. Join some sort of interest group/club. It is cheaper to travel in numbers.
  5. Go exploring always, everyday.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
It's trying to be an off-beat sort of culture and travel information blog. I want people to enjoy the art and my take on things, but I also want them to feel like they have gained something that was useful to them.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
My contact page. I can email you back if you need some sort of assistance.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingAlex is an American expat living in Japan. Blog description: Illustrations/drawings/writing about my travel and cultural observations in Japan.
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