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Linda during her time in Tokyo, Japan

"People aren’t super good at speaking English so sometimes when you’re in a restaurant and ask for the English menu, they give you a drawing of their food." Read Linda's story here!

  • Adventure
  • Studying Abroad
  • Living Abroad
  • Asia
  • Japan
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Linda (Netherlands – Tokyo): “Tokyo has owl cafés, rabbit cafés, cat cafés…”

What was the first thing you thought when you got off the plane? (bus/train/car)

Was very proper and nice actually, everything felt very cute and civil.

What was the most shocking difference between your home country and your new country?

Getting overlooked as a woman on purpose; in meetings men cut me off mid-sentence to explain things that didn’t matter in the topic or hijack the conversation. 

Did you ever feel homesick? How did you cope with this?

Almost never, I skype a lot with my friends and family in the Netherlands.

Did you feel at home in your new country? Why (not)?

At first yes; I look Asian and I understand the culture, cuisine and landscapes. It’s still very exciting to go explore new places. Since I don’t speak the language and am not a local person sometimes I realise I will never be part of this society. Especially in Japan, where the culture is quite “we” versus “them”, and I don’t belong to the “we”.

Please give us tips about who to befriend when living abroad. The Russians? The Irish? The Chileans? (Honestly, we want to know some gossip about other internationals you’ve met.)

I live in a part where there are lots of expats. In Tokyo I meet them through my events; sometimes it feels like a competition which socialite can bring the craziest friend. Lots of fun people but you won’t want them in your house. I also started doing aerial hoop and working out in the park and met some very fun people in that way.

Meeting people is always difficult in big cities, especially when you don’t speak the language. There are lots of Facebook groups for internationals though, and going out a lot helps! Try to befriend Japanese people there, they might be more open to it. After a night of dancing everyone wants to go and eat ramen: the perfect moment to make friends!

Describe the inhabitants of the new country in three words.

Diverse, shy (at first), outgoing (when they trust you).

Was there a type of local food you could NOT handle?

Hmm, I don’t think so! Japanese food is quite mellow within the Asian kitchen. Everyone likes sushi and I’ve never encountered anything I found disgusting.

What did you learn from your experience abroad? Was it the loving community you liked? The cheap cocktails? The overwhelming nature? Or was the experience less helpful than expected? Details, we want details!

Taxis are really expensive in Japan, so I try to take my bike. Furthermore, if you really want to experience the oddness of the country visit some of the weird cafés! Tokyo has owl cafés, rabbit cafés, cat cafés... There are also ‘maid cafes’ where girls dance in maid costumes and the funniest thing there is watching the customers: business men of 40+ who know all the dance routines and actively dance along! 

People aren’t super good at speaking English so sometimes when you’re in a restaurant and ask for the English menu, they give you a drawing of their food. Also, there’s a Pokémon centre you HAVE to visit if you’re a Pokémon fan!

It doesn’t really matter where I am, there are always places in any culture and country where people have the same ideas and values as me. I was very shy in the beginning, not being super vocal, to avoid being rude or disrespectful. Pretty soon I learned that if you speak up, there are always people popping up to hear what you have to say - and if you’re lucky, they might even add to your vision.