Why I hate working in Japan

Do you know what is the most popular conversation that I have with Japanese people living outside of Japan?
It’s a conversation about how much we dread going back to Japan…
And its not because we hate Japan as a country, no, there is a lot we miss about Japan. But what we dread is WORKING in Japan.

I mean Japan is a beautiful country filled with lots and lots of interesting things to do, delicious food, kind people, one of the best customer services in the world, and some of the best products in the world. It is a consumer’s heaven, but a service worker’s hell.
There is a tremendous effort to make customers feel special and happy to come back over and over, in Japan it’s not only “the customer is always right” but more like “the customer is God”. And the worst part is, the customer knows it. 
This, obviously makes it extremely demanding to be on the “customer service” industry. Well, actually any industry in Japan. Like anything in life this mentality has its pros and cons but now I want to focus on the cons, (because personally, that is why I dread going back to Japan) so I made a list of them.

Why I hate working in Japan

1.    Japanese working hours are long as f#$k

Convenience stores open 24-hours, fashion shopping can go as late as 10pm, restaurants open so late that only Dracula should be eating there!
 “Office hours” are until 5pm but if you want to show you really are a good worker you should stay until 10pm…and then go drinking with your workmates because you need to build that group bond. Workers are expected to “want” to be working that long because its for the good of the company and as a result, good for the customer.

2.    Japanese people’s meticulousness

It’s one thing to pay attention to detail, but to obsess so much about it to the point of being almost neurotic is a little bit stressful for someone like me.

3.    Bowing, so much bowing

I think the person to invent bowing actually had a tick and appear to be bowing every 2 seconds and whoever picked it up must have not realized it.

4.    Rules cannot be broken, no matter how time wasting they are

Don’t even dare change something to try and make it more efficient for you. No, if it worked for others it has to work for you. 
Jeez, here I was thinking that as long as you did the job and you did it right my methods wouldn’t matter…

5.    Always appear to be working, even when you have nothing to do

When I went to Australia I was surprised when people supposedly at work would be on their phones or talking to their workmates when there were not customers to attend to. 
In Japan, if you finished all your work early and have nothing to do then you better invent something to do and appear super busy at it before anyone finds out you are quick doing your job! Finished that word document in less than 30 min!? quick! Erase it and start again and appear super concentrated and stressed while you are at it.

6.    Be a psychic and anticipate your customers needs before they say it!

In AUS, and even NZ I could probably wait hours for the waiter to bring water…but in Japan if you are a waiter you better be looking out if someone is running low on water, drinks or if they are ready to order and you better be at their table before they even call you or else what the hell are you doing!?

7.    The after-work drinking

Spending 12 hours a day with your workmates is just not enough, if you really want to be part of the group and into the whole teamwork thing then you better go drinking after work. It’s apparently the “best” time to get to know each other. 
I felt terrible every time I preferred going home to be with my family, or even just go to sleep early instead of drinking with my workmates. 

8.    Work before family or anything else

A Japanese girl I met in NZ told me a story that I found quite interesting and yet so true. She said while studying English in the Philippines she befriended a Philippine guy who once took the day off work. His grand excuse, he wanted to be with his girlfriend because she was going through a tough time. 
My friend was surprised and her first reaction was saying in Japan taking a day off for something like that was unthinkable. In fact, it was a sign you were a “bad human”. But she was more surprised when he was surprised at her being surprised for that.
Of course, I’ll take the day off, family and friends are more important than work! he told her.
To be honest, I had worked in Japan for so long that their culture in impressed in me so when I heard my friend’s story my reaction was thinking “how irresponsible he is taking the day off for that!”.

And that’s all I can think of for the time being. 
Please let me know in the comments if there is something you hate about working in your country?


Multilingual acupuncturist travelling the world