When I was deciding whether to accept my placement on the JET Programme, these words repeated in my head over and over again: “If not now, when?” It was that question that made it obvious that I was going to accept. It is that question that continued to play in my head when new opportunities arose during my time here. So this week, my advice for new JETs is to say YES.
This covers a variety of different scenarios that will come up throughout your time in Japan, but also know that of course if something makes you uncomfortable or goes against your deeply held principles, then you should say no. I’m not saying jeopardize who you are or what you believe. I also think we need to respect our personal limits sometimes. Living in a new country with a different culture than we’re used to is already pushing us outside comfort zones so don’t push yourself to the point of breaking. Know your limits, but know why you have them.
Take advantage of opportunities
Now that that’s out of the way, my advice for new JETs is to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Say yes to checking out that exhibit on ancient Japanese instruments even if you have no real interest in music. Say yes to the weekend trip to Wakayama even though you have no clue what’s there. Say yes to social events with a bunch of foreigners because even if you are proficient in Japanese it’s nice to talk to people from other parts of the world who share your mother tongue.
Know there will be ups and downs to your experiences
Not everything you say yes to will be the greatest. There may be times when you attend an event and you wish you hadn’t. But don’t let that stop you from saying no the next time around! You never know what new people you might meet, what things you might learn, or where the day/night will take you! Go into everything you do with an open mind and open heart and I can promise you won’t regret that!
Build support systems where you are
Saying yes is crucial to building networks of support while here in Japan. This could be easy for you when you first get here- the excitement of the beginning of your time in Japan can push you to get out there more than is typical for you. Or the overwhelm of a new country and culture could push you further into your own shell so that you isolate. DON’T ISOLATE! Have you ever met someone and tried to become friends but everytime you invited them to something they declined? Did you keep inviting them? Probably not. You really have to put in the work up front to build relationships and build your community here because it can be harder down the line.
It’s also important to stay connected to your support system back home. Of course. But there are aspects of your expriences that people from home just don’t understand, and other foreigners here will. There’s great value in that, so take the time to get to know other foreigners around you. Emotional validation of your experiences will help you get through the tough times and celebrate in the good.
It’s more than just social events…
When I advise you to say yes this goes beyond just building your support system here, although I think that is the biggest benefit. I also hope you will say yes to other things like trying new foods and wearing new clothes. Even if you’re a picky eater- just try it! The worst that will happen is you won’t like it and that’s that. But at least you show good faith and cultural interest by trying. Same with clothes- when else would it be acceptable for men to wear a purse or to wear socks with your sandals? Maybe the style isn’t for you but hey why not try while you can get away with it?
If not now, when?
I encourage you to continually ask yourself this. This idea can be helpful outside of your experience being an expatriate, but especially when you are living in a new place for a set time. It becomes really important to seize the day. When else in your life could you eat octopus balls and not have at least some family or friend question it or call it gross? By saying yes you open yourself up to even more opportunities and growth than you already get being an expat. So why not make the most of your experience?
Thanks for stopping by! Get home safe 😉