1 August 2016

Ploychompu Srisa-an - Expat in Tokyo, Japan

Ploychompu Srisa-an - Expat in Tokyo, Japan

We’ve had the chance to talk to Ploychompu Srisa, 25, a Thai expat living in Japan. It did not take long for Ms. Srisa-an, who have been to Japan as a tourist and student when she was younger, to fall in love with the country. After moving to Japan for six years, she told us that there are still tons of unique places and experiences to be uncovered there.

Facing no issues with the helpful locals, reliable system, and structured paperwork, the biggest challenges for Ms. Srisa-an are the language barrier and homesickness. Also, she warned that the Japanese are more reserved and indirect, and their corporate culture can be very different. “For instance, you will have to adjust to the strict work ethics, long working hours, seniority system, inflexibility of work, and weekly drinking parties,” Ms. Srisa-an, a recent graduate, explained.

Read more about Mrs. Srisa-an’s experiences as an expat in Japan, in her full interview below.


Q: Where are you originally from?

A: I am originally from Thailand.


Q: What made you move out of Thailand?

A: Since I was nine, I went abroad for a few months every year to study and stay with a host family in countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada, UK and USA. For Japan, it was right after my high school and I wanted to experience something new and living in a country where English isn’t the main spoken language.


Q: Where are you living now?

A: Tokyo, Japan.


Q: How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: A year before I went to Japan as a student, I travelled to Japan and fell in love with the country. It was during that trip that I met a Thai girl randomly on the bus. She told me about her university that was giving out scholarships. I applied when I got back to Thailand and got 100% scholarship. It was a great opportunity.


Q: How long have you been living in Japan?
Almost six years.


Q: What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in Japan?

A: I didn’t know any Japanese when I went there so it was not easy to talk to people, go shopping for grocery, and pretty much everything from creating a bank account to buying a mobile phone.


Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance was particularly difficult in Japan? What was your experience with these?

A: For Japan, I would say these formalities in Japan are pretty straight-forward. I was on a student visa for four years (one renewal after two years) and then I applied for a work visa after getting a job offer. It took only nine days for me but the visa will only be valid if I can show them the graduation certificate. Health insurance was easy to get and, cheap if you’re a student. As an employee, the company provided it and the fee was deducted from my salary.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? How are you adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I’m living alone. It was hard at first since I didn’t know Japanese and was living in a small town. After many years of learning the language and culture, and moving to Tokyo and subsequently, Osaka, life was very fun. There were many places to see and things to do all the time in Japan.


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

A: It was harder in the small town where I used to live, but once I moved to Tokyo and Osaka, it was very easy. I mainly use Twitter to chat daily with other expats, which led to many networking events later on. Some other effective ways are Youtube, Facebook and blogs.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: Going to a park to see cherry blossom in Spring. It is amazing! And also, going to summer festivals to see fireworks.


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

A: More expensive but not too bad.

  • How much is a cup of coffee?

Starbucks could go up to 500 yen (very expensive). Normal coffee shop is around 200-300 yen.

  • How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

Could be as cheap as 200-1000 yen.

  • How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

3,500-5,000 yen or more.

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

From around 2,000 yen cheapest for wine. I’m not so sure about cigarettes as I don’t smoke.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: The locals are very nice and helpful to foreigners. However, a lot of foreigners find Japanese people to be reserved and not very direct. Once you understand them, it’s not so hard to make friends with the locals.


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

A: There are many good and bad points about living in Japan. The good side is that Japan gives you such unique experiences and there are just so much to explore. It’s also a country that makes everything convenient and reliable. The bad point is the tough working environment in Japan. Japanese have really strict work ethics and that can be very hard for foreigners.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes?

A: Other than missing my home food, not really. Japan has become my home.


Q: How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I would usually just go to Thai restaurants, hang with some Thai friends or call home.


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

A: I plan to stay in Japan for a few more years. Then, it’s either settle down in Japan or go somewhere else but probably not going to be moving home.


Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

A: There are many but the hardest aspect is probably the working life. For instance, you will have to adjust to the strict work ethics, long working hours, seniority system, inflexibility of work, and weekly drinking parties.


Q: What tips can you give other expats living in Japan?

A: Enjoy all the experiences in Japan while you’re still there. It’s a great place to live. Could be tough at times, but you’ll gain so much from there.


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

A: www.gaijinpot.com.