- Pop Culture
- Time in Japan
- Tokyo Things To Do
What are cultural differences? Culture, the way Intercultural Coaches usually define it, is describing the way how the people belonging to a certain group, such as a nation, think. The thinking is influenced by values and norms that the people belonging to the group share. Of course not everyone of a certain country thinks the same way, indeed there are big differences from one individual to another, but tendencies definitely exist. They exist because the people around oneself are influencing each other: in their childhood, children learn the values, the way of thinking and behavioural norms from their parents, educators and teachers. Later, through every interaction, in social life, in work life etc. people adapt their thinking and behaviours to the people around them - resulting that they are a little similar to the people they interact with or they have grown up with. Japan is still a relatively closed society. As an isolated island with still today, very few foreigners, a culture has developed in Japan, which is indeed unique and in many aspects very different from all the other cultures in the world. Most people in Japan are proud of their culture and want to preserve it. There is not so much the urge to adapt cultural features from other nations. Being unique, however means that there are considerable differences between Japanese culture and the rest of the world. If you are not familiar with these differences and you closely interact with Japanese people, for instance living with them in a host family, or working with them at your Working Holiday job or internship, can result in difficulties for both sides. It is therefore definitely recommendable to learn about Japanese culture prior to your trip to Japan. Once you have are familiar with it in theory, you will be sensitized and able to understand certain behaviours you can observe in Japan, and you can adjust your own behaviour accordingly to avoid possible pitfalls. Japan Explained Through Cultural Dimensions A very useful analytical tool to study cultural differences is Hofstede's 6D model of culture. The model identifies six key dimensions by which cultures differ and through comparison, serves as a good representation of differences. The dimensions described are power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. femininity, uncertainty avoidance, pragmatism vs. normative and indulgence vs. restraint. The Hofstede Centre has a powerful tool on its website, allowing you to compare your own culture with Japan. You will notice in which dimensions you can possibly expect bigger cultural differences and learn how people in Japan would typically position themselves: https://geert-hofstede.com/japan.html You can also book an online intercultural skype training session with World Unite! (available in English and German), which takes around 90 minutes, and where you can learn from and also ask your questions to an experienced academic consultant (intercultural coaches, japanologists) about anything related to Japanese culture and/or living and working in Japan. To join is 45 USD/EUR. The sessions are usually offered 1-2 times per month to a group of around 4-10 participants, most of which go to Japan on a Working Holiday or Internship. It would be good to contact World Unite! latest around one month prior to your proposed journey to Japan. Even if you are already in Japan, it might make sense to join the session. Yes, I want to book an online intercultural skype training session about living and working in Japan!
You can buy most things in Japan. However, some items might be considerably more expensive than back home, or if you only need them occasionnaly (such as formal clothes for job interviews) not worth to buy again, if you already own them back home. Here's our Working Holiday Packing list: Passport with Working Holiday Visa Credit Card and some cash for the first month(s) Insurance documents Vaccination record Photocopies of your documents (in case of loss) Casual clothes for all seasons Formal clothes for Job Interview. For males this should be: black or dark blue fabric pants, long-sleave conservative shirt, tie, dark conservative leather shoes. A suit including the jacket is not an absolute necessity, but if you have one, better bring it, but only if it is plain black or dark blue - no fancy colours or patterns. For women: black or dark-blue knee-long skirt with black or skin-coloured tights (alternatively it is also acceptable to wear a dark, conservative fabric pants - no jeans!), white/neutral formal blouse. For job interviews, women should NOT wear colourful make-up, attention-catching accessories or have fancy hairstyles. Also men should not have unusual hairstyles or beards. It is possible to buy even large sizes of clothes in Japan. Shoes (particularly if have large sizes they are difficult to find in Japan) Towels (usually not provided at share houses) Western brands of cosmetics, toothpaste etc. that you prefer over Japanese brands. Western brands of cosmetic products are not widely available in Japan. If you need certain prescription medicines, better bring supply for your whole duration of stay. Also bring the prescription to proof that it is for your personal use if asked for at customs. Cell phone which is not sim-locked by your domestic provider with charger Maybe (for the beginning) some durable Western food (e.g. sweets, chocolates, bread, pasta). Remember that it is not allowed to bring fresh fruits and meat products to Japan. Using foreign electrical devices in Japan Japan uses the same AC sockets and plugs as in the US and runs its electrical network on 100 V/50 Hz. For eletric devices from other parts of the world, e.g. Europe, you need AC adaptors. It is not necessary to bring AC adaptors from home, as you can cheaply buy them at all electric goods shops. Salespeople at shops of your home country often recommend the wrong type of AC adaptor for Japan. Please note that due the 100 V low voltage of the Japanese electrical network, flat irons, hair dryers, kettles and most other heating devices from countries of higher voltage (e.g. Europe uses 220-250 V) won't work in Japan, even when using an adaptor. So don't bring them. Notebook computers, smartphones, electric shavers etc. can usually deal with a high range of voltages (100-250 V) so you can use them. Check the label on your electrical device for clarification.
It is a requirement for most nationals to have a Travel Health insurance for the whole duration of their time in Japan in order to get a Working Holiday Visa. The following insurances are recommended: Travel Health Insurance (obligatory). This insurance will cover your expenses for medical consultation, treatments and prescription medicines. Also it usually pays for a flight back home, should it be necessary from a medical point of view, if confirmed by a doctor in Japan. As a Working Holiday traveller, staying for up to one year in Japan, you can also join the Japan National Health Insurance (国民健康保険 Kokumin-Kenkō-Hoken), but you don't have to. You would need to pay for it an amount similar to foreign travel health insurances, but the Japan National Health Insurance only covers 70% of the medical costs, whereas foreign travel health insurances often cover 100%. As medical costs are relatively high in Japan, even the remaining 30% can make a substantial amount. Travel cancellation insurance. If you cannot travel to Japan after having made all travel arrangements due to a serious reason (e.g. serious illness, pregnancy etc - please check the conditions of the insurance), the travel cancellation insurance will reimburse your expenses. Travel cancellation insurances often need to be bought a certain time (e.g. one month) prior to your booked departure date. Liability insurance. As most companies in Japan have an employer’s liability insurance for their employees, this is often not necessary for those who are on a Working Holiday. In any case, please make sure what such liability insurance covers. In some cases, travel liability insurances are limited to liability claims related to travel activities (e.g. if you cause damage to a hotel room, rental surf board etc.), and don't include work-related liability claims.
Japan has a well-developed medical system of high standard, even in small towns. It might be hard at times to find English-speaking healthcare professionals though outside the big cities. Even in Tokyo, if you cannot fluently converse in Japan, options are limited, but available. “St. Luke's Hospital“ and the “Roppongi Midtown Clinic“ are two English-speaking hospitals in Tokyo that feature many medical specialties. As the prescription drugs sold in Japan are mostly made in Japan by Japanese pharmaceutical companies, and foreign medicines are not available, medication might considerably differ from the one you might be familiar with. Almost all drugs need a prescription and there are very few ones you can just buy at a drugstore. If you regularly need prescription drugs, we advise you to bring them from home for your whole duration of stay. Also bring the actual prescription with you, to proof that they are for your personal use. You might be asked at customs to show this. No vaccinations are required by law to enter Japan. Japanese encephalitis, a viral infection transmitted by mosquito bites, might be a risk in the countryside during the summer months (May to October). If you plan to stay in rural areas (e.g. doing farmwork) during these months, you might decide to get vaccinated against it.
The international airports in Japan are Osaka-Itami, Kansai (Osaka), Tokyo-Narita, Tokyo-Haneda and Chūbu (Aichi). You can arrive at any of these airports and get your Residence Card on arrival if you are holding a Working Holiday visa.
Requirement 1: Have a Japanese bank account for your salary If during your Working Holiday you want to do remunerated work, you typically need a Japanese bank account, as employers don't pay out salaries in cash or to foreign bank accounts. There are only a few banks in Japan that open bank accounts for foreigners from the beginning of your stay. Most banks won't do it at all and some only after you have spent at least 6 months in Japan. The banks that open accounts from the beginning of your stay have further restrictions about new accounts, e.g. usually you cannot transfer funds from outside of Japan to your Japanese account within the first 6 months of your stay. Requirement 2: Bring a Credit Card from home So to avoid you have to bring a lot of money in cash and in order to cover your living expenses before you get paid out for the first time, which usually happens on a monthly base after having done the work, it is advisable to bring a credit card from your home country with you. You also need a Credit Card in order to get a mobile phone contract. At some, but not all mobile phone providers this can be a foreign credit card. There is no chance for anyone who is on a Working Holiday visa to get a Japanese credit card. Also it important to know that many ATMs don't accept foreign Credit Cards, even if they have the VISA or Mastercard logo. They only work with VISA and Mastercards issued in Japan. At areas where there are usually many tourists, you can find ATMs accepting foreign-issued credit cards (and even some foreign debit cards such as Maestro and Visa Plus), and also at Japan Postbank and 7Eleven Convenience stores.