Updated: May 28
"Live life abroad to master yourself" -KM
Welcome to the first post from the Me Overseas blog and YouTube series!
In this series, you’ll meet both men and women who have packed up their belongings, gathered the courage to move and live abroad, chased a dream, and learned to adapt to everyday life. These are people who live here currently, ready to tell their stories and share their adventures with YOU!
OCCUPATION: soon to be mother!
YEARS IN JAPAN: 1 year
FAVORITE MOTIVATIONAL QUOTE:
why try to fit in when you were born to stand out - Dr. Suess
SOCIAL MEDIA: @eternally.mimi
Please tell us a little about yourself!
I’m Michelle. I’m just a simple girl from a small town in Gauteng, South Africa. I speak two languages fluently, Afrikaans and English, and I’m slowly learning Japanese. Emphasis on slowly – I hate studying, it’s one of my weaknesses.
I love arts, crafts, and anything creative and I’m hoping to turn these interests into something more useful for my life here in Japan. Being a housewife is fun but without a hobby, you can go a little crazy.
I married my Japanese husband in June of last year and I became pregnant in September. My family is the most important thing to me and I love taking care of things around the house!
What made you want to move to
Japan in the first place?
I finished high school in 2012 and completely lost direction from there because I decided to listen to everyone else instead of what my heart told me.
Eventually I found myself again and started a journey in studying to become a teacher. During my first year, my father told me about a girl he’d met while traveling; she was moving to China to become an English teacher. I loved this idea and finished my TEFL (Teaching English as a second language) certification before I even finished my first year.
During my second year I just picked a place that seemed most interesting to me, Japan! And so, began my slight obsession with watching a million YouTube videos and planning my first trip for summer break.
If my life didn’t move at the snail pace that it did, I never would’ve made this decision.
I also would never have met my husband or even considered a life outside of SA.
How did you meet your husband?
We met on a language exchange app called HelloTalk like 2ish years ago
What did your family think about you moving?
They were worried about me being alone in a foreign country (this was before I met my now husband). They accepted the idea and told me to experience the world while I’m young and able and to live the best life that I can.
They were happy that I found a goal that I wanted to work towards and was excited about it.
When did you realize you never wanted
to return home and do you plan to in the future?
I’m not planning on moving back to SA probably ever due to the political problems in my country.
Initially I planned on using my teaching degree to travel to more places and see more. Of course, my plan changed once I met my husband. We might leave in the future, we might not. That’s not something I can say for sure now.
I do love living in Japan, it’s hard though. It really is. There’s quite a lot of culture shock to get over too. But for me it’s all worth it; to live here with my family, in a safe place.
My first true realization where I knew I didn’t want to leave was in March of 2019. I was walking around Odaiba, Tokyo with my then fiancé. At that moment, I felt at home. I felt a kind of peace within me that I haven’t felt anywhere else.
What are your hobbies, what puts you in a
happy flow (something you just get lost in)
I love reading fantasy literature but it’s almost impossible for me to stay awake now. All I want to do during pregnancy is take a nap.
So, my hobbies changed from something relaxing to creative - I started a YouTube channel and blog website.
It keeps my mind busy and keeps me awake longer than 3 pages. I love creating and I feel really happy doing it.
In the future I hope to start drawing and painting again, but I’ll see how my time gets divided once the baby arrives.
What is the most difficult thing about being pregnant in Japan?
Do you have any fears once the baby is born?
I have many fears about being pregnant in Japan and having kids here. Especially the differences in culture.
My language ability isn't strong enough to fully communicate to Drs for example, so I've been refused by a lot of clinics. I'll be alone during delivery which petrifies me. Then raising him, like, what do I do when he gets sick? how do I know which medicines to use, etc?
Then letting him walk to school alone scares me. In SA having a small child walking to school alone is like asking for him to be kidnapped. I come from a dangerous place and my mind doesn't want to accept a baby going to school alone.
What do you love about Japan the most?
The atmosphere – I love the sound cicadas make; it reminds me of being on a farm out in nature.
I also love the feeling of safety that I have here that doesn’t exist where I’m from.
And… The fried chicken is the best.
What are some struggles or challenges you
faced while living here?
The culture shock was major for me. It might’ve been worse because of all the hormones too.
For a long time, I kind of rejected the food and some cultural aspects. I became very homesick; I missed my food and my friends and family. I fell into a very sudden dip of loneliness.
I struggled to adapt to a new daily life and routine.
How did you overcome the struggles and challenges you faced?
I think it happened naturally. You either start climbing out of that dip you fell into or you leave. I didn’t want to leave, I wanted to stay with my husband and keep our family together. I didn’t want to rush things or stress myself out too much for the health of my child.
To help with homesickness, I ate a lot of food and sweets from SA. For a long time, I avoided Japanese food, speaking Japanese – actually, I avoided it completely. Not the best method, I know. But I couldn’t handle any more stress than I already had with moving, family, in-laws, emotions, hormones, and so on.
Of course, things get sorted out, and as I felt less stressed, I accepted Japanese things back into my life again and I’m really happy with my progress.
The longer you live somewhere the easier it becomes; you get used to things. You start to feel more at ease, and slowly you become more positive again. At least, this is how I got out of the dip.
Are there things that you wished you knew before living abroad?
I wish I knew just how difficult adapting would be for someone who hates change.
I’m very proud of myself even though I’m still struggling with some daily activities, I’m getting there.
The culture shock is real. It’s definitely a thing. And it’s pretty scary at times.
I wish I had learned more of the language; ordering food is important!
Public transport is terrifying because we don’t really have it where I’m from.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Living my best life with a happy family and hopefully have a successful blog and YouTube channel.
Do you have any advice for others who want to move to Japan?
Just. Do. It.
Life is too short to always wonder about whether you should or shouldn’t do something.
If you always question it, you’ll never get to doing it. So, whatever it is that you want to do, go ahead and DO IT!
Michelle's channel can be found below! Thank you, Michelle for sharing your life abroad with us!