Danish in Japan

日本でのデンマーク人
Nihon de no denmāku jin

 

Nadia Nielsen, a young woman from Vanløse in Denmark is currently across the globe in her apartment in the city Fukuoka in the Kyushu prefecture writing her notes for a upcoming test for her japanese studies.

She has big dreams and lots of motivation to reach her goals of getting work in Japan.
Nadia is not the only one doing this, and the interest for long term stay and job opportunities in Japan is on the rise as Japan struggles to maintain their populational growth and rise of the elderly.

She agreed to do a interview, telling us about herself and her experience with the country and its culture in hope to inspire others to take the step,
but also with respect and understanding for Japans people and ways of living.

She states;
I’m a very adaptable person. I’ve done volunteer work in no less than 9 countries throughout my teenage years and early 20s. I also moved to Japan for the first time when I was 21, although only for 6 months as I had to return home for my hotel and tourism studies.

For me, these kinds of choices are never stressful per say, but I do think about them a lot before making the final choice meaning I’m more than prepared for what is to come.

I do however feel slightly stressed when I postpone my suitcase packing until the very last minute (cause I’m THAT kind of person).

I once ordered a 180g x2 Katsu Curry(Fried Chicken and curry rice), because it was cheap for its size, but instantly regret after eating it.
Japan is a trap when it comes to good food at a affordable price!

Nadia

Education in Japan

日本の日本語学校
Nihon no nihongogakkō

I actually have several, although unfinished, educations in my bag of experience, event coordinator and IT-supporter being some. Right now however I’m working in the hotel and tourism industry and graduated at the Copenhagen Hospitality College back in 2017 with a silver medal (exam grades: 12, 12 and 10).

Before moving to Japan I worked as a hotel receptionist in Copenhagen. My dream job however is to find a job that revolves around tourism in Japan. Mainly a culture guide or a travel consultant with a speciality in Japan. I wish to share my love for the country and its rich culture with people who may or may not have been exposed to it before. In my opinion there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing someone slowly fall in love with the same things as yourself.

 

Nadia continues;
Denmark has a very limited amount of travel agencies going to Japan, even less that offers guided tours. In order to set myself apart from other applicants, I decided to focus on language and culture studies in the very country I wish to work in.

My school of choice puts a heavy focus on quick and intense language studies, meaning all lessons are to be in Japanese only, no English allowed in class. We study for 20 hours a week and have 1-2 hours of homework per day. If a student wants to, they can pay for extra classes that help expand even further on communication skills, grammar or culture.

The school also offers weekly language exchange lounges with Japanese students or adults ranging from ages 15-60. On top of wanting to use these studies for my future job possibilities, I have several hobbies that involve the Japanese language in general, this includes games, manzai comedy and manga (Japanese comic books).

 

Culture Shock

カルチャーショック
Karuchāshokku

My first thought was “It’s good to be back in my second home!”. Last week I moved out of my temporary dorm room and into a shiny new apartment that I can call my own. Even now I’m still celebrating being here. I love Japan and have done so for over 17 years now. Like many other countries it’s not without fault, but I can look past that for the things I love.

Their old and new culture is very inspiring and provokes a lot of senses. I personally call Japan the country of the greatest culture shock. A lot of their current culture spans back more than a 1000 years. You’ll see plenty of traces, from old theater styles and art, to bath houses, festivals and even the world’s oldest inn, which was founded 1.300 years ago and is still open to this day.

Unlike most people who come to Japan, I’ve spent many years studying the culture through articles, texts, videos, vlogs as well as anime, games and manga even. For me not many things came as a surprise because of this. But I can guarantee that many first timers will meet some challenges with everything from how the train system works, to how and where to order your food in a restaurant. To me it was exciting to experience these very specific cultural differences that I had been reading about for so many years. I almost got a kick out of some of it because I had found it so fascinating whenever it was presented in any of the media I read/watched.

To be a foreigner

外人
Gaijin

Because of how easy I adapt to any country I travel too, I did not really face much of a challenge. I prefer to go with the flow and see where it takes me. Japanese culture however is a challenge to adapt to if you are not used to it, nor prepared for it. There’s a lot to watch out for and to be aware of, all the way down to how to act when in an elevator. Rules change depending on where in the elevator you’re standing and when you’re getting out compared to other people in the elevator.

She sighs before continuing;

As a newcomer to the culture, the best thing you can do is to follow the classic “monkey see, monkey do” and just go from there. The Japanese people are fully aware of how difficult it can be for foreigners to adapt to their culture, rules and traditions and are therefore fairly patient as long as you show respect and a desire to learn.

 

Most of the Japanese people I know, I met during my volunteer work at the World Cosplay Summit championship in Nagoya.
Here in Fukuoka I participate in a weekly Language exchange lounge at the school.
Many Japanese people of all ages come to the lounge to practice their English and make new friends.
I really enjoy this weekly activity.

 

Traditions & attitude

伝統と態度
Dentō to taido

Japan is a country that builds heavily on old traditions. Unfortunately this also means that while many see them as one of the most advanced nations in the world, there are many humane aspects that are slogging behind, say Europe and Scandinavia. Women are still being treated as lesser beings than men at work, and despite their current birth rate being ALARMINGLY low, it is still frowned upon that women take maternity leaves from work after having children. This means that many simply won’t get married nor’ have children. Salary is also much lower for women at especially office jobs, where the term “salaryman” is still very well used for a reason.

Recently however there has been some changes stirring in the distance. Japan has started looking at the rest of the world and is slowly but surely working on changing a lot of these things.

Information about the social issues about birth rate and rise of elderly in Japan:
Sociale_forhold_i_verden/Japan

 

 

What is Omotenashi?

 

In Japan, there is a deep-rooted culture, which comes from sado (tea ceremony), called omotenashi, meaning to wholeheartedly look after guests. The term is a microcosm of the country itself, representing the Japanese mindset of hospitality centring around care rather than expectation. You’re bound to feel the omotenashi hospitality on your travels to Japan, especially at cultural experiences such as ryokan (Japanese-style inns), kaiseki (Japanese banquet), and sado (tea ceremony).

Omotenashi is hard to define in English because to understand it is to experience Japan in-person. It is a sense of incredible hospitality that carries across home stays, formal ceremonies, retail, and dining. However, omotenashi goes beyond “the customer is always right;” rather, it is an implicit understanding that there are no menial tasks if the result ensures a great experience for a guest.

https://www.jnto.org.au/experience/culture/omotenashi/

The respect for the general law and rules, as well as your fellow people and the high service level that you can expect even in the most humble stores and homes. While you might see graffiti and trash in the more slum-like or delinquent areas of Tokyo and Osaka, you’ll rarely catch it anywhere else. Japan has more than 5,6 million vending machines, yet the chances of seeing one that has been destroyed or painted on is so small that it’s shocking.. And in most towns and cities even, if you forget a shopping bag or your wallet somewhere, chances are it’ll still be there or at the nearest police box when you return to look for it. In fact, in 2017, about 230 million DKK worth of dropped coins and bills were returned to police boxes across Japan.

If you seem lost many Japanese, even without knowing a word of English, will often come to your aid, and a surprising amount of people will even drop whatever they are doing and walk you to your desired destination even if it means that they will be late for an appointment. I have experienced this 5 times already and it never stops surprising me. I have adapted their high and thoughtful service into my own work habits over the years, and I was at times met with confused looks from Danes who did not expect such a high level of service in a humble campsite reception and kiosk. It always amuse me as it brings me back to the first time I experienced it in Japan and felt just as surprised.

Bureaucracy & Living

官僚主義と生活
Kanryōshugi to seikatsu

Saving up wasn’t much different than saving up for a vacation, a new game or a new TV even. We’re just talking slightly bigger numbers. For 1½ year I sacrificed time with friends and family to continue working at my former job, and even grabbed extra days and hours in order to reduce a potential loan in the bank. The application process is a different behemoth though. The Japanese government isn’t screwing about when it comes to dishing out long term visas.

I filled out just about 5 different forms about work, my parents work and income, my own income, my education, former grades and graduation papers, japanese language certificates, tax papers, proof of bank savings for my time in Japan etc. On top of this I had to send pictures and passport information, proof of flight tickets or savings for them, as well as having a contractor in Japan (in my case, my school). After getting my visa approved, the approved paperwork was sent to Denmark by snail mail.

I then had to bring the papers, flight information and passport to the Japanese Embassy in Copenhagen, fill out some more papers and leave my passport and a less than 3 month old passphoto at the embassy for a week so they could prepare my visa. I would then receive a call telling me that I could come pick it up and done!

Danes have no right to complain about their system.

After going through the Japanese one,
you’ll practically be begging to go back to the Danish one.

 

Denmark – Japan

デンマーク – 日本
Denmāku – Nihon

Denmark and Japan actually celebrated their 150th year as diplomatic partners back in 2017. About 13 years ago 200 sakura trees were donated to Copenhagen and planted at Langelinie, about a 2 minute walk from The Little Mermaid statue.

In 2008 the “Copenhagen Sakura Festival” was established at that very location, to share a very near and dear Japanese tradition called the “Hanami” with the Danish people. Every year around late March to early April, the Japanese people will go to various locations with many sakura trees, and sit underneath the trees with friends, family, work etc. and celebrate the end of spring and a ‘new start’.

Many new school terms also start in April because of this. The sakura is seen as a national treasure in Japan, so these trees are a very honorable gift to Denmark. The sakura event in Denmark has grown so big over the years, that it can barely contain the amount of guests showing up every year, and if instagram and the Danish newspapers are anything to go by, the Danes have really opened up their eyes to these trees and their short, but very beautiful time of grace as their white or pink flowers

The relation between Japan and Denmark has been active since 1867.
Up to 1912, the Danish interest in Japan were handled by the Dutchman, Didrik de Greaff von Polsbroek before the Danish count, Preben F. Ahlefeldt-Laurvig took over the diplomacy.

 

Source: Relation between Japan and Denmark

Final advice

最後のアドバイス
Saigo no adobaisu

Nadia thinks for a moment before giving her thoughts;

Do your research well in advance! This includes everything from cultural understanding, common rules, food culture and especially regional culture and environmental differences across Japan. While still the same country, Japan’s many regions span over different environments, population, events, festivals, people and much more. This means that your experience with both living and studying/working in Japan might change drastically depending on where you decide to go. I personally picked Fukuoka, because while I love Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, they were all way too busy for me to live in, and cities like Sapporo in the region of Hokkaido were way too cold for my liking. The inner city of Fukuoka not only shares its population number with Copenhagen overall, but it’s also fairly warm all year around and even in December-February it rarely reaches below 0 degrees. There’s a lot of nature in the area and people are also way more friendly and personal due to a lack of foreign tourists in the region, which is one of the things I love the most about the city and the overall region of Kyushu.

That being said, with a country like Japan the best thing you can do is to simply take the leap and see where the stream of adventure takes you.