21 August 2017

Andre Moreira - Expat in Tokyo, Japan

Andre Moreira - Expat in Tokyo, Japan

We’ve had the chance to talk to Andre Moreira, 26, a Portuguese expat who has moved to Japan alone. Mr. Moreira who has been living there for five years, now works as a CG Designer. 

Read more about his experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: Mafra, Portugal.


Q: What made you move out of Portugal?

A: I had a huge interest in Japanese culture and in living in Japan, and I was quite frustrated with my daily life in Portugal. I wanted to change my life, pursue new goals, and find myself.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I’m currently living in Tokyo, Japan. Japan was not a choice because I didn’t quite think about other options. It was either Japan or Portugal.


Q: How long have you been living in Japan?

A: I’ve been living in Japan since April 2012.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I lived with a Japanese host family during my first year, as I was not very comfortable by myself in a place where I knew almost nothing about, and in a time I was not very fluent in the language. They were quite an open-minded family, so the adaptation was not difficult. Despite the communication problems (they only spoke Japanese), it was an awesome experience and it was just what I needed to improve my Japanese. After this year, I started studying at a Professional College and working after that, so I moved to a new house alone. In 2017 I started living with my girlfriend, with whom I still live today.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: In the beginning, it was not a problem. I was really excited about my new adventure and had a lot of challenges to face, so I did not really “have the time” to think about that. As time passed by and I started to create my comfort zone, homesickness started to appear, and it became really strong when I started to find difficulties in my daily life, is the biggest one the entering in the working society.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Japanese people are really friendly and have a really strong sense of living in a community, which can be seen mostly when there are natural disasters, through the help, everyone gives each other, and the way everything is organized. Prioritizing “the other” is almost common sense. Sometimes it is a bit too much, which leads to hiding or not valuing one’s own wishes, but if you know how to behave and respect the local rules, it’s a really nice friendly people.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Japan? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: As I entered Japan through a Japanese language school, I started by having foreign friends, with some of whom I still have a great relationship today. However, I also made a few good friends online before going to Japan and made other friends through them. My host family also contributed to that, and entering a wind orchestra next to my home was the best thing I could have done, not only to make friends but also to taste the Japanese culture at its best.


Q: How does the cost of living in Japan compare to your home?

A: They say it is REALLY expensive, and there are indeed some things that have an extremely high price (in Tokyo), but other things are quite cheap. I think it is a matter of searching well and comparing cost/performance, like anywhere else.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: Depends on size, but maybe an average of 300 yen.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: Average of 600-700 yen (really inexpensive ones go to 300 yen).

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: If you go to a really luxurious place there might be no maximum, but I guess a 4000 yen meal is already very expensive.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Average 3000 yen for wine and 350 yen for cigarettes.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Japan?

A: Some banks have conditions for the time of staying, but others are not so rigid. For example, I was declined at Mizuho but accepted at Mitsubishi. Of course, if you come for a long period such as two years, and have where to study/work, it should be fairly easy.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: Basically, if you cause no trouble, you won’t have any trouble. That’s the main rule in Japan. When you get a working visa, you can only work in your field of expertise. If you try to work in something different, you might be able to do it, but you will have problems when it comes to renewing your visa. Also, as a student, you have a limit of hours per week that you can work at part-time (and you need to receive a special part-time working permit at the immigration bureau). Visa should go well if you do your stuff such as paying your bills, taxes and don’t cause trouble. And of course, if you have a place to work/study. It may sound really bothersome, but it is thanks to these rules that Japan can actually work with so many people.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Japan is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Healthcare is very good. I had no problems until now. Doctors only prescribe you the needed medicine amount. Back in Portugal, it was by the number of packs (too much). I also underwent Lasik surgery here in Tokyo, as I was told it was not possible in Portugal. It was a very smooth process with no problems at all. It was so nice I almost liked it.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in Portugal or Japan? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: If you are a student, you can enter the National Health Insurance. You can apply for it at your local city hall. Once you start to work, the insurance becomes part of the company you entered. If by any reason you leave your work and find a new one later, you will pay the national health insurance corresponding to the period you did not work. This is to guarantee you always have insurance, having a job or not.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Japan? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: I had no mover, it was just myself. Even already in Japan, when I changed house, I did it by myself or with the help of friends. If your stuff is too much, there are a lot of moving companies, and I think all of them are fairly reliable.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Definitely my first job. It was really painful because I was not fully aware of what were the rules of the country and what was right and wrong. I had a big help from my family, host family, and friends, and later changed job, but the scars remained. If you wish to work in Japan, be very careful of the company you choose, and if something smells wrong, just go away to another one. Employment is not a problem in Japan (despite all the things they say).


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Japan?

A: There are many people, as everyone knows, which brings a lot of negative points to daily life, such as over packed trains, over packed streets, over packed events, and a high competition in entering schools, universities, and companies. It is a tough path to walk, but once you are in, it is comfortable. There are still some problems for foreigners to do things such as buy a phone in instalments or making a credit card, but then again if you live long enough and “do your part for the country”, everything will be easier. Also, the working society is very dark in general, mostly due to long overtime. While being stipulated in the law that you can only work a max of n hours, somehow you end up working more than that, and nothing seems to happen to those companies. It is really weird. I believe that everyone knows that it is an “illegal endless cycle” but everyone thinks it is the only way for the country to work, so there is no one with the will or courage to stand up and say that enough is enough. Of course, there are exceptions. It all depends on the people that manage the companies.

Having this said, it is a beautiful country with marvellous spots to visit and enjoy, it is safe almost anywhere and at any time of the day, the unemployment rate is really low (2-3%), and the country actually works. There are flaws, like anywhere else, but you can have a very nice experience by making the right decisions.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: It depends on your tastes, but Japan has it all. If you are into the traditional, you have a lot of temples, shrines, and festivals to go to. Meiji Jingu Shrine and Asakusa Sensouji Temple are just some examples. If you are willing to go a little away from Tokyo, Kamakura is the best destination.

If you are into the modern, Tokyo is just the perfect place, being a real center of technology and futuristic architecture. Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, the Miraikan, and of course the electronic paradises of Akihabara, Shinjuku, and Shibuya are some of the best spots.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: For the time being, no. I still want to evolve as much as I can for a couple of years in my working field, after which I aspire to become a freelancer. When I have more freedom in terms of schedule, I’ll be able to think about it from a different perspective, and going back home is indeed an option. Might do it only from time to time as well. Still thinking about it.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Don’t push your country’s way of thinking into the Japanese, as it will be considered rude. Of course, you should not reject it at all, but it is important to adapt to their environment, and keeping a healthy balance with your own values. Sometimes there is a clash of ideals, and in those times, a wise decision might be needed.

Also, make friends. Good friends. They will help you in your adventure.

And keep in mind that you are a national from your country, and that will never, ever change.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Japan?

A: www.japantravel.com is the biggest and best site for tourism in Japan, and it gives you a really close insight on other people’s thoughts about places they visited, problems they faced, etc. You can browse it in a variety of languages, which makes it perfect for everyone around the globe. You can also create your own articles and share with others. It’s fun, simple, and very convenient! Definitely, recommend it!

Blog: https://therisingsky.wordpress.com