Start of my life as an expat

expat

It’s Thursday again! I was drafting a little personal #ThrowbackThursday story that was meant to be published in my blog’s Facebook page but then it got longer and longer that I thought, what the heck, I’ll make this into a blog post instead!

As you may have noticed in my previous posts and in my social media channels, especially in my Instagram, I’ve been in the Philippines for vacation, staying at my parent’s house. One of the things I love and I always do when I am there? Look at old photographs! I never get tired of going through the old, dusty albums back home. I found some precious pics that could provide me throwback status posts for the rest of the year.

I shared my expat story before, but I think I’ve never wrote about how it started.

When do you start to become an “expat”? Does my time as a student qualify me to be called an expat? If being an “expat”, defined in Wikipedia as,  a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of their citizenship, I’ve been an expat since I was 19. Hmmm, thinking about it now, that sounds overwhelming.

But if being an expat means one should be holding a job, i.e., earning, then my expat life started after I graduated from school. My expat life started a few days after this below photo was taken.

Grace in Nagano

My first job after graduation in the year 2001 was in Nagano Prefecture (Japan), some 200 kilometers away from my school in Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture. From that comfort zone that was the school dormitory where I spent four and a half years, I was thrown into a totally different setting: living alone in a small apartment of my own in a small town where trains only come a couple of times in an hour and very cold winters that could freeze a huge lake.

The city where I lived in Nagano is about 800 meters above sea level and the winters are unforgiving. It may not snow much but the chill factor was something so different from the past winters I had in Kanagawa. In Nagano, you miss one train and  you wait for more than 30 minutes out in the cold – I learned this the hard way.

Frozen Suwa Lake

Anyway, I looked at these photos and thought, wow, I never really knew at this point when the picture was taken what the future holds. I only heard about the tough life of being Japan’s salaryman – Japan’s colloquial term for office worker, considered by many to be the backbone of Japan’s economy. These employees are expected to always put the company first and known for working long hours, as much as 60 hours per week.

I’ve had difficult time at first adjusting to the whole new system. My work life had its ups and downs but hands down the most wide-opening and reflective experience I could ever have. I got sick and realized wow, life in Japan, living alone, unmarried and without any relatives is only as good till you get sick. I got back up and continued on my salaryman everyday grind for 3 years before getting married and having a child. 

Fast forward 14 years after these photos were taken, I am still an expat. However, in a different land and my story continues. Related read: Our Dubai story

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