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interioround
April 4th, 2014, 11:24
Hey guys,
First post here. A little background about myself:
I`m a few months into my first year here, and I live in a small town of 7,000 people who are mostly old farmers.

When I first interviewed for JET, I wanted the CIR position. I took N3 level a few years ago, and it was far too easy. My level is probably around N2, but I am studying for the N1. I didn`t get chosen as a CIR, but I did get selected as an ALT. I fully expected to speak English with the students and with the JTEs but even on my off times when I don`t have school the members of the BOE won`t talk normally with me in Japanese. I am trying to improve my Japanese while I`m here and would like to be able to speak more fluently, otherwise, when I go back to my country this experience will just look like a few years of vacation.

Even when my BOE has a Nomikai, they try and push me into speaking English. Finally at a Nomikai, I asked a guy who had been speaking English at me to please speak normally with me. He said, `oh, sorry` and kept on speaking in English. The grating part is that his wife is from Canada, so he can speak English whenever he wants >:(

There`s no events around the area. The clubs at my schools are lame and consist of ping pong for the girls and soccer for the boys. Even when I expressed an interest to participate in the clubs with the kids my manager said, `Speak English if you do`. If I want to go to a bigger city it takes a few hours (and a few moneys)...At this point, I`m thinking a lot about why I came here. I`ve even started to think about quitting because I see no merit to sticking around. I get to the point where I want to scream. What kind of cultural exchange program is this anyway?

uthinkimlost?
April 4th, 2014, 11:34
The kind where you expose inaka folk to your mother tongue.

therealwindycity
April 4th, 2014, 11:38
I find it surprising that older people in your town aren't excited for you to speak Japanese with them. If people in your work environment are really committed to all-English there might not be much you can do to change their minds, but I'm sure that there are people in the wider community who would be thrilled that they could talk to you without having to use English. Even tiny towns usually have a 文化会館、which might have events like calligraphy classes, cooking classes, sports events, etc. You might also have luck asking your school's Japanese teacher for help studying kanji or calligraphy. I also have yet to meet a Japanese person who doesn't love to discuss the local dialect of their inaka.

Antonath
April 4th, 2014, 11:54
*Puts on mod hat* I will be watching this one, people, so keep it civil. *Takes off hat*

As an ALT, your two roles are to improve the students' English and to get them used to other cultures. CLAIR likes to emphasise the second, but schools prefer the first. That means that if they want you to use English, you should use English. Some schools like to have the ALT pretend they don't speak a single word of Japanese so the kids have to use English. Using Japanese with the teachers is another matter, but I don't think you can blame them for wanting to practice their English with you (or simply showing off in the case of the guy with the Canadian wife). Remember too that nomikais are the chance for everyone to let their hair down: the teachers speaking English with you are probably doing something they would never have the courage to try at school.

With all that said, I do understand your frustration. You've said there's no events in the area, but if you're the solo-drinking type, maybe you can find an izakaya to hang out at. In the same way that nomikais give some the courage to try English with you, alcohol should encourage non-teachers to speak to you if they see you around. I'm not really a solo drinker myself, but going out drinking with another ALT and talking with others while there has got me invited to two weddings, helping a local bar move premises, and plenty of Japanese friends.

Jiggit
April 4th, 2014, 11:56
Are you sure you're in Japan yet?

In all seriousness, it's really weird that you would have a school that was low level enough to not have a ton of clubs but has a load of teachers who speak English. Are you actually seeking out new people to talk to or do you only talk to people who approach you first. In my experience teachers who want to speak English will approach you but other teachers will almost never do so. Try and talk to teachers you haven't spoken to before at Enkais (ofc non JTEs) and I'd be surprised if they tried to speak a word of English to you.


I fully expected to speak Japanese with the students

Really? Because that's exactly the opposite of what the JET programme told us an infinite number of times.

Don't be selfish. The position you accepted was ALT. That means you talk to kids in English. Frankly your school has an excellent attitude about you speaking only English with the kids and you should follow what they want you to do. It's not about you. Don't be one of those people who uses JET entirely for their own purposes and neglects to do their job. There are probably hundreds of kids in your charge and you are meant to be here to help them with English, not to use them to further your own Japanese aspirations.

Frankly if you want to find people to talk to then how about going outside? Make actual friends? Outside of your job? That's where your Japanese practice is meant to come from.

interioround
April 4th, 2014, 12:16
Sorry! There was a huge typo in my first post. I meant to say I fully expected to speak ENGLISH with the students and JTEs. I`ve already editted the original post.

Antonath
April 4th, 2014, 12:21
Sorry! There was a huge typo in my first post. I meant to say I fully expected to speak ENGLISH with the students and JTEs. I`ve already editted the original post.
I'd say that qualifies as a pretty big typo, yes :D

The advice about getting out and about in your town still stands, though. There are probably more events than you realise, and even if there aren't, getting known around the place is the first step in getting non-colleagues to talk to you.

interioround
April 4th, 2014, 12:22
Are you sure you're in Japan yet?

In all seriousness, it's really weird that you would have a school that was low level enough to not have a ton of clubs but has a load of teachers who speak English. Are you actually seeking out new people to talk to or do you only talk to people who approach you first. In my experience teachers who want to speak English will approach you but other teachers will almost never do so. Try and talk to teachers you haven't spoken to before at Enkais (ofc non JTEs) and I'd be surprised if they tried to speak a word of English to you.



Really? Because that's exactly the opposite of what the JET programme told us an infinite number of times.

Don't be selfish. The position you accepted was ALT. That means you talk to kids in English. Frankly your school has an excellent attitude about you speaking only English with the kids and you should follow what they want you to do. It's not about you. Don't be one of those people who uses JET entirely for their own purposes and neglects to do their job. There are probably hundreds of kids in your charge and you are meant to be here to help them with English, not to use them to further your own Japanese aspirations.

Frankly if you want to find people to talk to then how about going outside? Make actual friends? Outside of your job? That's where your Japanese practice is meant to come from.

So, yes. There is actually very little variation for clubs between the Elementary and Middle schools that I teach at (around 10 in total). The school populations at each school are very small, too, but despite this there are many teachers in this town. I don`t know why...Many of these teachers commute 40 minutes or more from bigger towns.
Again, there truly is very little in the way of anything to do in this town. There are no bars within aforementioned 40 minute driving radius (roundtrip ETC cost of at least 800 yen).
I don`t know how to naturally go up to >70 year old farmers planting in fields and make a conversation that`s not more than 2 minutes long.
I know it sounds like I`m making excuses, but it really feels like an impossible situation.

Antonath
April 4th, 2014, 12:29
There are no bars within aforementioned 40 minute driving radius
Blasphemy!

Remember that many bars in Japan, especially in the inaka, don't have huge signs out front. Some look exactly the same as normal houses. They don't advertise because everyone around is a local and knows where they are. Ask another teacher who lives in town to recommend somewhere, perhaps?

Unless you really are bar-less, in which case the thoughts and prayers of everyone on ITIL - everyone in Japan - are with you.

uthinkimlost?
April 4th, 2014, 12:31
There are no bars within aforementioned 40 minute driving radius (roundtrip ETC cost of at least 800 yen).

If you have access to a road that has ETC, I can't imagine how the first part of this is even remotely true.

interioround
April 4th, 2014, 12:59
Are bars really my only option, though? Perhaps I did overlook them in my town, but that might be because I`m not a big drinker...

Gizmotech
April 4th, 2014, 13:25
It sucks, but that's part of the reality of JET some times. My friend lives about 45 minutes out (non ETC highway) from the next biggest city (100k). There are about 3000 people near where he lives. He wasn't much of a drinker at first, but he just started going to the local izakayas and drank slowly while talking to people in Japanese. Hell, he said when he first started he didn't even talk, just clinked glasses.

If you're not that big of a drinker, the other option is to help the old guys out in the fields. Another friend of mine has been doing that for 5 years. He now speaks fluent (much to the disgust of many locals....) local dialect, has his own green house on a friends property, and seldomly comes into town (his place, 7k people, town 120k about 15 minutes away by train)

Also, just a hint if looking for a bar. Look for the cloth covered door, or long run cloth pole. I was walking through my center town with my friend one night and I just pointed to a place where two old men were stumbling out... I asked, what it is? He said, izakaya. Then proceeded to point out atleast 10 in view-able distance I had never identified before.

Jiggit
April 4th, 2014, 13:30
Sorry! There was a huge typo in my first post. I meant to say I fully expected to speak ENGLISH with the students and JTEs. I`ve already editted the original post.

Woops, sorry. To be fair my previous neighbour was an ALT who originally wanted to be a CIR and she totally had the attitude I described.


So, yes. There is actually very little variation for clubs between the Elementary and Middle schools that I teach at (around 10 in total). The school populations at each school are very small, too, but despite this there are many teachers in this town. I don`t know why...Many of these teachers commute 40 minutes or more from bigger towns.
Again, there truly is very little in the way of anything to do in this town. There are no bars within aforementioned 40 minute driving radius (roundtrip ETC cost of at least 800 yen).
I don`t know how to naturally go up to >70 year old farmers planting in fields and make a conversation that`s not more than 2 minutes long.
I know it sounds like I`m making excuses, but it really feels like an impossible situation.

That's kind of what JET placements are like sadly. I have to go an hour to the nearest town but honestly it's just what you have to do.

Otherwise try setting up an eikaiwa locally. It might sound counterintuitive but most of the local (old admittedly) friends I have I met through there. Most of them just speak English as a hobby and will happily natter away in Japanese.

Oh and not being a drinker is easily the largest barrier to making friends in Japan, especially with inaka people. Getting drunk with someone is basically the way to get social barriers dropped and get closer.

Antonath
April 4th, 2014, 13:49
Otherwise try setting up an eikaiwa locally. It might sound counterintuitive but most of the local (old admittedly) friends I have I met through there. Most of them just speak English as a hobby and will happily natter away in Japanese.
Be aware that there are contract issues with this if it's paid eikaiwa.

Jiggit
April 4th, 2014, 13:58
Be aware that there are contract issues with this if it's paid eikaiwa.

Well if he's that desperate to meet people a volunteer Eikaiwa should be fine.

Though I've heard it's possible to be #cough# "reimbursed" with supermarket vouchers and that's perfectly legal.

littleanemonefish
April 4th, 2014, 13:59
Making friends at a bar in japan may be the easiest things you could ever do. I was in Tokyo (aka humongous city with millions of people) for only two weeks. I went to the same bar in shibuya several times and made several friends. Would have totally kept in contact with them if I had stayed in japan. I think people in japan generally really like to be regulars in bars, and since there are so many small bars, if you go somewhere more than once you can really get to know people. I feel like even in a tiny town in the inaka there would be at least one or two bars/izakaya. When I was hiking through wakayama all the tiny towns we stayed at always had a few drinking places. And these were teeny places in the mountains.


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Jiggit
April 4th, 2014, 14:02
Although young Japanese people drop you as readily as they become friends with you... you gotta develop a tough skin if you're hanging in cities most of the time.

littleanemonefish
April 4th, 2014, 14:04
If feel like it depends on the type of people you talk to. I can usually tell if someone is going to be worthwhile or not. Gotta develop your character judgement skills or whatever.


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interioround
April 4th, 2014, 14:15
Be aware that there are contract issues with this if it's paid eikaiwa.

My BOE is pressuring me to do an Eikaiwa for zangyo time instead of salary. There is another ALT in my town who has been doing an Eikaiwa class. She has told me a lot of older women come in who fervently speak English. It doesn`t surprise me as I`ve been approached a few times in my town by older people wanting to speak English. Just my luck.
- Small town blues
- Town full of old people who want to speak English
- Just typed in google for Izakaya, suspicions confirmed

Yarareta.

Gizmotech
April 4th, 2014, 14:16
If feel like it depends on the type of people you talk to. I can usually tell if someone is going to be worthwhile or not. Gotta develop your character judgement skills or whatever.


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More like tune them to Japanese social standards.... Sometimes I meet people who you'd never assume they are giant twats. Othertimes I meet them and I'm like... you guys are totally fucked up, and they turn out to be decent upstanding guys who were just a bit too f'n drunk.

isitatomic
April 4th, 2014, 14:48
Being a 5'1" dude, I compulsively go out to buy clothing that will actually fit OTR that I can wear back in the land of the way too big. Incidentally, I have also discovered that those people who work the floor at retail shops, at malls especially, make the most effortless Japanese conversation and practice partners I've ever had. Bars were probably my first good practice experience, and I still go from time to time, but I'd say it's best mostly for brushing up on slangy abrasive speech.

I tend to see it as making the intense service culture work in your favor... in that role they ABSOLUTELY MUST be pleasant, courteous, and most importantly, not awkward/nervous/standoffish/toocoolforschool.

If you're into giggly 22 year olds, those cute girls that Starbucks Japan insists on hiring will also talk your ear off.

Jiggit
April 4th, 2014, 15:00
My BOE is pressuring me to do an Eikaiwa for zangyo time instead of salary. There is another ALT in my town who has been doing an Eikaiwa class. She has told me a lot of older women come in who fervently speak English. It doesn`t surprise me as I`ve been approached a few times in my town by older people wanting to speak English. Just my luck.


Again, the problem is that they are approaching you. Japan is not a country of socially forward people. Japanese people don't approach or talk to strangers for no reason, almost ever (this is one of those things that Europeans get that I think Americans have more trouble adjusting to). Therefore the only Japanese people who will approach you are people who are only approaching you to practice English.

Actually you could learn from their example. They have the balls to break out of their comfort zone and approach a random person who might be a crazy knifist. If we want to meet people we've got to do the same.

If your town is actually full of people who want to speak English then it is unique in Japan and you're the unluckiest person ever. Once you've been here for a bit longer you'll probably realise just how few people care about English or have any language ability whatsoever. The people who do want to speak English are the most noticeable right now because they're the only ones trying to talk to you I'll bet.

interioround
April 7th, 2014, 08:31
Thank you guys for the advice. I will try to be more outgoing :)