A Funky guide to moving, living and working in Japan
Moving to Japan is exciting. But it can also be disorientating—especially if you don’t speak the language. Around 50 percent of FunkyCorp’s staff is non-native, so we know the challenges. Two current team members, Colin, a developer from the US and Gaby, a producing editor from the UK, were hired from overseas and started at FunkyCorp “fresh off the boat”. If you’re thinking of making the move to Japan, here’s the 101 on how to make the move a little smoother.
How to get a job in Japan
There are plenty of job sites aimed at foreign talent, along with recruiting agencies and listings on LinkedIn. Having an ‘in’ always helps, but it’s definitely not essential. Our careers page details all our current openings. “I heard about the job at FunkyCorp through a friend who knew Teru,” says Gaby. “I was living in Bangkok, where my visa was running out. The job offer felt serendipitous in its timing: I got the call while I was standing next to a giant Godzilla statue. It seemed like a sign!” she laughs. Colin heard about the role from Michael, a producing editor. “He mentioned the job opening, and it seemed like a great opportunity.”
What to consider before moving
Visiting as a tourist is an entirely different experience from being a resident. Among the many things to research are the cost of living (and how your salary measures up), taxes, where to live, safety, your rights as a foreigner, how to get around and how to spend your free time. Read widely and, if you can, tap your contacts for info. “Michael was my main resource,” says Colin, “he told me all about the work hours, company culture, and life in Japan.”
Forget the salaryman stereotypes
“Japanese working culture was my main concern,” says Gaby, producing editor. “Thailand is known for its chilled attitude to work, while Japan is known for the opposite. I thought the move was going to accelerate my career, but that it would be a tough slog,” she says. “It’s actually less intense than I’d anticipated. I think some businesses live up to the stereotypes, but FunkyCorp strikes a balance. It’s typical agency life—sometimes you work longer hours, but it’s balanced by generous vacation time.” Colin agrees. “When you tell people you’re moving to Japan, they say, “Oh my god they work so much there, you’re gonna die,”” he laughs. “It’s true to the extent that it’s a work-heavy culture here, but at FunkyCorp people balance work and home life.”
Setting up your new life
International moves mean admin. Your visa, apartment, bank account, cellphone and registering with your local ward office will require plenty of paperwork. To add to the fun, this admin is nearly always in Japanese. Thankfully, most places have some English support. “When I set up my bank account, an English-speaking member of staff spent a long time helping me,” says Gaby. “He even wrote out all the kanji in pencil for me to then trace over in pen. The FunkyCorp team has also gone out of its way to support their new coworkers. “Liza has gone with me to the bank, Michael has gone to the ward office with me, and Tara went through a lot of apartment listings,” says Colin. “A lot of people have offered support.”
Finding a place to live
“I found a place to live before I moved here,” says Gaby. “I scoured share-house websites for places that were shared with 30-something foreign professionals. I thought it would be a good way to meet people. I moved out after four months to live with my boyfriend, but it was a good introduction to Japan,” she says. Colin’s stopgap to finding his own place was a stint in the “Funky House”, an apartment near the office that several staff members have lived in at one time or another. “It was helpful to have a hassle-free home base and an address until I found my own,” he says.
Learning the lingo
You’re as likely to sit in an all-English meeting at FunkyCorp as you are an all-Japanese one. It’s truly bilingual, and most staff speak at least a sprinkling of both. It’s a definite advantage to speak both, but there is plenty of language support. Meetings are often followed with minutes in both languages, people will offer to translate documents, and many will smoothly flit between languages to speak to the entire team. However, it’s a good idea to enroll in Japanese lessons as soon as possible. “I have a long, long way to go,” says Gaby, “but learning is a good way to meet people and get some grounding in the language.”
Just dive in
Some last tips “People will tell you “Tokyo has everything”—or at least they did when I expressed concern that there would be a lack of strongman gyms and vegetarian food,” says Gaby. “It has a lot, but not everything. There are some things you’ll struggle to find, but you’ll adapt.” Colin suggests treating every experience like an adventure. “Have a go at navigating experiences in which you think you will need Japanese language. It might take longer, but people are open to helping you out,” says Colin. “And keep exploring. Keep viewing the experience as something new and exciting to discover”.