Transferring is a common occurrence in Japanese business culture. In fact many families are split a part because of this. Although they don’t divorce, they essentially become accustomed to living in different homes, in different prefectures. This is the situation my sister in law finds her self in. She lives in Osaka and her husband was transferred to the island of Shikoku. They love each other. But in order to create stability for their two sons, they decided to live separately because of the nature of Japanese business culture (he gets transferred to a different prefecture every two years). She takes care of their home in Osaka and when he gets a chance he visits during the holidays.
Working in a changing environment
Event though many Japanese people are used to having their close friends and family routinely sent away. This is something that many Expats find disturbing. As an English teacher working at the same company for three years, I still struggle with seeing all of my coworkers leaving every year. I keep contact with some of them, but about 75% I never see again. It has made it difficult for me to bother getting close to new people. After all what’s the point if they are just going to leave!
It’s hard to see them go but saying goodbye is too much
Now days I mostly keep to myself. When new coworkers come and go, I don’t to the welcome or farewell parties. Luckily, I have never been transferred because I chose not to climb the corporate ladder and stayed in an entry-level position. But if I wanted more out of my corporate career, I must transfer. This is the Japanese way! But I’m a rebel and decided to run my own business and only work for the man part time, to avoid this situation.
Single serving friends
In the movie fight club there is a scene where Brad Pitt’s character talks about meeting people once in public situations like at an airport, in these situations you tend to meet people you will never see again. He referred to these people as “single serving friends”. Like a single serving of sugar for you coffee at Starbucks, or a one-night stand some people have with a stranger. You meet someone, you are friendly, but you appreciate the beauty of the time limit on the interaction.
This has been my approach to meeting new coworkers as well as other Expats out here. It may sound sad, but I have learned to focus on the people that I feel will stick around and be a part of my future here in Japan.
This has made the relationships with the people that do stick around, that much stronger.
Social Gelo with Angelo
Angelo Ferrer (M.S. Psychology)