A COMPARISON BETWEEN TEACHING IN KOREA VS JAPAN: PROS AND CONS
This review contains sweeping generalizations and swearing up the wazoo. If you’re the sensitive type, best to pass on this one. Also if you don’t give a shit about living and teaching in Korea and Japan than I doubt this will be of interest to you.
With that out of the way, let’s get to it. Some of my teacher friends in Korea have been asking me about what it’s like to live and teach in Japan, specificially what it’s like to live and teach here compared to living and teaching in Korea. I’ve been here one year now so I figured I’d share my thoughts so far.
Let me sum up Japan in one word: disappointing.
I don’t know, I guess I was building my idea of Japan off of stereotypes and weird misconceptions I brewed up in my head. I pictured it as this magical place with flashing lights and dancing anime characters everywhere with vocaloid blasting in the background. I pictured spending my weekends hanging out with some petite Japanese chick with green highlights or something taking me to all these weird underground Japanese bars with obscure music scenes where I’d get to watch amazing and bizarre shit. I don’t know what installed these idealized visions in my head, but they were there. And MAN OH MAN was I way off the mark.
But let’s cut the bullshit and make this an efficient list. Compared to Korea, here’s a list of shit that Japan comes up short. A list of cons, if you will. Then, I’ll finish off with a list of pros so we can end on a positive note. But let me tell you now, there’s way more cons.
Con 1: Fucking expensive as hell
This got me saying, “fuck Japan” so many times. As a general rule, pretty much everything is more expensive here: food, drinks, cover charges, basic necessities– everything. Your paycheck, while not being so great to begin with, is going to take one hell of a beating after all the taxes you go through. Health insurance, income tax, city tax, pension plans, you name it. But dear god, the biggest motherfucker of them all is JAPANESE REAL ESTATE. FUCK JAPANESE LIVING. There are SO. MANY. GODDAMN. DEPOSITS. They nickle and dime you for every little thing.
Here, let’s say you want to move into a Japanese apartment. Okay, cool. First they’re going to need you to sign a TWO-YEAR lease. Got committment issues? Tough. Next, you’re going to have to pay Realtor fees, agency fees, cleaning fees, key money, a GIGANTIC deposit, and of course, the month’s rent in advance. Want to leave before your two years are up? You guessed it: more fees. A cancellation fee, a key-changing fee… I mean, my god. I lived in an apartment south of Osaka that had the humble rent of about 400 bucks a month. Pretty good, right? Funny how living there for just four months cost me nearly FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS. Do you want to know how much money I’ve made in Japan? Zero! LESS than zero!! That’s right, changing apartments two times in the span of one year set me back so far I literally had to dig into my savings that I earned from Korea. My paychecks kept the demon that is Japanese real estate at bay, but at the end of this year I’ve actually BROKE EVEN from working in Japan. A whole year of work and I’m right back where I started. But hey now I have more schools on my resume so that’s something, amiright?
In Korea I lived pretty lavishly and still managed to pay off all my student debt and amass some pretty nice savings after just two an a half years.
Con 2: Jumping through hoops and Japanese doublethink
Holy shit. I know Asian countries in general are renown for their frustrating bureaucracy, but Japan takes it to another level. Every little fucking thing has to be cross-checked with diffferent departments and official registries. Don’t hold your breath if you want anything accomplished, because this shit is like the sloth DMV from Zootopia. Want a SIM Card? Oh, first you need a bank account. Want a bank account? Oh, first you need a phone number. You see the cyclical logic here? Okay, let’s fudge the truth a little and write down our friend’s number and just get this bank account thing started. Don’t know Japanese? Go home. Okay, I guess that’s fair enough. But still. In Korea you can open a bank account in like 15 minutes just by smiling and nodding. Why not here? On the topic of bureaucracy, let’s not forget that extending your VISA is about as simple as quantum tunnelling, or trying to sort shit out at your local bank or ward office or immigration office can only be done during the wee hours of the afternoon (when the officials don’t feel like taking their lunch break). I mean, my god! Even getting a gym membership or signing into WiFi is a fucking chore! Can’t get WiFi without data first! Almost defeats the purpose, right?? Oh and signing up for your local gym is impossible without attening a fucking SEMINAR on how to safely use every machine! Safety first, right??? Too bad the certified “instructors” only hold their seminars five times a year on the first bloodmoon of the month. And be sure you wear the right shoes, or God forbi you’ll drop a fucking barbell on your foot. Good God, man. I couldn’t get a membership at my first gym because I didn’t speak Japanese and they were worried I would cause trouble DURING AN EARTHQUAKE. Are you. Fucking. Serious.
In Korea, everything just works. Sure, sometimes things can be a little tedious, but nothing like Japan’s level.
Con 3: Stupid Inconvenient Bullshit
Why are there no good PC Rooms? Why do they cost 15 bucks an hour? I don’t need a private room with a hot towel and everything. I just got here an hour or two early and I want to kill time before the party. I want my goddamn PC Bang!! Oops, last train left at midnight. As established, everything is as costly as a Faustian contract here, and that includes cabs. So no going home without paying an arm and a leg. Guess what? Those convenient jimjilbangs you used to crash in when you were drunk and tired? Not in Japan, bitch! Well, here’s your options: party till 6am like a madman or tell a girl you’ll hit a hotel with her if she’ll split the bill. Remember being on your way to the party and picking up a bottle or two of flavoured soju to get yourself started? Not here, motherfucker. We got convenience stores, sure, but they aren’t going to give you any cheap and reliable drinks you can get a buzz off of. Sigh.
Con 4: The Language
Okay, Japanese grammar is actually pretty simple. And Japanese people don’t seem to mumble as much as Korean, so they’re indeed easier to understand. For English speakers, Japanese is pretty easy to pick up and start speaking. So what’s the problem? KANJI. Motherfucking-stupid-ass-bullshit-satan’s butthole Kanji. It takes YEARS to be able to read and write in Japanese because of Kanji. It ain’t fun being illiterate. Especially when your bank or your post office or your town hall or your immigration bureau or SOMEWHERE sends you a million letters a day because someone farted when going through one of your files and now you have to confirm that your identity does not, in fact, cause spontaneous farting. I feel like I’m losing my mind more and more the longer I type this.
Con 5: Dating
Okay, some of of my more *perverse * friends have asked me questions about Japanese vs. Korean women. Well, I think it’s disrespectful as hell to compare the two like brands of ground beef in a supermarket, but we’re already balls-deep in this rant here so if you made it this far I doubt you’ll turn back now. Let me make this nice and short and just say that Japanese women, in general, are far less confident than their Korean cousins. In Japan, women are supposed to be cute, girly, naive, immature, and inexperienced. I’ve asked some of my more worldly female Japanese friends on the subject and they pretty much universally agreed that Japanese men are intimidated by sexy, powerful women. So instead you get a whole nation of little girls. Just great. Want to know what I mean? Open up two tabs. In one, Google AKB48. In another, Google Sistar. That should tell you everything you need to know about what each culture finds attractive.
Don’t get me wrong; Japanese women are probably the sweetest most wholesome girls you’ll ever meet. But, Japanese people in general are beta AF. It’s an introvert’s paradise. If you have a type A personality, you’ll probably be better suited to the Land of the Morning Calm. (Just to be fair, one good thing about Japanese dating culture is that couples usually split the bill. How ’bout dat shit?? ^^)
Con 6: Work Hours
This one is only a slight distinction. In Korea, you’ll probably work 8 hour days. In Japan, you’ll work 9. But the real kicker is that a lot of Japanese teaching gigs will give you Monday off and make you work Saturday. Umm, balls. That means you can say goodbye to doing much with your Friday nights. And by the time midnight rolls around in your Saturday night shitshow, you’ll be reminded of the fact that you’ve been awake for 19 hours and about ready to call it quits. To top it all off, you’lll get mad fomo from passing on all those weekend trips to mountains or beaches or remote Japanese villages.
Pro 1: Anything perverse
I’m just gonna say this out loud. There’s a lot of perverts in this country. Remember how I said most Japanese people are trying to appear innocent and dainty? Well, that just means there’s a lot of repressed sexuality festering under the surface. Sex shops are easier to find than in Korea and their prices are damn good. There’s always a great selection of toys and costumes for a fraction of what they’d cost in Korea. Also love hotels are relatively cheaper and usually have lots of variety in terms of theme and cosplay options. Seriously, some mofo out there should start a blog about all the different kinds of love hotels there are in Osaka because it’s a truly remarkable facet of Japanese culture. I’d read that.
Pro 2: Food
Okay, you got me on this one. Yes I love Korean food to death, but I’d say Japanese food is better by just a smidge. Holy hell, ramen is a life-changing experience. Conveyor belt sushi is also a great way to spend an evening. It feels like you’ve walked into Futurama or something.
Pro 3: Attitudes
Here’s the big one. The number one thing Japan does better than Korea is their nonjudgemental attitude. You know what it’s like in Korea—everyone is so obsessed with their appearance that they look down on anyone who’s a little bit too short or a little bit too chubby. Being beautiful and surrounding yourself with beeautiful people is the number one priority and nothing else matters.
In Japan people don’t give a shit. I see guys walking around in sweat pants and track suits and still tearing up the bar and being the life of the party. It’s okay to have bad skin or not be in the best shape and no one will look down on you for it. Also, unlike Korea, Japanese people aren’t deathly afraid of black people. So there’s that. All in all it’s just more comfortable to be yourself here.
So what’s the diagnosis? Well, in my opinion both Osaka and Seoul are preferable to buttfuck Winterfell aka Ottawa. They’re both exciting and exotic places with fascinating cultures and amazing people. But I messed up on the order. I was spoiled by going to Korea first. Japan is awesome and all, but it begs the question: why have all this when you can have all this but BETTER in Korea? It’s like if someone offered me a Jack and Coke versus a Double Jack and Coke. I’ll take either one, but I think you know which one I’d prefer.
In short, Korea is for type A personalities, and Japan for Type B.
So what’s next? It’s only been one year. I need to give Japan a fair shot. I’m going to give it one more year and see if I fall in love with the place. I’m starting my new job and I move into the heart of downtown Osaka tomorrow, so if that doesn’t sell me on this place, nothing will. My new job looks awesome and I’m ready for some positivity in my life. Thank you to everyone who’s read this far. I know I was complaining and swearing a lot, but that was mostly for comedic effect. I’m sorry if I made this awesome country out to be worse than it actually is. Come visit and I promise to show you a good time!!