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I can’t adapt to Japan after living overseas when young

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 20s, and I lived overseas when I was young. After returning to Japan, I haven’t felt comfortable living and working here.

I lived overseas for 10 years since I was 6 due to my parents’ work. When I was abroad, I was driven by a sense of crisis that I probably couldn’t even eat or borrow a single pencil if I didn’t speak English. I really tried my best to get used to the life there.

Then when I finally felt I was getting used to the life there, I had to return home.

Once I returned to Japan, I began suffering health problems, which have now lasted for more than 10 years. After graduating from university, I started working as an interpreter and translator, but it was really hard work. I was not a regular employee. I felt as if I was being forced to work as a “disposable” worker until I collapsed.

I was exhausted, so one day made a trip to my “hometown” overseas, where I lived when I was a child. To my surprise, I felt my health quickly improved just by breathing the air there.

Since I returned from my trip, I’ve tried to find my place in society here, but it’s really hard for me. I think some other people feel the same way. What should I do?

O, Tokyo

Dear Ms. O:

People who live overseas when they are young and return to Japan later have a hard time as they can’t adapt to the Japanese social climate and culture easily. Society also expects them to be an important asset for this country to increase its presence in the global community. That’s the current situation surrounding people such as yourself.

In reality, such people may be used as a “useful workers who are good at foreign languages” to cope with the immediate needs in that field.

For you, it may be more comfortable to work in your hometown overseas and live there for the rest of your life.

But I feel that would be a shame.

If possible, try to absorb Japanese culture and its social climate again, even though you think you already understand it well. As you can talk about where you grew up overseas to people in Japan, I hope you will acquire the ability to talk about Japan to people while overseas.

Ultimately, I hope you will feel comfortable living either in Japan or overseas.

If there is an increasing number of people like this, Japan itself and how people overseas view Japan will begin to change for the better.

I know it must be challenging, but I ask you to hang on a little more in Japan to be able to adapt to the diversified circumstances.

Taku Mayumura, writer

(from April 18, 2015, issue)Speech

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