Top 5 Things My Japanese Husband Likes About America

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My husband lived in the US for about a year and a half as a foreign student, but then went back to Japan because we had decided to work and live in Japan. However, when I got a job offer in the US that was more relevant to my Master’s degree than the job in Japan, we decided to live in the US.

Honestly, I was a little surprised at first that he was so willing to move to the US. A lot of the Japanese students I meet who study abroad in the US like the country (that’s usually why they choose America, rather than England or Canada or Australia, to study abroad), but when I ask about living here, about 80% (note: no actual statistical data was used in calculating this percent) say they would rather live in Japan. America is a nice place to visit, but they wouldn’t want to live here. I can understand that, especially since their home country is so familiar to them and the US is different from Japan in many ways.

However, my husband is very flexible in his mindset, and that allows him to adjust easily to almost any place and any situation. So, I asked him what he liked the most about America, and what enticed him to live here. Here are his top 5 favorite things about living in America… (TL;DR version is in bold ^^)

1. Overtime? Not today!

In Japanese companies, overtime is expected for many salarymen (and women) and is not compensated financially. Basically, you are expected to work late hours and you won’t get any extra pay for the time.

In most American companies, overtime is not expected, and if you do work overtime, there must be financial compensation. Hours that are over your typical work week hours can be charged more than your regular working hours. Because the rules about overtime pay are so strict, in many cases the company would rather you not work overtime, so they don’t have to pay the extra money.

2. American small talk

In Tokyo, as in most big cities, people go about their everyday business without much interaction with strangers. Even in suburban areas, people don’t usually greet strangers on the street. However, in the US, strangers often chat while waiting in line or when otherwise assembled in a group of people they don’t know.

In the town where we both went to school, a lot of people would chat with my husband at random places, most likely because there just aren’t a lot of Asians there. With a Japanese face and the university nearby, it was pretty apparent that he was a foreign student, and thus a lot of people liked to ask him about his home country.

He noticed that when he says he is from Japan, people most commonly remark about how much they like sushi, and about how they know “a little” Japanese – usually konnichiwa or arigatou or something along those lines. He really enjoys the ease with which he can talk with people he doesn’t know, and the fact that they forgive his “broken English.”

3. Beef is cheap

In Japan, beef is expensive. It’s an island nation, so beef comes from Australia or the US. Importing beef is expensive! Kobe beef? That’s really special beef and that’s expensive too! The beef here in the US is good quality and inexpensive by comparison. We were looking at nabe (hot pot) recipes, and he found one that called for pork. He figured out that beef also works for this particular nabe, but that most of the people posting recipes used pork because the cost is much lower in Japan. He loves to cook, and is excited to be able to buy ingredients like beef for a lower cost.

Nabe hot pot

Japanese nabe (hot pot) raw ingredients – photo by kei

4. Large gardens = big dogs

My husband’s favorite breed of dog is the Golden Retriever. His family had a Golden when he was younger, and even though they lived in a house, they didn’t have a proper backyard with a fence and a gate. Therefore, when she needed to go out, she had to be walked. She also couldn’t play outside unless they went to the park.

The house we are renting has a small backyard, but it is fenced in and it is much bigger than most Japanese gardens. My husband has visions of a Golden Retriever (or any dog, really) running around in the backyard. He still hasn’t realized that he’s going to be mowing that grass every single week for the rest of the (hot & humid) summer, but I won’t spoil his dog fantasy. I’d like to get a dog soon, too!

Japanese apartment building

Not a lot of room for extensive gardens in Japan – photo by kei

5. Learning about another culture

Obviously, Japanese and American culture are different. You can read about the differences online, in books, or see them on TV. However, nothing introduces you to a different culture more than living in that country. Anyone who has studied abroad can tell you that!

What my husband most enjoys about American culture is that the reality of American culture is different than his perception of it. He (and many other foreigners) learned a lot about American culture from TV and movies. Media is an exaggerated version of reality, but when you watch movies and TV you don’t perceive it as unrealistic. Media is created for entertainment, and even scripted reality shows would be less entertaining without some editing and scripting.

The same can be said about Japanese media, Korean media, and any other country’s media. The perception that what you see on screen is real can mislead you in terms of the culture behind that media. (For a recent example, Google the Chinese media presentation of Japan’s military defenses that included a shot of a giant Gundam figure amongst the actual defense vehicles).

Living in another country is really the only way to truly understand that culture. Being open-minded and flexible is the best way to adapt to life in another country, far from your familiar surroundings.

What are your favorite things about living in a foreign country? Your own country?

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13 thoughts on “Top 5 Things My Japanese Husband Likes About America

  1. I love the small talk as well [it also happens in Canada as well.] In Taiwan, I feel the small talk is rather one sided with Taiwanese asking the questions and I answering them. And the questions are more of a personal nature, which I don’t really like. There has been a few occasions that I pretended I didn’t understand.

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    • I get the same kind of “small talk” in Japan when they realize I speak Japanese. Especially as a foreigner, they really want to know all the details of your life. It can be fun, but it can also be uncomfortable…

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  2. Tama

    If I were to make a list (I am a bit like your hubby, a Japanese national married to an American woman, living in the US for two decades) …
    1. Easy commute: We don’t live in NYC, LA, DC, or SF metro, so commuting is a breeze. I grew up in Yokohama and went to a Tokyo middle and high school, and I don’t miss these six years of rush hour commutes AT ALL! So a bit like your H’s view on overtime hours–though if you are a professional (or a service industry wage-earner), you have to work a lot more than 40 hrs/wk to make a decent living, even in the US.
    2. Small talk in public–I agree! Many complain about the low quality of customer service in the US, which I think is justified, but I do like more relaxed mannerism of customer-service provider relationships in the US (well, when you are not being ripped off, that is!–unfortunately that is something I have to be more prepared for here than when I am in Japan).
    3. Tolerance (or indifference): Much celebrated American “freedom”, I have come to understand, comes down to (for better or for worse) the fact that most Americans don’t really care about what others (concrete or abstract–ala Japanese “seken”) think about who you are, what you do, or what you think/believe. I might sound like being facetious, but I am not–there is something really liberating about knowing that nobody really cares. “Who cares!” is a very American expression, I think.

    BTW, I think my wife would agree with me on all three points, too.

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    • Thank you for sharing your list! I think my husband will agree with your list as well, except maybe customer service. I think the “who cares” attitude take some time to get used to, but once you can accept it and be flexible, it can even be beneficial.

      Customer service quality is something that my husband does not like about Although I do like extent of the customer service in Japan, I feel like it must be difficult for people who do that kind of job if they have someone rude and they cannot complain about it…

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    • Thank you! I know that America has some problems, but really all countries do, because you have so many people trying to live together. There are some good things about the country, and I hope other people can recognize it too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I wish to visit the U.S. Someday soon. I actually had a scholarship for a university in Cali ten years ago but couldn’t go because of the mandatory military service in Finland 😦
    How much holidays do you get in the U.S.?

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    • I hope you will be able to visit the US someday! There are many places to visit. I didn’t know there was mandatory military service in your country!

      In the US it is typical to have about 6 paid holidays, and if you are a new employee (like me) you can accrue about 2 weeks of vacation time over a year. What about Finland or Germany?

      Liked by 1 person

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