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Foreigners in Nagoya? Experiences? 2008/9/7 02:20
Hey there,

I just moved to Japan about 5 months ago, specifically to a suburb of Nagoya city.

I'm having a really tough time fitting in here. I have been to Japan a few times before this (longest was 3 months back when I was 19). I have really tried hard to learn Japanese. I will be taking the JLPT2 this December... judging from taking practice exams I think I will pass it with little problem when the time comes.

I mention all this because I want to explain that it's not for lack of effort. I speak Japanese to everyone that will let me, but I am finding that Japanese people around here just do not want to speak.

I don't mean that I am just talking to people randomly on the street or subway. That would be weird.

It seems like most Japanese people don't even want to listen to me speaking Japanese, they just start speaking in English. I know they want to practice, but I believe that foreigners should speak the language of the country they are staying in.

I hear a lot of Japanese people mentioning how annoyed they are that foreigners do not speak Japanese in Japan, but in my experience we aren't given the chance!

I admit that my Japanese is poor. I have only been here for 5 months! My reading level is far above my speaking/listening level, mostly because I never get a chance to speak Japanese with people. I can read a comic, instructions, signs, application forms, and if I have a dictionary on hand I can read a novel with little problem.

I just don't know how to take my reading ability and convert it into conversation ability.

So I am starting to feel stressed out here. I am doing a job I hate (teaching English) just because I need something to pay the bills with and from what I have seen that is the only job people with non-Native level ability in Japanese can find in this area.

I applied for an entry level IT job, where Japanese ability was a plus but not necessary. When I showed up for the interview they conducted the interview in Japanese (which I could handle), had me hand in two Japanese resumes (which I did with no problem), and then made me fill out an application and questionnaire (in Japanese, again no problem). Even though the pay was 1/3rd what I made in the US as a network engineer, I was willing to ''start over from the beginning'' so to speak. However, I did not get this job.

Another place I called listed ''Japanese conversation'' as a requirement and when the staff at the foreign job placement center called to clarify they told her that they actually required JLPT2. I had her ask if they would agree to an interview even though I do not have certification, since the test is only held once per year in Dec... and, if they would accept the fact that I exceeded every other qualification in lieu of the certification. I expected them to reply with, ''sorry, we need the JLPT2 certificate'' which I would have been happy with. But they changed their requirement right on the spot and replied, ''Actually, we really want JLPT1 instead.''

I dunno, I just want to vent I guess. Is it worth sticking around here? Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't just move to Tokyo where the job market is a little more friendly to foreigners. And maybe people there are a little more used to seeing non-Japanese people, and I won't have to put up with people staring at me everywhere I go, people crossing the street to avoid me, and people standing in the subway rather than having to sit next to me.

Okay, having typed that all out I feel a little better now.

Anyway, my question. Has anyone here lived in/around Nagoya City? How were you treated? Were you able to get a job other than teaching English?

Thanks, and sorry for the long whiny post!
by al  

Living in Nagoya 2008/9/26 23:23
Hi Al,
I'm a Japanese and living in Inuyama,Aichi though I know what you feel.
I think it will be more easier to find a job(not teaching job) in Tokyo like you said.
Nagoya is still kinda conservative city and only not getting used to live with foreign poeple.
I am very sorry if they hurt your feelings but they didn't mean anything but just don't know how to take care of you.
I hope you have a great time in Nagoya, Japan and will like people in Nagoya.
by Ricco rate this post as useful

I like Nagoya 2008/9/27 01:15
Hi, Al. Sorry to hear you're having a hard time.

While I don't live in Japan, I go over there often and one of the places I always go to is Nagoya as I have friends there.

I'm sorta surprised that you're having problems in Nagoya as I tend to find Nagoya friendlier than Tokyo. While I find in Tokyo people automatically assume I'm a tourist, people in Nagoya tend to assume I just live in Nagoya. I'm assuming because Nagoya isn't much of a international hotspot compared to Tokyo. People talk to me in Japanese and are quite friendly.

I admit my judgement may be a bit shaded since I have Japanese friends there and 80% of the time I'm with them when I'm there. But I enjoy the attitude of the friends I've made in Nagoya I find them more laid back vs. my Tokyo friends.

With regards to speaking/listening I totally understand where you are coming from as I'm the same way. My reading/writing comprehension is way above my speaking/listening, but I can hold up my end of a conversation (I'm a JLPT 3).
And really the only way to approve is to just to make a lot of friends and just throw yourself out there. Have you tried joining Facebook in Japan or Mixi? If you have a high reading/writing level it should be easy to make friends online and then transfer that to meeting them in person. That's how I've met a vast majority of my friends in Japan.

Just a thought,
by NYCBunny rate this post as useful

... 2008/9/27 01:35
1st of all, most Japanese people do not expect foreigners to speak Japanese language even in Japan. So in case you speak Japanese well, that is also somewhat surprising to them.

2nd, the Japanese people around you seem especially to be willing to learn English and want to talk to you in English, not in Japanese. You should make friends with someone who is NOT interested in English, taking advantage of other skills of you than the language. How about joining a local soccer team?

3rd, Japanese employers tend to request too high working skill than what is needed when actually working.
Talking of my experience, all of my friends abroad say my English is good, or sometimes almost perfect. Only Japanese employers said it was not good enough!

So never mind it. They don know how to evaluate your working skills.

I think you can do something more to improve your situation even in Nagoya. Good Luck:) Gambatte!
by Ts rate this post as useful

Determination has power than fear! 2008/9/27 01:55
Hi there!
Sorry for what is happening mate, I am trying to overstand your situation, I know it is very hard being in such situation in foreign country.
I was in Nagoya two month a go for vocation, it was my first time to visit Japan, though I was just visiting but I felt a pinch about being stared especially if you are black and tall,and all sort of, I tried to ignored but it really does gets to you sometimes. can't do anything just have to carry on with your things.
The other thing is, you just have to be a bit twisted but not twisted, I tried to talk to girls they do talk, so just go with the flow, whoever doesn't want to talk to you then it is fine, but I did enjoy my time there.
My friend lives in Nagoya, he is being living in Japan for more than ten years, he just moved from Hisroshima to Nagoya couple of years a go, during my stay I had a lot to chat with him what he thinks the culture and so on, what he told me was, you have to have determination to move on, otherwise you gonna lose the battle, you are in the battle my friend, if you don't pull up your soxs then you gonna lose the battle.
Since you have got a job to sustain you, the rest you will find the way around it, more you do the press up the fit you become.
Keep it up mate,remember ( The hotter the battle
the sweeter victory)
Out of that, I really enjoyed to be there, the food and scenery, the other thing is the language, next time I have to learn a bit. but I would like to come again and spend sometimes in Nagoya.
by Bongolicious rate this post as useful

That is not Limited to Nagoya. 2008/9/27 03:42
When I was in Japan for the first time I was in Tokyo people tried to talk to me in English all day long. When I lived in Kobe I was approached in English sometimes, too, but not as often as in Tokyo. Also, some people would rather stand in a train than sitting next to me. Kobe has had a foreign population for decades because it has a port. So people in Kobe (or in Kansai in general) should be used to have encounters with foreigners.

Regarding finding a job, it is really difficult for a foreigner to find a good one in Japan - except for expats, of course. In my country (which is located in Europe and has a large foreign population) it is practically impossible to find a job without speaking the local language on a very high level. Not speaking the local language well enough and having a foreign passport are big impediments in any country. The Japanese job market is difficult anyway. If you are not Japanese and you have not graduated from university before getting 30 years old, you must do networking.

About finding Japanese friends, there are the following possibilities:

1. You search for penpals living in or near to Nagoya, maybe for language exchange. Even if you don't intend to do language exchange, but just correspond in Japanese and meet for purposes such as sight seeing, you can get to know Japanese people this way. You don't need to be politically correct, especially if you write in Japanese. You can specify the kind of people you would like to meet.

2. Take part in cross cultural events. At my university a lot of events for both international and Japanese students took place. Also, YMCA introduced host families to foreigners. Even five years after graduation I am still corresponding with my host family. At my second dormitory I took calligraphy lessons and I am still corresponding with my calligraphy instructor.

3. Take part in a group activitiy where Japanese people are likely to be present. I learned to dive in Japan and all instructors were Japanese. All Japanese divers I have met so far have been open-minded. If you don't like diving, just search for another activity you can take classes for.
by OkinawaDolphin rate this post as useful

thanks 2008/9/27 11:36
Thanks everyone for your replies and support!

The thing that keeps me going is the challenge. I have goals here and I won't leave until I accomplish them.

I have been trying to go out and find friends and have been making some progress. I joined a traditional jujutsu class and was invited by a few of my classmates to go to dinner with them after class, once a week (they call themselves the "Dennys Members" because they always get together and hang out at Denny's after class). I also am getting friendly with the regulars at the bar down the street.

I have been studying every day. I am trying to expose myself to as much Japanese as possible. However, it's a little difficult because my range of interest is very narrow... so it's a little difficult finding things that are interesting enough to overcome the frustration of not understanding completely. So I found some podcasts I enjoy listening to.

I really do not want to teach English. I don't find it to be interesting at all and I am losing patience with dealing with your typical nonsense office politics, since I really don't like the job anyway. And I can't even practice Japanese with my coworkers (they will refuse to converse with me in Japanese).

I have to go to a lot of schools in the outskirts of Nagoya, and the parents are just unreasonable out there. I got in trouble yesterday for not bowing low enough to one parent for instance. In another case, the school called one house by accident (dialed the wrong number) so the customer demanded the owner of the company personally go to his house and apologize. These are the kinds of people I have to deal with!! haha

I can put up with people acting like this if I like my job, you know what I mean?

So I need to network some more and make some contacts. I have a graduate degree and six years experience as a network engineer. I'm just afraid that I will be stuck teaching English and will never have a chance to really improve my Japanese.
by newtmonkey rate this post as useful

everything will be alright 2008/9/27 13:55
Everything will turn out alright, don't worry so much. It's good that your studying hard everyday and trying to make friends. Give it time, and something will will turn up. Just study hard and try to pass the JLPT 1/2, it'll definitely open a lot of doors.

On the subject of people speaking english to you, the advice I've heard from several people is, just be persistent. Although it may seem rude, they'll get the hint sooner or later and speak to you like they would any other person. I actually have a friend who had that same problem used to get sort of irritated. It's funny though, although it happens a lot let frequent now, when someone does speak (or try?) to speak to him in english, it thinks "Great, now I don't have to use my brain" and doesn't bother him any more. So just be positive and don't let it get to you.

I'm actually also in the IT field and am moving sometime next year. But I'll be going to school and may have to teach eng part time, but hey, at least it's not forever. Once you get that JLPT, with your experience, somethings bound to come up, don't worry.

Hope everything works out!
by albert rate this post as useful

Living abroad 2008/9/27 15:54
It seems like most Japanese people don't even want to listen to me speaking Japanese, they just start speaking in English.
I recognize the situation where everybody wants to speak English only with a foreigner very well.
JLPT level 2 is very impressive and I don't think the problem lies with your Japanese skills even though you feel you need to improve your speaking skills. Your job as teacher probably doesn't make you work closely with colleagues and showing too much of your Japanese skill can even be a drawback as they probably want you to work in English only. Anyway, I think that you got the right idea when you joined the jujutsu class; you say that you have limited interests and I would suggest that you look through the listings and pick a hobby or sport while keeping in mind that it should bring you into contact with other people.
by Kappa rate this post as useful

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