The Pressures of a Foreigner Living in Japan.

I've heard this more than once from other foreigners: we NEED to represent as foreigners. And although I believe that we should act respectful, be kind, follow the laws as any human and good citizen should, that doesn't mean we need to BECOME JAPANESE and BLEND in.

All eyes are on you. It's true. It's something I will never get used to.

But you have to remember that the passing judgments of others shouldn't affect you and the way you live your life as much as it does. Nobody is actually 'judging' as much as you think.

When I came to Japan, I got stares everywhere I went. I thought every single person who stared at me was making up stories about me when in reality they were excited, curious, and intrigued because my appearance was difficult to come by.

But because I had eyes on me most times, I felt this sudden pressure to act the way the Japanese act and do as the Japanese do when in reality, the way I did things in my day to day as an American was completely accepted and nobody actually cared.

My strong personality was what I worried most about. I worried people would think I came off too direct, spoke my mind too much, I'm too loud, obnoxious...but I found that a lot of my co-workers and Japanese friends loved that about me, often saying they wished they could have as much strength as me. It was a topic for conversation between cultures and connected me somehow to their world.

not being able to slurp noodles at a restaurant, wearing shorts and a tank top out in public during summer, saying thank you when someone complimented me instead of rejecting it (the Japanese tend to do this), shaking hands instead of bowing, you know, the little things that I obsessed over that were a part of who I was as an American. Those things will always remain a part of me and it's something I learned I should never be ashamed of. The Japanese understood where I came from and have always accepted me for me and my American mannerisms.

of course, there are things that are considered respectful in the Japanese culture such as taking off shoes before you walk into someones home, bringing back some snacks from abroad whenever I came back from traveling, waiting to eat until everyone has their food, those things were just manners that made me become a better person and were positive aspects of living in Japan and easy habits to adopt.

And trust me, the Japanese will say something to you if they felt it was upsetting to them. You'll hear it more than once. So I continued to be myself, learning along the way what was respectful and what was disrespectful as well as what most people don't really care about. I followed my gut and my intuition. I listened and stayed open-minded.

The truth is, there will always be people, not just Japanese people, who will judge me as a person based on their values.

The thing is, we need the courage to be disliked to have strength living abroad or in any part of our lives.

The moment we realize that most people don't really care about our appearance, life choices, or anything at all, then we can learn to accept freedom.

As humans, we evolve. learn, and grow. The truth is, 90% of the people in the world take action based on good intentions, never to intentionally cause pain or suffering. We need to start somewhere, right?

So quit trying to please everyone, including a whole entire country! Live life on your own accord and transform into the person you know you are deep down. There is no possible way that EVERYONE on the planet will love you. THAT is something you need to accept in order to love yourself and BE yourself.

As for moving abroad, all that matters is that you're being the best you can be in a culture you don't completely understand and that the person you are and the place you come from should be something to be proud of and celebrated.

Don't feel you need to be perfect or BE Japanese when you move to Japan. Be your true self and just make conscious efforts, taking small steps to evolve.

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2020 Kelly Morita