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Thread: Some explanation about me in the last few months

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Some explanation about me in the last few months

    As you will have noticed from my country flag, I have left Japan and now live in Belgium. I am not planning to live in Japan again soon. But I will of course continue to manage this website and forum with Thomas. I will probably put more emphasis on the European section of the forum, and work more on Eupedia than JREF. Anyhow, I am pretty satisfied with the Japan Travel Guide and various article sections on JREF.

    A word now regarding my recent mood and behaviour, and the reasons why I left Japan.

    As regular members who have known me for a year of more have noticed, I have been particularily irritable in the last few months, and often lacked patience and tolerance to criticism. I know I have been harsh with some forum members, but that is how I behave when I am stressed and irritated. After all, I am only a human being, and happen to be quite sensitive to stress.

    Life in Japan has been stressful overall. In my first year, I had to learn the language intensively, learn as much about the system and culture of the country where I chose to live, got married, had to look for a job, etc. But Japan was new to me and still exciting. The second year was more routine, while I continued to learn everything I could about the country and its people. As I have explained in this post and the following one today, where I come from it is expected of foreign residents (no matter how long they plan to stay) to learn the local language, culture and system, and "to go native". So that's wh I tried to do. I have explained in those posts that the Japanese system is such that it discourages foreigners from becoming "Japanised", as Japanese people will continually treat a long-term foreign resident as the first newly arrived tourist who doesn't know anything about Japan.

    This attitude has exasperated me to no end. It has been the object of numerous topics on this forum that showed how it irritated me on a daily basis. I have often associated it with the strong belief of the Japanese people that their culture and language are so unique that foreigners cannot understand it, and their own inability to understand the differences between Westerners (not all are Americans, not all speak English, not all eat hamburgers...). My thoughts on this matter has been expressed, among others, in these topics :

    => Are Japanese more hypocritical with foreigners ? (29 January 2005)
    => Should all Japanese directly address foreigners in Japanese ? (19 February 2005)
    => Common Japanese misconceptions regarding foreigners and foreign countries (9 March 2005)
    => What the Japanese should not say to Westerners (4 April 2005)
    => Why don't the Japanese differentiate more between foreigners ? (19 September 2005)
    => Assumptions that gaijin cannot speak Japanese (at all) (4 October 2005)
    => Cute racism a la japonaise ? (22 November 2005)

    (Note that I was in Europe in May and June 2005)

    You can see from the date I started these articles that my stress and irritation amplified seriously from early 2005, just after coming back from 2 weeks in my family, where I met many people with my wife and noticed that indeed the attitude they adopted was completely different from the attitude Japanese people have toward me when first introduced. No stupid question, no mistaken stereotypes, no misconceptions or whatsoever about Japan from my family, friends, and I noticed again in the last two weeks, from anybody, from any socio-economic background. If you come from a country where people behave more like the Japanese (I think especially to the USA), it may not bother you. But for me, this Japanese attitude to treat me like a newcomer, even after several years and a lot of learning about the country, was hell.

    This was combined with actual experiences of discrimination of my part, including being checked by the police many times for no reason (sometimes to check my bicycle registration, but also to ask my alien registration card). I didn't feel at ease to go out of my house anymore, especially on my bicycle, which was unfortunately necessary for me to move around, given the place where I lived.

    => Have you encountered discrimination or prejudices in Japan ? (29 March 2005)

    => Role of the media in emphasizing racial discrimination (18 October 2005)

    There were also other factors, such as noise and annoying or bad-mannered people (yes, in Japan !) :

    Do you find life in Japan noisier or quieter than other places where you have lived ? (2 July 2005)

    Street manners (30 September 2004)

    Bad Japanese manners (8 June 2004)

    I therefore apologise for my erratic and overreactive behaviour, and often harsh words, in the last months. Please understand that I was more irritable and frustrated than what is normal. I felt better immediately after leaving Japan and hope to avoid unnecessary disputes on the forum from now on.

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  2. #2
    –Ú˜^ Index's Avatar
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    I was under the impression that you had not been enjoying your life in Japan much recently, so I hope things are better from now on. I'm sure the EU side of the site will prosper from now on, as you find things to question in Belgium.

  3. #3
    DON'T PANIC! Tsuyoiko's Avatar
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    I hope things are better for you back in your home country, and I hope your wife likes Belgium better than you liked Japan!
    "A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life
    merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral." - Leo Tolstoy

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  4. #4
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsuyoiko
    I hope things are better for you back in your home country, and I hope your wife likes Belgium better than you liked Japan!
    Best wishes to you and yours for a new start in a familar place. And that none of us has to experience genuine oppression or persecution if a few police stops and bad manners are that disconcerting....

  5. #5
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elizabeth
    And that none of us has to experience genuine oppression or persecution if a few police stops and bad manners are that disconcerting....
    It is the frequent occurence and accumulation of small inconveniences (esp. being treated as a tourist rather than permanent resident by people who know me) that creates a greater feeling of uneasiness. Of course, there are other reasons I haven't mentioned which makes life in Japan less comfortable : unconscious worrying about earthquakes, poor quality of housing in general (see article), ugly cities, old-fashioned social conventions (e.g. role of women in societies, power to the elder, "closed mentality"...)... I have withstood all this without much problems in the first 2 or 3 years. The 4th was the drop that made the barrel overflow.

    What I will miss include convenience stores, cheap restaurants and bento-ya (restaurants are comparatively 2 or 3x more expensive in Belgium), and... sunnier weather maybe ?

  6. #6
    As the Rush Comes Duo's Avatar
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    I for one welcome you back. Sounds like Japan was not the place for you after all. At least in Brussels you can live at your own discression without having people treat you in different ways or what not seeing as we probaply live in the most international city in the world. I'm sure your wife will get no hassling here as you did there, and she may even feel at east due to the rather sizable Asian community here... if I'm not mistaken there is a Japan culture center right by Vleurgat(bus/tram station on the way to Avenue Louise from Av. Le Grand)

  7. #7
    DON'T PANIC! Tsuyoiko's Avatar
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    Maciamo, I don't think you even have to explain why you were unhappy. You have been honest about it, and that's enough, IMO.

  8. #8
    Where I'm Supposed to Be kirei_na_me's Avatar
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    Maciamo, I'm one who doesn't just accept that all Japanese people are
    the meek and polite people that everybody likes to make them out to be. I
    haven't lived in Japan, but I have been married to it for a long time now.
    It gets very tiring, it gets very frustrating, it gets pretty much unbearable at times, and I admit that I sometimes take it out on everyone else.

    Of course, I'm not saying that him being Japanese is the only problem, but it is the primary root of the tension that abounds in my house. Not saying all Japanese people are the same, but one would have to admit there are some things that just seem to go along with being Japanese.

    Anyway, I think I can understand where you're coming from. I just hope being back in Belgium will restore you.

    I think a lot of people have felt hurt, offended, and treated unfairly in the recent months, and I don't know if this explanation will be enough for them at this time. But I also think that it's great for Maciamo to post about this on the forum in this way. He didn't have to address the entire forum population like this, but he did, and I think that deserves some consideration and respect.
    i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)

  9. #9
    JREF Resident Alien Pachipro's Avatar
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    I appreciate your honesty Maciamo. Japan is not an easy place to live as I have always tried to warn newcomers. I'm just a little sad that another foreigner has let Japan get to them and forced them to leave as the things that bothered you never bothered me as we debated in numerous posts.

    As I said before in other posts:

    Quote Originally Posted by Pachipro
    Therefore, I have experienced everything, and maybe some, that you are experiencing now. I know exactly what you are going through because I have "been there, done that, experienced that, thought that, and felt that." Living in Japan is, and for the most part will always be, a "love-hate" relationship for foreigners. Myself included.
    If I remember correctly, I think you mentioned that you are living in Japan for 3.5 years now. Everything you are saying and feeling has been said and felt by foreigners for the past 30 years and probably back to the end of the war and probably even further than that. Nothing has changed. Nothing. Not one single thing, and I don't think it ever will. I used to think, "Maybe if this guy (you) lives there long enough he'll see that nothing will change and just learn to go with the flow without getting so irritated and upset over it. Maybe he'll just learn to like Japan for what it is rather than what it should or could be." I have come to the conclusion that, regardless of how long you live there, your views will not change. In a way I feel for you because I have seen it really drive people from Japan with a venom rarely seen. I know a few foreigners who still live in Japan more that 10 years, but still despise it while enjoying other aspects of the culture. Are they wrong? No. Some just need to vent once in a while lest it drive them nuts. However, if I felt as one of my friends do, I would be out of there in a heartbeat as all he does is ***** and moan anymore. He says he'd like to leave, but feels he is just too old to find decent employment in the states. (He's over 50.) I really feel for him.
    In the same thread:
    Quote Originally Posted by lexico
    the Japanese general public do not seem to be aware of the "irritation" their "naiive" hospitality is causing the gaijins. They are not aware that their lack of individual attention is vastly dehumanising for people from the Americas, and even more so for people from European nations who value their invidivualtiy with utmost value.
    Quote Originally Posted by Pachipro
    They either don't care or don't want to listen to what the foreigner is saying. Maybe they block it out as they, subconciously don't want to believe it. Maybe, deep inside the Japanese mind is the universal feeling that they still feel they are superior. I don't know and frankly, I don't care anymore. Japan is Japan and will always be Japan then, now, and long after I am gone.

    Example: I've seen extremely popular, fluent "tarento" being interviewed on serious "roundtable" discussion programs on TV in the 80's concerning the plight of foreigners living and working in Japan. And you know what? They all mentioned the same exact things you, me, and practically every foreigner, fluent or not, in Japan is saying. They expressed their irritation at the complexities of being a foreigner in Japan from being stared and pointed at, to being asked for their gaijin card for no reason other than they were foreigners, to the 20 question routine from all Japanese even when their face and name were known all over Japan! And any Japanese who watched TV knew they were fluent, have lived in Japan for more than 5 years, could eat sushi & use chopsticks, etc.!! All the interviewer and panel said was "Ah soo desuka. Naruhodo." Still nothing changed. And again, personally, I don't think it ever will. If theses nationally popular foreigners couldn't change it who could?

    You, Maciamo, however, have spoke with more passion and research on the subject than anyone I have ever encountered. I commend you for that. And if anyone can change it, maybe it's you! Seriously. Have you ever given it any serious thought?
    I'm a little saddened that you have left as I thought you would make some changes. But as I said above, things may not ever change.

    Too bad we both had different experiences. Call me naive or looking at Japan with rose colored glasses if you wish, but the things that bothered you the most really don't bother me as much as they did you. The things I found enjoyable about living there far outweighed the annoyances as we have mentioned. But every person is different as this proves.

    I wish you luck in Belgium and look forwarding to learning more about your country from your great research, opinions, and posts.
    Do What You Love And You'll Never Work Another Day In Your Life!


  10. #10
    Yuyurungul
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    Don't worry Maciamo. It was something that bothered you, so it's understandable.

    Hope you like Belgium! How do you like it there now so far?

  11. #11
    You SPAM/We BAN !
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    Well......

    you were "pretty" good in Japan, so we'll expect you to "darn near perfect" operating from Belgium!

    Uncle Frank

    PS - Welcome home!

    TAKE WHAT I SAY WITH A GRAIN OF SUGAR !!
    I USED TO BE FUNNY, BUT MY WIFE HAD ME NEUTERED!

  12. #12
    Regular Member misa.j's Avatar
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    Yay, Maciamo! You are home at last! I'm really happy for you. Take a very good care of your wife and yourself now!
    It is very nice of you to share your feelings. Thanks!

    Your posts about Japanese society or systems never upset me even though I'm still a Japanese as you had mentioned many, many things that also were irritating me when I was in Japan.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    What I will miss include convenience stores, cheap restaurants and bento-ya (restaurants are comparatively 2 or 3x more expensive in Belgium), and... sunnier weather maybe ?
    Well, I'm sure you have a lot more ways to cook food now with an oven, which they don't have in Japan.
    It's hard to get good Belgian beer at reasonable price in Japan.

  13. #13
    Cute and Furry Ewok85's Avatar
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    I've always enjoyed the raw honesty, makes a nice change from some Japanese discussion sites that accept nothing but sugar coated images.

  14. #14
    The Geezer Sensuikan San's Avatar
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    Good post, Maciamo. Switching countries is always hard - even when you come from a (very) similiar culture and speak the same language! It takes guts to finally admit that the strain is a little too much. You did the right thing.

    .... but .....

    .... now you've made me feel not so sure about wanting to visit Japan ... !

    ƒWƒ‡ƒ“
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  15. #15
    Anjin Brooker's Avatar
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    Japan is notorious for being unaccepting of foreigners and for believing that they couldn't possibly understand their ways. It seems like you've made the right choice and that Japanese life had warn on you. I stayed in Japan for 15 months, which was just about right for me I think. It was long enough that I had tired of Japan, but not long enough that I had grown to hate it.
    For information on the pros and cons of teaching at Nova English schools in Japan, check out

  16. #16
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
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    .... but .....

    .... now you've made me feel not so sure about wanting to visit Japan ... !

    ƒWƒ‡ƒ“
    Most long-term foreign residents (that haven't married into it or gotten their permanent residency like Maciamo) that I know have realistic, balanced
    perspectives on their experience and end up enjoying much more about it than you'd ever suspect from reading forum stories which naturally attract a larger percentage of the dissatisfied.

    Not as many expats come online to rehash at great length the beauty and joy of being in Japan as to grouse and complain. As usual, it's the loudest negativity that attracts the most attention, unfortunately. Hopefully that will change here somewhat -- as a tourist you won't be there long enough for the
    unsavory side to show itself and have absolutely nothing to worry about.

  17. #17
    Regular Member Elizabeth van Kampen's Avatar
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    Maciamo, it was very good of you to write down why you left Japan.
    Some people talk for hours over the phone to tell you how and why they feel unhappy or happy or whatever. I find writing the best way to express myself, but you really do this very well.
    I have only been 2 weeks in Japan, was very impressed by those beautiful gardens and very surprised when I saw quite some homeless people in Tokyo, I hadn't expect this in Japan.
    The Japanese? I knew them from before the war since I grew up in the former Netherlands East Indies, there were many Japanese living overthere. Very few Japanese children went to the Dutch schools while the Chinese children did go to our schools. The Japanese were always very polite and also very detached even the children. One of my friends at school was a Chinese girl, we quite often played in her garden, I have been invited several time at this Chine family's table for lunch, my friend's parents saw me as their daughter's friend, it didn't bother them at all that I wasn't a Chinese but a Dutch girl.
    Europe! Since the moment the Dutch people were kicked out of Indonesia I have considered myself an inhabitant of the whole world, I didn't feel Dutch. I was a Dutch woman from the Far East.
    But since a little more than 10 years ago I began to feel myself as a European. Today I am a proud European, This part of the world has grown into a real democracy, the Europeans have learned their lessons after World War Two.
    It has become very nice to live in Europe, to feel more united is just wonderful.

  18. #18
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elizabeth
    Most long-term foreign residents (that haven't married into it or gotten their permanent residency like Maciamo) that I know have realistic, balanced
    perspectives on their experience and end up enjoying much more about it than you'd ever suspect from reading forum stories which naturally attract a larger percentage of the dissatisfied.
    Note that I compared my experience in Japan with my other experiences of living in foreign countries. Japan was the 7th country where I have lived for at least a few months. As Brooker said, staying 1 or 2 years would not have led to the same result. I only started to get fed up in my 4th year. But unlike "tourists", I couldn't just leave Japan so easily once I started to get fed up, first because of my wife, secondly because of all the furniture, etc. I had bought, thirdly because of all the time I had invested learning Japanese and about Japanese culture, politics, etc., and finally I had already applied for permanent residency.

    I also didn't come to Japan because I was in love for the country in the first place. It is true that I had been interested in Japan for a long time, but not fanatically like some manga, video games or J-pop lovers, and I was also very much interested in many other countries, with which the comparison was unavoidable.

    Not as many expats come online to rehash at great length the beauty and joy of being in Japan as to grouse and complain. As usual, it's the loudest negativity that attracts the most attention, unfortunately.
    And contrarily to many expats, I tried my best to appreciate the country in all its aspects, which is partly why I took so many pictures of Japan for the gallery or I made the Practical, Culture, Society, Language and Entertainment of this website. I did try to see all the better sides of Japan. But that wasn't enough to counterbalance the negative aspects for a foreign long-term resident wanting to be accepted as part of the society there.

  19. #19
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    why I took so many pictures of Japan for the gallery or I made the Practical, Culture, Society, Language and Entertainment of this website. I did try to see all the better sides of Japan.
    True, I actually respect your great contribution, data, knowledge, and photos, here. It is far greater than my non-Japanese friends.
    But one thing I noticed here was I could not imagine your real life in Tokyo.

    Did you try to find the solution in your community? I don't know which ku you lived in.

  20. #20
    Regular Member Mars Man's Avatar
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    All said above, I will just say that I was glad to see that well put statement, and heartfelt apology. I greatly appreciate the candor behind it. I'm sorry that things here didn't work out so well, but more than that I do wish you the best there back in Belgium. One of my good friends here, who plays some mean keyboard, is from Belgium too. We often get together with one guy from the UK, and a few other Japanese players, and put down some good ole low down dirty blues, and jazz--along with some good ole rock too. Perhaps that helps a lot.

    Anyway, I hope to hear from you on the Europe Forum from time to time--it will encourage me to go there more often--and that things will still run smooth on the Japan Forum.

    I WISH YOU AND YOUR WIFE THE BEST !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. #21
    Junior Member DoctorP's Avatar
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    I also wish you the best Maciamo. But from what I have read of many of your previous posts, I don't think that you can ever be truly happy. The only way that I could see you happy is if you were to become involved in the political scene where you choose to live. You have a very strong will, but you lack the thick skin to live in another country (permanently). You have such a wealth of knowledge and a desire to learn, but you truly become irritated much too easily. I think that with you being back in Belgium is the best thing for you.

  22. #22
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CC1
    I also wish you the best Maciamo. But from what I have read of many of your previous posts, I don't think that you can ever be truly happy. The only way that I could see you happy is if you were to become involved in the political scene where you choose to live. You have a very strong will, but you lack the thick skin to live in another country (permanently). You have such a wealth of knowledge and a desire to learn, but you truly become irritated much too easily. I think that with you being back in Belgium is the best thing for you.
    I appreciate your concern, but as I mentioned above, I have lived in 5 other countries than Japan and Belgium and the only one where I didn't feel much like staying too long (because of similar ignorance to Japan, although not half as bad) was Australia.

    I already noticed that many things are much better in Belgium, or at least in the "good parts" of Belgium. As much as I was amazed by the homogenity of Japan (way of thinking, architecture...), I had nearly forgotten that Western countries had huge differences depending on the region, city, and even districts of a same city. In other words, there are super-rich, very safe and beautiful districts on the one hand (imagine Beverly Hills in LA), and poor and not so safe districts (take some suburbs of LA) - something that does not really happen in Japan. The same is true of the people. Some are very well mannered and very well educated, while others are vandals or thugs.

    What "suprised" me when I came back here is how friendly people were. There wasn't this impersonality, fake manners and ready-made phrases for customers that are the norm in Japan. For example, when moving to Belgium from abroad, after registering at the town hall, the local police officer has to come to your house to check that you really live there. So he came, and we he kindly explained about the structure of the police in the region, what number to call in case of emergency or non-emergency, told me about himself, his family, experiences, etc. He didn't ask me more questions than necessary for his questionnaire (just double-checked my name and telephone number and asked if I had a car to register). In Japan, not only don't they do that with foreigners or returnee Japanese, but had isuch a system existed the police officer would probably have stood on the doorstep asking his questions in 2min, in the most impersonal manner possible, and treating me as a potential suspect rather than a citizen to whom he offers his protection.

    I have also noticed that prices in Belgium are much lower than in Japan, except for electronics (slightly cheaper in Japan) and restaurants, that are at least twice more expensive (but supermarkets are 2 to 5x cheaper for the same product). But salaries are about the same as in Japan. Likewise, houses are 100x better in Belgium than in Japan. Even what is described here as "social lodging" is much better than the best one could find in Tokyo (I am talking just about the building's beauty and quality, not the furniture or decoration, which depends on the occupant's taste).

    Then people are more relaxed, but also more knowledgable, more matured and more productive (work less to get the same result). People don't push in the train, don't walk into you in the street because they don't look where they are going... There are less vending machines in the street, but more inside buildings (esp. companies), and they also dispense snacks, sandwiches, cooked meals, etc., something I haven't seen in Japan.

    One point where Japan easily beats Belgium is the dedicated to customers. Here the customer is not king. If you ask a plumber to repair or install something, you may wait for 2 months before he comes. This may be due to a lack of plumbers (or other people in the construction industry, for that matter), though. Then, one big complain about Belgium's main ISP is that they make us pay more than in Japan, for a slightly slower connection, AND they limit the monthly bandwidth ! (so after 2 weeks I had already reached my quota and had to pay a supplement to unlock it !).

    Food-wise I can't complain. Belgian food is as good as Japanese food, and there are restaurants from almost any country. There is just a lack of Japanese and Korean food (apart from sushi, tempura, teppanyaki and yakiniku), but there are a few Japanese supermarkets. We can also find many kinds of meat not easily available (if at all) in Japan, such as turkey, duck, rabbit, venison...

  23. #23
    DON'T PANIC! Tsuyoiko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Food-wise I can't complain. Belgian food is as good as Japanese food, and there are restaurants from almost any country. There is just a lack of Japanese and Korean food (apart from sushi, tempura, teppanyaki and yakiniku), but there are a few Japanese supermarkets. We can also find many kinds of meat not easily available (if at all) in Japan, such as turkey, duck, rabbit, venison...
    I can't speak for Japan, but the thing I like best about Belgium is the food. Being vegetarian can be difficult, but it is easy in Belgium as there is so much variety - for example, you can always get something vegetarian in an Indian or Italian restaurant.

  24. #24
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    I fogot to say that, most importantly, when I am in Europe (whatever the country), people don't look at me strangely in the street, don't feign not to understand what I say so that they don't have to serve me, don't question my ability to do various daily things (use chopsticks, eat this or that...), are not surprised when I speak their language (even if they see it isn't my mother tongue), children don't point their finger at me saying "gaijin, gaijin !" or "Hello America !", I don't get refused entry or accommodation anywhere, neighbours don't check whether I sorted my garbage properly because I am a foreigner, people don't answer to my wife when I ask them a question (or vice versa), etc., etc. In Japan, there wasn't single a day in which many of these things didn't happen (except if I locked myself at home, and even then I could get salespeople ringing at my door and exclaim "ah, gaijin da !" and leave without explanation). Overall, it is much more relaxing NOT to be in Japan.

  25. #25
    Regular Member
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    tell me how you and your wife dealt with your shakai hoken here?
    did she quit her pension scheme here?
    and how much you can expect to refund it?

    i bet this info would be much more practical.

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