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Do long-time residents get the funk?

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Tanukisan

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The funk is that mood or sentiment where a person starts to feel like one is drifting, going nowhere or completely lost. A person who's got the funk will often be depressed, question their reasons for coming or staying along with feeling constantly lonely even when not alone.

This could discribe a certain stage of culture shock for people who have been in Japan for a few years, but I wonder if long-time residents of 10 years or more also get the funk. How would such a person cope with the funk, knowing that leaving Japan is not an immediately option?

have you or someone you know ever had the funk? How did you/they deal with?
 

Mike Cash

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I think it probably is a phenomenon more observed among those who find themselves teaching English when they hadn't really planned on it, don't really have a passion for it, and feel like they're stuck doing it if they intend remaining here.

There are things in life that bum me out, but none of them are Japan-specific. To the contrary, I can't remember the last time I heard anything out of America that makes me wish I lived there instead of here. I consider myself damned fortunate to be here instead of there.
 

thomas

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Amen to what Mike has said, the same could be said about Europe too. Most of the few grievances I have encountered were not Japan-related and would / could have occurred anywhere. By the way, I have been teaching languages (though not English) for over a decade and still enjoy it.

I reckon it all depends on how deep you allow your roots to grow. I'm surrounded here by most of my friends and my Japanese family and consider this place my home. There simply is no room for "funk".
 

johnnyG

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I've had to throw out a fair number of shoes over the years, since they had gotten pretty funky. (Some were almost growing roots!)

For quite a while, we've had what we call "the laundry room," with a dehumidifier that runs almost 24/7.

No funk in there, yet.
 

johnnyG

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To the contrary, I can't remember the last time I heard anything out of America that makes me wish I lived there instead of here. I consider myself damned fortunate to be here instead of there.

Amen.
 

Transformer5

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I had one friend who came to Japan when he was about 40 with his Japanese wife, but he didn't adapt, didn't learn the language, and ended up boxed off, getting more and more angry. Not learning the language meant he couldn't carry on his previous career, so he ended up stuck doing crappy eikaiwa classes, which he hated. He reached the point where he was threatening violence on his wife and friends. His marriage fell apart and, thankfully, he left and went back home.

I've heard other stories of people with similar problems, if not getting angry and violent, then going the other way and getting depressed and withdrawn. I think it boils down to two things: not fulfilling whatever interests and abilities you have, and not engaging with the society. So to sort it out, the person needs to decide on what they really want to do with their life and do it, and get out more maybe. Learning the language can help, and widen your sphere. If someone can't do that and is continuing to have problems, they might be best off going home.
 
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Glenski

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The funk is that mood or sentiment where a person starts to feel like one is drifting, going nowhere or completely lost. A person who's got the funk will often be depressed, question their reasons for coming or staying along with feeling constantly lonely even when not alone
Yup, I'm sure even long-term residents can feel that way.

They may not have planned to stay but are stuck here for some reason (spouse won't/can't relocate is a biggie, but they may also realize they've done something here that doesn't transfer back home, or they've been out of the loop so long back home that they can't fit it again). Others may not have developed a real bond with the country or their job. Some have not learned enough of the language to deal with life here. Some hold too tightly to their own culture and remain frustrated with "microagressions" of Japan's. I know someone who has been here almost 20 years, and complains a lot about "the Japanese" especially the administration where he works. His language skills are good enough, and he has a happy family life here, but he doesn't seem to accept that he works in a culture different from his own.

The point now is this: Tanukisan, why do you ask?
 

Tanukisan

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The reason I ask is because it was and still is difficult for me to imagine that someone who has lived in Japan for 10 years or more might get "the funk". Especially if that person speaks and understands enough Japanese to comfortably live, work and function with mostly or mainly Japanese people in Japanese.

Despite this, I still believe that being fluent or near fluent in Japanese; as well as a good understanding of the Japanese cultural mentality does not entirely make one immune to "the funk". It just doesn't make sense that the only people who get "the funk" are eikaiwa or others types in the English teaching racket. They are not the ones who are "stuck". Shaking the funk for these mostly young types is easy.

As for my self I came to Japan with no other purpose than to speak Japanese. As far as work, I arrived less than a week after completing a four year degree, never had a real job in my home country. Over here I have done everything from hospitality work, to customer service, construction and yes the English racket.
 

Transformer5

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It depends what the real source of "the funk" is. I think all stresses and strains in life are rooted in and derive from survival issues (unhappiness at work, not having enough money, health/physical problems); and/or relationship issues, which may be marriage or family problems, but also problems in your relations with friends, at work, or how you relate to and interact with people in general.

These things can change over time as well, so it's not a stretch to imagine someone who's been in Japan a long time developing these problems. The question is whether the issue is related to being in Japan in some way. Is Japan somehow getting in the way of someone doing what they want to do in life, for example, they hit a glass ceiling at work because they're a gaijin? Or do they react to Japanese society in a way that negatively affects them internally (which is a personal thing, not Japan's fault)?
 

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I have had waves of this, but never got mired in it, since I'm sure I would be more rudderless in my home country. Just the other day I was thinking about life at home ("Do you plan to go back?" is a pretty pretty popular small talk question here), and as I came in my 20s, and am now in my 40s, I just feel like I might as well move to Brazil as back home. I'm fully out of the loop. I love my home, Canada, but feel pretty out of sync with life there, much less the job market. Still, on that odd day, I start to wonder how fun it'll feel to be the single white guy in the old folks home, speaking a second language... maybe I will move back at some point.

I have to mention though, teaching English is only a racket if you're faking it. My kid takes weekly piano lessons, and I highly doubt she'll make a career in the live piano market. I would never categorize her teacher as being in the piano racket. Japan is loaded with cooking schools, full of students who will never be chefs, and they aren't in the cooking racket. Teaching English is only a racket if you're a fraud. So be a real teacher if that's what you're doing.
 

Glenski

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The reason I ask is because it was and still is difficult for me to imagine that someone who has lived in Japan for 10 years or more might get "the funk".
How long have you been here? Are you asking this question because you are afraid it might hit you? If you're as content as you say, I don't know why this issue would bother you. Besides, you came with a distinct goal in mind, one that can continue to be met as you learn the language.

Another reasons some might get the funk is gender. Many women have a hard time dealing with relationships with Japanese men (and women).

Despite this, I still believe that being fluent or near fluent in Japanese; as well as a good understanding of the Japanese cultural mentality does not entirely make one immune to "the funk".
True.
It just doesn't make sense that the only people who get "the funk" are eikaiwa or others types in the English teaching racket.
I don't think I ever said that. Now, as for the "English teaching racket", just what are you referring to? I'd be a bit upset if you meant me. Not all English teaching careers or positions are rackets. Clarification, please.

They are not the ones who are "stuck". Shaking the funk for these mostly young types is easy
How would you know? I thought asking your question was an attempt to find out the answer in the first place. And what age are "young types" in your mind? I came to teach in my 40s! Besides, there are some who (like you) came right out of college and have few transferrable skills to back home after they've stayed here 5-10 years and done little beyond eikaiwa. During that period I've seen quite a few people complaining about the work environment, yet they have nothing else to sustain them here, and they don't seem bent on improving their chances at better/different employment here. A lot of eikaiwa or ALT dispatch types are just here to make money to pay for their fun, not to learn how to teach. Higher education (university) has its problems, too, since most jobs are part-time, which means unless you get very lucky to land a tenured slot (and not all of them are great slots), you will have to face bouncing from contract to contract, which leads to a funk at times.
 

Mike Cash

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The reason I ask is because it was and still is difficult for me to imagine that someone who has lived in Japan for 10 years or more might get "the funk".

Why?

Especially if that person speaks and understands enough Japanese to comfortably live, work and function with mostly or mainly Japanese people in Japanese.

How many anglophone foreigners do you know who fit that description?

Western foreigners in Japan tend to be largely self-isolating and to be masters at excusing themselves from learning Japanese.

Despite this, I still believe that being fluent or near fluent in Japanese; as well as a good understanding of the Japanese cultural mentality does not entirely make one immune to "the funk".

Again, how many anglophones do you know who fit that description?

It just doesn't make sense that the only people who get "the funk" are eikaiwa or others types in the English teaching racket.

No one ever said they are.

They are not the ones who are "stuck".

You're not reading carefully enough.

I never said that people who teach English are all stuck teaching English and that they all get the blues because of it.

I said that the subset of the English teaching community who are stuck doing it (because they didn't prepare themselves for any other means of supporting themselves here) and who are remaining here are more likely to get bummed out.

Those are two very different things.

Shaking the funk for these mostly young types is easy.

You're 34. You're one of the young types.

Since most of the western foreigners who come here to live/work do so after graduating college, the youngest they would tend to be and still meet your arbitrary ten year point is 32. You don't have a whole lot more gray in your whiskers than they do.

What you really seem to be asking about here is not whether remaining in Japan a decade or more makes one immune from getting the blues in general but rather whether it means they have passed the point where they have misgivings whether remaining here was/is the right choice in particular...and shouldn't they be putting this extended post-college play period behind them and getting back to "the world" (as my fellow sailors called it).

If that's what you're really getting at, then there are typically two milestones at which foreigners start to second guess their continued presence in Japan: 1) when their children are about to enter elementary school and they are leery of putting them into a regular Japanese school and 2) when they're somewhere around the age of thirty.

As for my self I came to Japan with no other purpose than to speak Japanese.

How long did it take for the novelty of that to wear off?

As far as work, I arrived less than a week after completing a four year degree, never had a real job in my home country. Over here I have done everything from hospitality work, to customer service, construction and yes the English racket.

And what do you find yourself doing now and is it what you want to be doing? You've got a degree whose freshness date expired a decade ago, presumably no degree-related work experience to offer to prospective employers even if you weren't in Japan, and it is a well-known phenomenon that nobody back home will care that you banged around in Japan for several years and that there aren't a lot of employment doors it will open. We know from another thread that you have three private English students and are trying to build that into an English school. No matter what kind of business a fellow tries to start, a clientele base that small has to lead to some nervous misgivings.

So it sounds like you're starting to realize that while you have been enjoying life in Japan you have simultaneously day by day been painting yourself into a corner.

The funk you speak of really comes down to wondering whether you're stuck in Japan or not more than it does wondering whether you're stuck in English teaching or not. And it essentially comes down to deciding whether you are an expat who just keeps extending his stay for yet another year...or whether you are an immigrant.

Deciding that you are an immigrant does wonders to free you from periodic bouts of expat funk.
 

Transformer5

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People do get stuck in the eikaiwa business. I've seen some people do it long-term and be quite happy and content with it, whereas other people get lonely and withdrawn, depressed, go weird, or start drinking a lot. Being in a different culture and language can bring out issues that would normally be contained in your home culture (on top of being negatively affected by not doing what you really want to do with your life, and being stuck in a crappy job, as I've mentioned above).

I've known people who came to Japan and got into the English-teaching game and ended up in it long-term because they didn't know what else to do with their life, couldn't be bothered doing anything else, or they were doing it to hide from other issues with themselves, perhaps a fear of facing up to the big responsibilities of life, like getting a long-term career and sorting out your financial situation, getting married, having kids, getting a pension and so on. I've got a couple of friends who were like that, who spent several years boozing, partying and shagging to hide from these bigger responsibilities. Sooner or later though, you have to face up to these things. The longer you leave them to fester and go unresolved, the more they'll gnaw away at you, and the harder they'll become to sort out. Drinking and partying won't help and won't make it go away.
 
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Actually I've got the funk because I'm at home. A year ago I was hunting in Africa. I wish I was back there.

I'm curious why ex-pats would prefer living in Japan to living in their home countries. I like visiting Japan, but would probably not want to live there for more than a year or two.
 

Mike Cash

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I'm curious why ex-pats would prefer living in Japan to living in their home countries. I like visiting Japan, but would probably not want to live there for more than a year or two.

I think the old analogy of the reaction of a frog to being slowly boiled versus being dropped into a pot of boiling water probably applies here.

There have been generational changes in the time I've been here, but since I was here for all of them I've had time to adapt to them, probably without even noticing they took place at all.

On the other hand, America has undergone such radical generational changes in the same time...none of which I was present for or have any direct exposure to (or even indirect exposure, as I have zero American acquaintances in this country in real life)...that as far as I'm concerned the America I once knew has entirely ceased to exist and is no longer there for me to go back to even if I wanted to, which I don't.

The America of 2017 would be as utterly foreign to me at this point as the far side of the moon. As far as I can tell, the whole country has lost its collective goddamned mind. I no longer even pretend to understand the country.

But I'm an immigrant to Japan, not an expat from America, so take that for what it's worth.
 

Glenski

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I'm curious why ex-pats would prefer living in Japan to living in their home countries.
I can't speak for anyone else. My wife won't get on a plane or boat. She is closer to her friends and family than I am to mine, with minor exceptions. It's easier for me to survive here than for her in my home country. And, due to the circumstances of my leaving my country, it is vocationally difficult for me to return. Besides, at any point since I came here, I had no house/apartment, vehicle, insurance, etc. back "home", so it would be financially taxing to start completely anew.
 

johnnyG

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edit: harashin--don't try to read this.


As soon as he began to amalate the noeme, the clemise began to smother her and they fell into hydromuries, into savage ambonies, into exasperating sustales. Each time that he tried to relamate the hairincrops, he became entangled in a whining grimate and had to face up to envulsioning the novalisk, feeling how little by little the arnees would spejune, were becoming peltronated, redoblated, until they were stretched out like the ergomanine trimalciate which drops a few filures of cariacone. And it was still only the beginning, because right away she tordled her hurgales, allowing him gently to bring up his orfelunes. No sooner had they cofeathered than something like a ulucord encrestored them, extrajuxed them, and paramoved them, suddenly it was the clinon, the sterfurous convulcant of matericks, the slobberdigging raimouth of the orgumagopause. Evohé! Evohé! Volposited on the crest of a murelium, they felt themselves being balparammed, perplumes were overcome, and everything resolved into a profound pinex, into niolames of argutentic gauzes, into almost cruel cariniers which ordopained them to the limit of their gumphies.

Julio Cortazar
(translated from Spanish)

***

Personally, my gumphies have always seemed unlimited.
 

Transformer5

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I'm curious why ex-pats would prefer living in Japan to living in their home countries. I like visiting Japan, but would probably not want to live there for more than a year or two.

Japan has some advantages. It's probably the safest country on the planet, it's generally clean, and it's orderly. Things tend to run on time and work properly, and if things do break down, they're on the case quickly to sort it out. There's also outdoor activities, being close to the beaches in the summer or skiing in winter, for people who like that sort of thing.

These things could be a factor in someone deciding to stay longer-term, though I don't know that I've ever met anyone who stayed and settled in Japan first and foremost because they prefer the country to their home country. It may be a combination of that and being able to pursue their chosen career in Japan, and/or getting married.

The other reason people stay in Japan, as I said above (and this can be the case with English/eikaiwa teachers), is to fill a gap and hide from other issues. Perhaps they don't want to settle down in a job or marriage, so they just carry on teaching English, perhaps to buzz off the superstar/superstud image that being a gaijin and English teacher in Japan can bring with it. Or else they don't know what else to do, or can't do anything else. As with many other countries, you do see aging TEFL teachers stuck in dead-end TEFL jobs in Japan, going slowly insane, perhaps also turning into alcoholics and destroying their liver.
 

Mike Cash

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Posting from the UK regarding why people choose to permanently remain in Japan carries all the weight of my posting what it would be like to be a girl in Botswana.

Thinking that the buzz of thinking one's self a superstar/superstud merely for being a foreigner or an English teacher is a lasting phenomenon makes me doubt that you remained in Japan yourself beyond the six months or so it takes for that to wear off. Any foreigner who can manage to think his being a foreigner in Japan confers rock star status on him beyond that period is delusional .
 

Transformer5

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Posting from the UK regarding why people choose to permanently remain in Japan carries all the weight of my posting what it would be like to be a girl in Botswana.

Thinking that the buzz of thinking one's self a superstar/superstud merely for being a foreigner or an English teacher is a lasting phenomenon makes me doubt that you remained in Japan yourself beyond the six months or so it takes for that to wear off. Any foreigner who can manage to think his being a foreigner in Japan confers rock star status on him beyond that period is delusional or mentally ill.

You really are an ignoramus. I lived in Japan for 10 years and will be returning.
 
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Transformer5

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I wonder if long-time residents of 10 years or more also get the funk.

I think the answer to that is a resounding "yes", given the responses of the old git above. He's a sterling example of the kind of misery that long-term gaijin residents in Japan can sink into.

How would such a person cope with the funk, knowing that leaving Japan is not an immediately option?

I think he may be suffering from over-identifying with Japanese culture, and shunning and dissing his own, which manifests itself by him coming on here slaughtering all and sundry, in all his miserable glory.

You're best off giving these people as wide a berth as possible. They'll only drag you down to their level.
 

OoTmaster

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On the other hand, America has undergone such radical generational changes in the same time...none of which I was present for or have any direct exposure to (or even indirect exposure, as I have zero American acquaintances in this country in real life)...that as far as I'm concerned the America I once knew has entirely ceased to exist and is no longer there for me to go back to even if I wanted to, which I don't.

The America of 2017 would be as utterly foreign to me at this point as the far side of the moon. As far as I can tell, the whole country has lost its collective goddamned mind. I no longer even pretend to understand the country.

Pretty much. The America of 2017 is utterly foreign to me and I've lived here all my life (which I may have been born before or after you left depending on when that was) Being in my late 20s I remember an America where we weren't worried about all this political correctness stuff they seem to be so worried with now. Also when I was a kid you disciplined your child and they didn't have a smart phone before they could start talking. (mostly because there weren't smartphones) Sometimes I think back and think maybe it's all nostalgia but I watch shows from the same time and they're completely different in culture from the ones we have today. As you likely remember I visited Japan recently for a month. If I wouldn't have to adjust to a new work environment not sure I would have left Japan if I had the option.
 

nahadef

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You're best off giving these people as wide a berth as possible. They'll only drag you down to their level.
Luckily, I've never met in person someone as miserable as that (or they had the sense of shame to keep it to themselves). But the number of longtimers here has dramatically increased. Most of my foreign friends here are married and settled, over 35. And nobody complains about Japan or about life here much... Those people go back home soon enough. If you're unhappy, you have to make a change.

The America of 2017 is utterly foreign to me and I've lived here all my life (which I may have been born before or after you left depending on when that was) Being in my late 20s I remember an America where we weren't worried about all this political correctness stuff they seem to be so worried with now.
No, you were just another straight white guy living in a bubble that privileged you. Ask your many minority friends how they felt about living in America 20 years ago.
 
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nahadef

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Said the bitter straight white guy living in a bubble that privileges him...
I'm not bitter, but yes, I am privileged, which is why I have made great efforts in my life to learn and understand beyond my upbringing. It's a lot more important for us white guys to call out privilege within our group than outsiders. Reform comes from the inside.

You wouldn't get that sort of thing though, living below your troll bridge, dolloping out your own personal frustration to all. I wish the best of luck in finding some small amount of happiness in your life.
 
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