Married with passports!

What’s it like to live in Japan as a foreigner

This is a guest post written by Lena from

I have been living in Japan for over 2 years now and when I come back home or when I meet new people, I often get the same kinds of questions.

What’s it like? Why did you choose Japan? Is Japan really that expensive? Do Japanese really do a lot of overtime? Are the Japanese really that weird? Do you eat sushi every day? Are the trains really so crowded in Tokyo?

There are of course even weirder questions than that, but I better not get into details here (they are NSFW). 🙂

Today I would like to answer some of the questions in detail. So you can get an idea what it’s like to live in the land of the rising sun. If you are interested to find out where I live check out this post about my neighborhood.

Let’s start with the good things, shall we!

The 2 things that are awesome about life in Japan


Let’s face it. The most tourists come to Japan for a couple of reasons. Food is always one of those. And for good reason. Having lived here for quite a while now and tried a lot of different things, I have to say: Japanese food is the best food in the world!

It totally leaves behind great cuisines such as French, Italian and Thai or Vietnamese. We don’t need to compare it to the English, North American or German kitchen, I am sure of that!

By the way, I am kind of a clichee, my favorite food is Sushi. Typical right! I eat it at least once a week. But there is other great food out there, that is not as famous.

If you are interested check out my blog post about Eel.

The Japanese Summer

I love summer. I love the fact that I can go out in a dress and not feel cold and I love going to the beach and swimming in the ocean.

And I love the festivals and fireworks that are typical for a Japanese summer. No matter where you are in Japan there are festivals everywhere. Many people take the opportunity and wear Yukata (summer kimono). You can buy delicious foods at the many stalls and of course there is a cultural component to every festival often a tradition many hundreds of years old.

The fireworks in Japan are another highlight that make summer in Japan so exceptional. The Japanese pyro technicians are real masters of their arts and they color the night sky in beautiful colors for an hour or more at a time.

In my live everything comes back to food, and so I have to confess, that one of the reasons I love summer is because of the soft ice cream. There are crazy flavors all over Japan that we try while traveling the country.

Next up, things that are not so great.

The 2 things that annoy me about live in Japan

Crowded Trains

You might have seen videos of people being pushed into the train by station staff. I have to disappoint you. I have never seen this. But, that doesn’t mean trains aren’t crazily crowded. During rush hour between 7am and 9am. it can be horrible to ride a train even if it’s only for a couple of minutes.

You really have to put your weight behind it if you want to get in the department. Body contact cannot be avoided. There will be people standing to all sides of you. You really don’t have to hold yourself upright, the people around you are so close they will hold you upright! Real horror.


Do Japanese really work so much? Yes, yes they do! How much is much? Well, they work normal 40 hour weeks (from 9am to 6pm) and then they work some more. In many cases 45 hours of overtime are normal every month. I have colleagues who work a regular 80 and peak at about 120 hours. That’s about 16 hours a day!!!

Why do they work so much?

There are 2 big reasons.

  1. They feel like they have to due to peer pressure. If the boss works late you also work late.
  2. They get payed for it and want the extra money. Many don’t have a girlfriend or family to go home to. So rather than going back to an empty apartment they stay at work and earn extra cash.

Now, a short list of the weird things Japanese people do.

Japanese love to stand in line

  • Not only do they form long lines in front of popular restaurants where they wait around for hours sometime. No, they also stand in line in front of the escalator. Seriously. You would take the stairs, or walk up the other side of the escalator without having to wait, but they stand in line to board the escalator. What a waste of time!

Japanese wear shoes that don’t fit

  • Boys and girls alike. It is really a pity, because that can really ruin an otherwise nice outfit. Because the shoes are to big, they also don’t really lift their feet properly and kind of just scuff. Really not sexy.

Japanese love to travel in groups

  • Even in their own country. I don’t know why, but there are so many bus tours in Japan that just drive their passengers from tourist spot to tourist spot, so they can take a picture and be on their way. Not my kind of travel style.

Japanese love to tell you how great your Japanese is

  • Even if you only say “konnichiwa” or “arigatou” they are very quick to praise you for your Japanese. At first this is kind of nice, but after a while it gets old, especially if you actually speak the language, you don’t want to be told that you speak so well when you haven’t actually said anything at all.

And that’s it! I hope I could offer some insights about living in Japan and the Japanese people in general. Maybe you learned something new. If you have anything other funny or insightful to offer about Japanese people I would love to hear about it in the comments.

For more stories about Japan please visit my blog