I now live in Japan for more than half a year, eat Japanese food, go to a Japanese school, go out with Japanese friends and things that surprise me are getting fewer and fewer. You could also say I have gotten used to life in Japan. That‘s why I thought about what my life is really like and came to the conclusion that life as an exchange student in Japan is fun but difficult.
Life As An Exchange Student Is Fun
First of all, going on exchange to Japan is the most fun I have ever done. I’m looking forward to every day. But what makes it that fun?
If you live in another country you‘re obviusly going to have many new experiences. Eveything is different from your home country, that‘s why. So everyday I can eat something I haven‘t tried yet (like natto), every day I can go somewhere I haven‘t been yet (read about my travel across Kyushu), I can make new friends or I can go out with my hostfamily.
Especially my first few weeks were full of new discoveries like the countless vending machines or abnormally expensive fruit. But as the days go by those new discoveries get less and less. But that doesn‘t mean that the exchange gets boring!
I love things that are different from what I am used to, and the Japanese do so to. No wonder is it that in a country where only 1.5% of the population is foreign, which are mostly chinese and korean, somebody like me is a rarity.
So when I wear my school uniform to school I get looked at and spoken to. School children will often stare at me or say „Hello“ shyly and they will be even more shocked when I respond to them in Japanese. There are also times where people will just say „Oh look a foreigner!“, supposing I don‘t understand Japanese. But I also get approached on the street by adults, asking me to correct their English, asking where I am from or if I can speak Japanese. By that I often have exciting conversations with random people, who speak to me just because I‘m different.
And lastly, I am also kind of famous in my school. And so it was easy to make new friends. But what bothers me is that everybody knows my name but I just can‘t remember everybody‘s name.
Another big reason for why my exchange is so fun, are all the people close to me, my friends, my host family, etc. with whom I go to school, live, study, go to restaurants, go out, travel across Japan, etc.
Everybody in my school is so kind and always wants to help me when I don‘t understand something. That makes my life not only fun and exciting but also a lot easier.
Life As An Exchange Student Is Difficult
There are lots of fun things in my life but that doesn‘t mean it‘s a walk in the park. There are things that are difficult like remembering everybody‘s name or deciding what to eat for lunch, but the real challanges are the language and the different culture.
Don‘t get me wrong, I like studying Japanese. But that doesn‘t mean it‘s easy. And I think if you live in another country you should also learn its language. That’s why I have started learning Japanese in 2017 and I am continuing studying to this day.
But no matter how many hours I study, expressing what I want to say still remains very difficult. Because the way of saying things in Japanese is completely different from e.g. German or English. Which means that even if I am saying something gramatically correct, I won‘t be understood.
The next thing is that you need a huge vocabulary. A small child probably has a bigger vocabulary than me. So when it comes to conversations about specific topics I will just lose track at some point. But I am learning at least 30 words per day to increase my vocabulary.
And the last thing that makes Japanese so hard are the Kanji (Chinese characters). Aside from being hard to write, they also have different ways of reading. Which you obviously have to know.
But since everybody is always ready to help me I get by without any major troubles.
The culture being so different is a good thing as it’s a bad thing. How many times I have forgotten to say sorry or broken a rule I didn‘t know. I don‘t really know. You have to learn the culture and its rules. That takes time and you are going to make mistakes. The thing is people expect you to follow those rules (read why in Japan rules rule). But you have to learn them first. And that‘s what makes life difficult.
Cultural differences are tiring. In my first few weeks I learned so much about Japan and its culture. But at the end of school I always went home tired. It was just overwhelming. And even now spending the whole day in such a different environment puts a lot of stress on me. Which is why I sometimes simply need a break and stay at home doing nothing.
But even if it‘s difficult sometimes, I am giving my best everyday. And it makes my life as an exchange student in Japan fun!
Have you been on exchange somewhere? What were the difficulties you faced? Leave them in the comments!
Thanks for reading this article! I hope you now know what makes the life as an exchange student in Japan fun but difficult.
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I have originally written this article in Japanese. If you want to read it, you can do that here.
You might have noticed that this article isn‘t really about my life or school. That will follow in an article later.