Squeezing the most out of life | An Aussie and a Colombian living life with a wandering spirit. Eight years together & over 60 countries up our sleeves, we're sharing the love |

Travelling Crust: an Aussie couple teaching English in Japan

Inspiration for anyone thinking about earning a peso in a foreign place and not returning home for as long as the wind blows.

Unsure of the next move post University, Carla and Eugene took a gutsy first step out of home –  moving in together to Japan. Carla put a creative fashion design role on hold, and Eugene took a breath before committing to a graphic design career. Learning how to live together, a new profession, and a whole lot about Japanese culture, Carla talks Travelling Crust after six months poking around Chiba.

What have been the greatest lessons on the road?
Eugene and I have never lived out of home before so we have learnt so many things. We have been able to work out a great routine that works for us without the ‘helpful input’ family members try to give you. We have also learnt alot about Japanese culture and realised how extremely lucky Australians are. Local students and workers are pushed really hard with such long days that no matter how hard they try, we see students in tears from the stress. We’ve seen workers who drink orange juice for dinner because they don’t have time to cook. Also back home I always got paid weekly and now I get paid monthly, so learning to live month to month has been an interesting learning curve.

But the biggest thing we have learned is about Japanese people. The culture is very different to Australia and normally we would never have the opportunity to work with people who are so incredibly different from us. Also the language barrier makes it more important to be excellent with communication.

What attracted you to Japan?
In the beginning Eugene was more attracted to Japan than I was. I was still pining to go back to Italy because the language is easier for me to understand and there are a lot of fashion houses there. But we agreed on Japan for many reasons. Firstly, everything is so cheap and secondly, we heard the money was good. Because living is so affordable you end up with more money than you would if you were living in Australia on a comparable wage. Thirdly, to sweeten the deal our best friend moved to Japan to teach. We have now lived in Tateyama, Chiba for 6 months, but we had to live in Yokohama for one month in the beginning. Our contracts end in April 2011 so we will be returning back to Australia to find career jobs.

What type of work have you found?
About 6 months before we left Australia we found work and an apartment, but we got scammed out of money and it took us 2 months and a lot of perseverance to get it back. We slept on our friends’ floor for the first month and finally landed a good job and somewhere to live. We found a lot of part-time work but we couldn’t afford to rent without full-time wages. We work in a private tuition school and generally have students, or groups of up to six students, for one hour at a time each week.

Can you live on the wage?
Absolutely. Compared to other Teaching wages it’s excellent. We get paid monthly and our expenses generally look like this: Per person: ¥250,000 income
Less expenses:
¥37,500 on health policy, pension, unemployment and tax (all are compulsory) + ¥30,000 rent + ¥15,000 bills + ¥20,000 food + ¥10,000 for other general expenses like visiting Tokyo. Total expenses: ¥112,500. Then we save the rest which is more than half!

Is teaching as you imagined?
Both Eugene’s and my parents are teachers and I swore that I would never be a teacher so long as I lived. Eugene didn’t even consider it as a joke. So going into it we thought we would enjoy the games and the opportunity to help people. We thought that it wouldn’t be like normal teachers where they have to take work home at night. While we don’t have to carry marking home, we carry the exhaustion and annoyances from the day with us. Sometimes we can’t sleep because we are stressing and wanting to do our best.

We wouldn’t swap the experience for anything, but teaching really isn’t for us and we will be happy to return to our respective careers. Overall teaching in Japan is a great way to save some money, try new things and meet new people.

What is the greatest challenge about living in Japan?
There are two great challenges, leaving your family and friends and the language barrier. But the latter situation you can change with determination, the former you can’t do much about.

What are you missing by not being in Australia?
Other than the obvious one of family we are missing Mexican food. We are about a 2-hour train ride and a fare bit of money away from the nearest Mexican restaurant. I also miss having a car.

What are you experiencing in Japan that feels unique to that place?
The sense of community and safety feels new to us. I walk home by myself on a dark street at 10pm and if I see a group of 4 men I habitually worry, in Australia I would have been scared, but then I remember where I am and don’t stress too much. Recently there was a weekend festival in our town, we watched hordes of people in summer kimonos work together to carry massive shrines, then the next day watch them come together again to drag even bigger ones down the street. It was amazing to see all of the people enjoying their community and culture, but even better was the fact there were no drunken fights (even though drinking in public is legal), or teenagers trying to ruin everybody else’s time by generally being stupid.

What are the best quirks about your new country?
My favourite Japanese food is Takoyaki and the fantastic cocktails that are always super cheap. Eugene enjoys Tempura Soba and nama beeru (fresh beer). Our favourite place in town is the local izakaya (sort of pub). It’s open from 5pm-5am and serves tasty and inexpensive Japanese food, cocktails and fresh beer.

Do you have a website or blog for people to learn more about your experiences?
We have recently completed an ebook called How to Live in Japan which will hopefully be helpful to other people thinking about moving to Japan.

What has been your greatest inspiration to live abroad?
I have always been inspired to travel by food, architecture and adventure in general. But most of all I would have to say that seeing people who never get the opportunity, or who never want to leave their state or country, really makes me want to broaden my horizons. I feel that you need to know what’s out there to know what you really want. The world is inspiring and meeting different people gives you a great perspective on your own life.

For a comparison to teaching in Argentina you might be interested to read Work for potatoes? or Travelling Crust: Germany.

Kris

Eugene and I (Carla) are from Brisbane, Australia. We have always enjoyed travel and in 2008 we ventured to Japan. We really liked it and on our return set out to do TESOL. I was studying a Bachelor of Fine Art: Fashion at university and Eugene was working full time as a graphic designer. Eugene had turned down a few offers for really good positions at big companies in the graphic design and game industries because he didn’t feel ready to commit to staying still for 5 years and my uni course was really hectic and I didn’t know what I wanted to do once I finished and I am still trying to decide what I want to do in the very broad field of fashion. Saving for a house is our main goal but we also wanted to move out so that we could live together living at home in Australia was just too tempting. We knew that we had a good opportunity to take a year to live abroad before we bought a house, got married or had children so we took it.


How long have you lived in your new country and how long will you stay? What attracted you to that country in particular?

We have now lived in Tateyama, Chiba, Japan for 6 months but we had to live in Yokohama for one month in the beginning. Our contracts end in April 2011 so we will be returning back to Australia to find career jobs. In the beginning Eugene was more attracted to Japan than I was as I was still pinning to go back to Italy because the language is easier for me to understand and there are a lot of fashion houses there. But we agreed on Japan for many reasons. Firstly everything is so cheap, secondly we heard the money was good but because living is so cheap you end up with more money than you would if you were living in Australia on a comparable wage. Thirdly to sweeten the deal our best friend moved to Japan to teach.

What type of English Teaching work have you found? How long did it take you to find work?

About 6 months before we left we found work and an apartment but we got scammed out of money and it took us 2 months and a lot of perseverance to get it back. The whole story is in the ebook. But we slept on our friends’ floor for a month and finally landed a good job and somewhere to live. We found a lot of part-time work but we couldn’t afford to rent without full-time wages. We work in a private tuition school and generally have students, or groups of up to six students, for one hour a week.

What skills have you learned while living abroad?

Eugene and I have never lived out of home before so we have learnt so many things. We have been able to work out a great routine that works for us without the “helpful input” family members try to give you, we have also learnt so much about Japanese culture and realised how extremely lucky Australians are. Japanese students and workers are pushed so hard and have such long days and no matter how hard they try, we see students in tears from the stress and workers who drink orange juice for dinner because they don’t have time to cook. Also back home I always got paid weekly and now I get paid monthly so learning to live month to month has been an interesting learning curve.

But the biggest thing we have learnt: people skills because everybody is so different and in Australia we never would have had the opportunity to work with people who are so incredibly different from us and the language barrier makes it more important to be excellent with communication

How does the wage compare to living expenses in detail?

We get paid monthly and our expenses generally go like this.

Per Person:

¥250,000 pay

¥37,500 on health policy, pension, unemployment and tax (all are compulsory)

¥30,000 rent

¥15,000 bills

¥20,000 food

¥10,000 for other general expenses like going to Tokyo

Then we save the rest.

Is teaching as you imagined?

Both Eugene’s and my parents are teachers, and I swore that I would never be a teacher so long as I lived and Eugene didn’t even consider it as a joke. So going into it we thought we would enjoy the games and getting to help people and we thought that it wouldn’t be like normal teachers where they have to take work home at night. While we don’t have to carry marking home we carry the exhaustion and annoyances from the day around and sometimes can’t sleep because we are stressing, as we always want to do our best.

We wouldn’t swap the experience for anything but teaching really isn’t for us and we will be happy to return to our respective careers. But it is a great way to save some money, try new things and meet new people.

What is the greatest challenge about living in your new country?

There are two great challenges, leaving your family and friends and the language barrier. But the latter situation you can change with determination, the former you can’t do much about.

What are you missing by not being in your home country?

Other than the obvious one of family we are missing Mexican food. We are about a 2-hour train ride and a fare bit of money away from the nearest Mexican restaurant. I am also missing having a car.

What are you experiencing in your adopted country that feels unique to that place?

The sense of community and the safety. I walk home by myself on a dark street at 10pm and if I see a group of 4 men I worry because in Australia I would have been scared but then I remember where I am and don’t worry to much. Recently there was a weekend festival in our town, we watched hordes of people in summer kimonos work together to carry massive shrines, then the next day watch them come together again to drag even bigger ones down the street. It was amazing to see all of the people enjoying their community and culture, but even better was the fact there were no drunken fights (even though drinking in public is legal), or teenagers trying to ruin everybody else’s time by generally being stupid.

Do you have a favorite local blog? Inspiration about the location you are now living.

Not really

What is your favourite new food/place/quirk about your new country.

My favourite Japanese food if Takoyaki and the fantastic cocktails that are always so cheap, Eugene enjoys Tempura Soba and nama beeru (fresh beer). Our favourite place in town is the local izakaya (sort of pub) it is open from 5pm-5am and serves great Japanese good, cocktails and fresh beer really cheap.

What or who has been your greatest inspiration to live an alternative lifestyle abroad?

I have always been inspired to travel by food, architecture and adventure in general. But most of all I would have to say that seeing people who never get the opportunity or who never want to leave their state or country really makes me want to broaden my horizons. I feel that you need to know what’s out there to know what you really want. The world is inspiring and meeting different people gives you a great perspective on your own life.

Do you have any websites or links that you found to be the best resource for finding TESOL work?
Eugene and I don’t use any specific sites. Our school has a set curriculum for kids and set books for adults. We make a lot of our own recourses for our classroom like colouring in activities, crosswords, gap fillers with whatever the students are having difficulty with.


Do you have a website or blog that people can contact you on with any questions about your experience?

We have a blog at www.wedojapan.com however we don’t update it very often but we have recently completed an ebook called How to Live in Japan which you can find at www.howtoliveinjapan.com

Any other comments?

Could you please send me a photo of both of you that you like/teaching or enjoying the place and a landscape or cultural shot of your new home. Really liked your hiking experience by the way.

Social media whore us:

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