Portuguese Expat Living in Japan - Interview with André

Published: 15 May at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Japan
André always had the dream of going to Japan. After visiting it in a Japanese Language School Summer Holiday Course for three weeks, he decided to go back for a long period to continue his study in Japan. After graduating his Computer Engineering Course at a Portuguese University, he went to Tokyo to study Japanese for one year at the same Japanese Language School. Presently, and after graduating the Japanese Language School, he is studying Computer Graphics in Japan Electronics College with the purpose of entering a Japanese video game company. Through his blog "The Rising Sky", he tells the world about his experience, and introduces a little from everything related to Japan, be it anime, music, tourism spots, culture, or even Japanese Language. André's expat blog is called The Rising Sky (see listing here)

Tokyo Sky Tree
Tokyo Sky Tree

Here's the interview with André...

Where are you originally from?
Mafra, Portugal

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

How long have you lived in Japan and how long are you planning to stay?
I've lived here for about two years (since April 2012), and I have no plans to go back for now.

Why did you move to Japan and what do you do?
I always had this passion for Japan and the more I learned about Japan and Japanese culture, the more I wanted to come here. So, after making a short trip to the country to get to know it, I decided to come and continue my studies in Japan. I started with a one-year intensive Japanese Language Course, and now I'm studying Computer Graphics in Japan Electronics College with the intent of finding a job soon.

Gundam Robot in Odaiba
Gundam Robot in Odaiba
Did you bring family with you?
No, I came by myself.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
In the beginning it was a bit complicated to adapt to everything, as this is a completely different society when compared to the one I was living in. When I entered my Japanese Language School, I applied for a home stay program the school had, and that way I had a Japanese family to live with, who helped me a lot with my daily life. It was also thanks to them that I was able to visit a lot of new places, meet a lot of new people, and have a lot of new experiences. With the entering in the new school where I am now, I had to move, but thanks to them I got quite used to the country, and I can do everything by myself now.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
In my Japanese Language School, my classmates were, obviously, all foreigners, so in that period I had a lot of contact with them. Of course I still maintain contact with some of my best friends from then, but the school where I am now is attended mostly by Japanese, so my circle of friends is from Japan. Before coming to Japan I also had made some Japanese friends through internet, and I still hang out with them.

Toushougu Shrine in Nikko
Toushougu Shrine in Nikko
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Tokyo is one of the biggest metropolises in the world, you can do pretty much anything you want. If you enjoy eating, there are all kinds of restaurants and food stores (Japanese and from foreign countries) you can think of. If you are more the night type, grab some friends and to go a club, billiard, darts, go for some shopping or take a break in an izakaya (Japanese style pub). If you like outdoors activities, grab a bike and venture yourself for unknown roads, have a walk in your vicinity (believe me, you will discover many unexpectedly interesting things), take a rest in a park (Japanese parks are absolutely gorgeous), or let yourself immerse in the sacred and mysterious atmosphere of a temple. Tell me your hobby and I'll tell you where to go.

What do you enjoy most about living in Japan?
Well, first of all, it's the country I like. It's beautiful. I feel I have so much to explore, specially out of the city, and recently I have been wanting to visit lots of new places out of Tokyo.

Not only I think there is a great sense of community, but there are many things in Japan that should be perfectly common in other countries as well. For instance, there is a priceless feeling of security almost anywhere. Be it walking a dark street at night, riding a train,... Being free of the feeling of fear of being robbed has no price. Well, of course it's always advisable to have some kind of awareness, but it's a perfectly safe country.

Taking the example of the train, I use to compare Japan with Portugal like this: in Portugal, the announce being broadcasted in the subway is: "Please be aware of pickpocket, especially when riding and leaving the train" and in Japan it is: "Please be careful not to leave your belongings behind" or "Please turn off your phone when close to the priority seats and turn it to manner mode everywhere else". I think it explains quite a lot. Oh, and trains arrive on time (shouldn't it be like this everywhere?)

Also, it's quite clean pretty much anywhere. Narita Airport was elected one of the cleanest airports in the world for some reason.

Another point. Although Japanese people drink a lot of alcohol, there is quite a strong sense of responsibility when it comes to driving after drinking. There is a service of professional substitute drivers who you can call to drive you (in your car) home, from the place you had the party, for example. It's completely unthinkable in Portugal.

There are a lot of this kind of aspects which I love in this country. With so many people in a so tiny space, I think it's because of a good system like this that the country actually works.

How does the cost of living in Japan compare to home?
Saying it simply, it's higher. However, there are some things where it is pretty much the same, and if you search well, you can even find cheap stuff.

But let's talk for example about an apartment rent. It's expensive, and you will get a quite small space. But it's as I say, this is what happens most of the times. If you search well, I'm pretty sure there are good deals even in a city like this. The electricity, gas and water bills might be just a little more expensive, but not much. Internet and phone is pretty much the same.

Car parking is also pretty expensive (not that I use it though). The transportations tickets and commuter passes are pretty much normal, in my opinion.

When doing shopping, fruit and vegetables are exceptionally expensive. Specially if you like eating tangerines and strawberries. If you prefer bananas, you might be lucky.

Getting a haircut, buying a bike, going to a restaurant, it's all quite similar to Portugal. If you search well.

Kawaguchiko Lake
Kawaguchiko Lake
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Japan?
Of course there are also some negative points about living here. As it is widely known, Japan is a very professional and competent society, rigorous in its rules, to the point of being annoying sometimes. Certainly it's thanks to a lot of bureaucracies that the country works well, but for foreigners that have experienced other systems; some details can make us lose our patience.

Specially being a foreigner, sometimes I need to go through lots of paperwork and other procedures to get a simple phone. And the worst part is even with all documents in order, in the end I'm not able to make a payment in installments, and I'm not told the reason. It's not that I wasn't able to get the phone, but there is this kind of "obstacles" that can drive me crazy.

Also, talking to strangers in Japan is quite difficult. I feel people don't want to have much trouble thinking about others' stuff, but then again, most people help you if you ask for something or are in trouble. It's quite a confusing feeling.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Japan, what would it be?
Be yourself. Do your best. Make friends. Don't stop doing what you like. It might be a really tough society if you have a lot of work to do, but you must be able to find a good routine so you can actually "live" your life and say "stop" when you think it's too much.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Hum... Maybe... Making a girlfriend?

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
My life has become something like Japan = busy work, and Portugal = relaxing holidays. For the time being, I'll be in Tokyo, and I don't know when or if I will be back to Portugal.

A shot of cherry blossoms from around my home
A shot of cherry blossoms from around my home
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. BEFORE coming to Japan, learn some Japanese. You don't need to be in a fluent level, but knowing the basis, some grammar and vocabulary will help you engage with others in conversation, and make the most of your stay in Japan.
  2. Enter a Japanese School to polish your Japanese ability. You'll get used to the country as well, and teachers at the school will give you support in your future, be it work, or continuing study. So search your school very well, and if it's possible, have prepared an accommodation where you can be with Japanese people. They'll help you with your daily life, Japanese and give you advice when you need.
  3. Once in Japan, don't hang out only with your foreigner friends. You will end up not "living" Japan to its essence and you won't be able to practice Japanese that much either. Make Japanese friends (possibly before coming, in the internet for example) and hang out with them as well.
  4. Don't try to be too much "a foreigner". Japan has a lot of annoying stuff which you must have the courage (yes, courage) to face, but also there is a ton of things that are WAY BETTER than in you country, so if you are used to them, the best thing you have to do, is get used to Japan's way of doing things.
  5. Work for a goal. Be it at school, at part-time, at your job, among friends, don't do things randomly. Carefully choose each one of your actions, because that's what will get you where you want.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
This stay in Japan started because of a simple passion and has escalated to something that might and will certainly be crucial in my future. So I want to tell my experience, the things I achieve, the errors I make, anything worth sharing with the world. Adding to that, I also want to introduce Japan to anyone that might be interested in the country. "The Rising Sky" is a blog with a little from everything about Japan! If you are looking for information about Japan, here you can find: news, culture, pictures, videos, posts and comments that I make about my daily life here, music, anime, movies, Japanese language lessons, celebrities, and much more!

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
If you have any questions, comments or if you need advice on something, just leave a comment below or visit my blog! In the "About Me" page you have my e-mail, just say hi ;-)

About the author

Expat Blog ListingAndré is a Portuguese expat living in Japan. Blog description: Hello everyone! I'm André, 22, Portuguese, and I'm currently studying in Tokyo! It has been the experience of my life, so I want to share it with the world! I'm writing in my blog about my adventures around here, and about a little from ev
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