Life as the Gaijin

Being a gaijin, or foreigner, in Japan has been written about A LOT. Mostly from the white male perspective, but that’s understandable considering that in the English speaking community, males outnumber females by at least 4:1 (according to a 2005 study done by the Japanese immigration bureau which is not very up to date, but it’s the most recent I could find: http://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/kokusei/2005/poj/pdf/2005ch11.pdf).

In general there are 3 main groups of foreigners that come to Japan, short term, mid term, and long term. Short term residents tend to be students, many from China and Korea, and English teachers looking for an exciting year or two in a more “exotic” country. Mid term residents tend to be expats on a 3-5 year assignment living it up in large houses or apartments with maids, private schools, and large expendable incomes.

Then there are long term residents who I find often end up here by mistake or love. I originally came over as a student and planned to stay until I finished my degree. I was doing well at work however, the recession was in full swing in the US, and I met the man I ended up marrying here though, so things turned out a little differently. I don’t really consider myself a long term resident here yet however, as while I have clocked in over 4 years in Japan, this time I’ve only been back for about 6 months.

I am however married to a Japanese man, have 2 half Japanese children, and will probably never escape the country entirely. We are planning to stay here for at least 3-5 years, but I don’t really have much experience living anywhere long term. I do however have friends who have been here for many years and their experiences, language abilities, and lives are incredibly diverse.

I think Japan has a lot to offer for anyone who is interested in living in the country, but you have to put in a lot of hardwork to get the most out of it. Since living in Mexico, I’ve definitely decided I will be a lot happier once my language skills improve a bit, and I also want to make an effort to make more Japanese friends, something a lot of foreigners struggle with as well. It’s so easy to get caught in the gaijin bubble, speaking English all the time, hanging out with only other foreigners, it can be hard to break out.

Later on I plan to write more on being a mom and a foreign woman in Japan, each of which presents its own challenges and rewards, and each of which are topics that need to be discussed more.

Mommy Guilt

I love writing, but it brings me guilt. So much guilt. I think that’s part of the whole mom thing though. It seems impossible to be a mom without feeling guilty about something.

I have a messy house that I always feel guilty about, I feel like I’m the messiest mom in the world. I know from shows like hoarders that that isn’t true, but living in a 60m/600sqft 2 bedroom apartment with 2 kids will do that to you, there simply isn’t space for all the things we need. But as soon as I start cleaning I feel like it isn’t worth the effort because in 10 minutes my kids will make it look as if I did nothing in the first place.

So instead of cleaning I’ll start writing. Then I feel bad because I know any free time I have to write I could be spending on studying Japanese. I know enough to get by in most situations, but now that my daughter is about to start kindergarten, I know it could use some improvement. By not being able to speak easily with her teachers or other moms I could make a real impact on her school life. So then I put down the computer and pick up the books.

As soon as I start to study Japanese though I look at my kids playing ipad or watching TV and feel like a shit mom not spending any time with them. Am I really going to be the kind of mom who lets their kids grow up with constant electronic entertainment? I wish I could say no, but who am I kidding, Peppa Pig is a great baby sitter.

So then I’m back where I started, feeling guilty about everything, not getting anything done, and looking for something to watch on Netflix or someone to talk to on Facebook. Maybe when my kids are older and both in school things will get easier, but I doubt the guilt will go away completely and I’m sure I’ll still feel like both my writing and my Japanese could use some work.

Oh genre, my genre

I think the hardest part about starting a writing career is genre. I feel as though I have ideas for so many genres and while I could find success in one, I worry that it my limit my choices in other areas of writing.

You always hear that writing romance is supposed to be easy and that there is a huge demand for it, but then you hear about getting trapped in the genre, dismissed by “serious” writers as a mass producer.

Similarly I would love to develope an idea I have for a fantasy series, but it’s hard to break out of that sector too, and I have so many ideas beyond the world I’ve created in my mind.

Then I’ve had people tell me I should make a memoir because of the rather unusual life I’ve lead so far, but to tell the truth, I often think it isn’t as exciting as it sounds, or that the most interesting parts are things I don’t yet feel like sharing.

So, I find myself working on a few different pieces, mostly when the kids are asleep or watching tv, wondering if I’m going to regret this book in a few years, depending on if I can even get published of course 😉