Career Forum

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One have heard many horror stories from other foreigners settling in at Japanese companies. Long unpaid overtime-hours, bureaucratic ways of handling tasks and registration, unwillingness to listen to new fresh ideas in order to evolve. I remember the first time I read The Blue-eyed Salaryman: From World Traveller to Lifer at Mitsubishi” when I was in high-school. In short it’s about Niall Murtagh, an irishmen who graduated from Dublin University, hitchhiked and travelled all over the world, before finally settling down in Japan working as a salarymen at one of Japans biggest companies – Mitsubushi. He describes with humour his life in Japan from his perspective and the many cultural differences that are unknown to most people outside Japan. There is one particular part where he describes the first time he made the exchange of business cards that often occur when two business partners meet for the first time. While he was a new employee and hadn’t received his cards yet (which resulted in awkward glances from the other Japanese party) he described not having a business card as “I don’t have a business card, thus I do not exist” á la René Descartes to which I giggled and started to imagine myself in the same situation. Though not exactly in the same situation just yet, taking my first steps to joining the Japanese work force by attending Tokyo Summer Career Forum ’16 which took place at Tokyo Big Sight in Ariake area. We do have similar fairs in Sweden too, were newly graduates or interested people have the chance to meet actual employers of different companies and ask them questions directly. Since I’m well aware of 就活 (shuukatsu; job hunting period in Japan) and the strict dress-code that usually come with it, I asked a Japanese friend of mine if people wear the same thing to these casual job fairs too. “Naah, it’s more casual than shuukatsu, you can just wear something nice, doesn’t have to be a suit.” Being said of course, I entered the big hall, (with around 200 different companies lined up in booths) as the ONLY one not wearing a suit. I counted maybe 4 other foreigners besides me (out of total 3000-4000 participants) and of course they all wore the unspoken appropriate attire and behaved more Japanese than most of the Japanese there. On one hand, there weren’t that many companies that took my interest, and while most of them probably wouldn’t look my way cause of the way I dressed, I’m glad I went, since it made me realize that even though things have changed in Japanese working society over the years, it’s still the same conservative Japan that it has always been. Japan is Japan, and Sweden is Sweden. There is no point comparing the two since they are two very different societies. The only thing I’d like to hang on to is myself, and not let myself be too much shaped by monotonous and homogenous Japan. I’m going to stand out, whether they like it or, and while one should respect customs and the people here, that doesn’t mean I have to fit into their image of a foreigner, nor become Ms. japanized Nathalie.

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