Strategies for Enjoying Your Expat Life: Start with normal
One of the goals of my work here at JMC is to help you, fellow expat, to have an enjoyable and fulfilling life. For 99% of the population, expat or otherwise, starting a business is the last thing you would want to do. I understand. It's what makes me tick but it's not for everyone.
It's still really important for you to find those special things that make you feel normal and happy. I've talked about this a few times before, my other passion: swimming. Today I want to share specifically how I joined the swimming team.
Years ago when I lived in the city I belonged to a gym downtown. Tons of 'foreigners' went there as well so it was set up to take on non-Japanese speaking members. When I moved to the town where I now live it was a different story. There are a lot of tourists around since we're near the airport and our town is AWESOME. But tourists don't need to join the gym. So, no foreign language support.
My Japanese is probably good enough to speak to the staff about joining - afterall it's in their best interests to try to explain. They want new members. BUT I am crap at reading any kinds of forms and writing is a challenge when I am under pressure. So, how I got around it was by signing up online.
I found the online registration form for the club I wanted to join. Then I painstakingly translated the relevant info from Japanese into English and back again. It took a while but once it was done it was simply a matter of showing up in person to confirm my bank account and ID at the front desk. Easy. (I assume you have a bank account? if you are in Japan check out Shinsei in English)
As for joining the team. That was easy too. After a few times swimming by myself one of the team members asked me if I wanted to swim with them. The coach said it was okay and that was that. I guess I looked friendly, interested and open to talking to strangers.
I've been a member there for almost eight years now. I cannot tell you how sane it keeps me being able to escape in the evenings for some me-time. I love challenging myself physically. I enjoy having friends in the community outside of my work and family life. That sense of belonging is super-important.
Just tonight a pal from the team friended me on Facebook! I was so happy about that. I have a friend!
So what can you do to make your life more normal and ultimately happier? Are you involved in any community activities? Do you feel a sense of belonging in the town where you live? Are you making the most of your city's public resources?
If you were back home what would you be involved in? It might take a bit of searching or asking around but hopefully you'll be able to find a club for your hobby or sport. Don't worry too much about the language barrier - a shared passion for what you do will overcome that. We don't talk much when we swim. ;)