Many people struggle to decide whether to work if given the option, and reasonably so. Working in Japan can be quite different from working in your country of origin. If your company sponsors your move to Japan, you are guaranteed to be able to work in your chosen field.
In contrast, coming to Japan without company sponsorship means that you are almost guaranteed to need to expand how you view working. Diversifying your skill set or monetizing hobbies is a great way to find your passion and enjoy a career change.
Many expatriates have great success in starting a small business or working for one of the many already established small businesses. Other expats may take the opportunity to pursue further education. Finding out which path is best for you is a process, but this process can cause a great deal of discord in your relationship. The best way to avoid fighting or hurt feelings about work and money is to communicate about both.
Most couples do not talk about their financial and lifestyle expectations before moving to Japan. It is common for couples to have preconceived notions of what each partner will be doing in Japan and how much money they will be able to save. My experience in helping expat and inter-cultural couples has shown me that people in couples who have not reached a verbal agreement about issues such as work, money, and education are often uncertain what their partner will or will not do.
How hard it is to save money, to find work, and to acclimate to life in Japan often comes as a major stress for couples. Adding to this how long the work day is and how limited your time together is compounds the stress. Couples often bottle up grievances to avoid arguing during their limited time together. The problem with avoiding discussions is that they become arguments when these topics come up in moments of frustration, when tempers can run high. When this happens, concerns that would have been shared diplomatically and with sensitivity are instead expressed angrily and in the voice of resentment.
When it becomes challenging to talk about matters such as work and money, it is best to take a step back. If your partner is working and you have chosen not to, I advise writing down a list of possible jobs that you are qualified for and why they are not a good fit for you. I also suggest taking some time to consider whether you would like to go back to school to gain a new skill that will help you re-enter the work force after repatriation. If neither school nor work appeals to you, then I suggest finding an aspect of yourself that you’d like to improve.
If you are the primary or sole earner, I suggest that, when talking about money and work, you make it clear that you value the contributions of your partner. If your partner cooks, cleans, run errands, and shops, this allows you to have valuable relaxation time. It is crucial that you be prepared for a decrease in your own personal leisure time if your partner begins to work. Being part of a partnership in which both partners work means less personal time for each partner and less time as a couple.
Working is a sacrifice. Taking care of home and hearth is also a sacrifice. When talking about work and money, be sure to honor each other’s sacrifice and to express gratitude for each other’s contributions.
Kisstopher Musick is an American-trained and qualified mental health therapist with over 20 years experience helping people. Kisstopher opened her Nagoya therapy practice, Adjustment Guidance, in 2009 where she works with clients Tuesday through Saturday by appointment.
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