An American Girl in Japan: Everyday Expat Life

Every day, I get email from friends and strangers asking about expat life in Japan.  “Is it hard?” “Is it lonely?”  “Scary?” “Beyond amazing?”

Yes to all of them.

Some things don’t change… just the location. Case in point: my genkan (玄関). A genkan is the entry way into a Japanese apartment and it’s where your shoes are kept. There’s usually a shoe box or closet (mine is full of shoes and other stuff) so on any given day– this is what entering my apartment looks like.



(it’s not messy, it’s agile…)

But I’m embracing a few Japanese customs, actually some just stick to you after a while. I bow a lot, and make a weird grunting noise when I agree with you, and have developed a fondness for kimono, especially the vintage ones!



But figuring things out is a daily chore. Whether it’s a storyboard for work,


Or just trying to eat a bowl of noodles. I love the push-button ramen shops. You pay, pick your dish and your toppings and just push a button for a ticket. Hand the ticket to the ramen master and you’re done!  I just wish I knew all of the buttons!



(This is tsukemen– ramen with a dipping sauce.)

So there are times when life feels pretty alienating. But just when i start to feel sorry for myself, there’s always a little reminder of home. Something that says it’s not so different here after all.


And it’s a small community– the expats in Tokyo. I write for a few foreigner sites and I get recognized in the weirdest places. Like my meditation app?  meditation-app

But you adapt. You adjust. You figure it out. Discover new things you like to do,



New places you like to go,



Play with new looks (it’s a wig for an audition). They might want me blonde. Why not?


And hopefully, make new friends. 🙂

photo 4

Living in Japan has been one giant life experiment. It’s easy for expats to get frustrated and feel down when it gets tough, and it gets tough often. Even though Japan is not home forever, I have to say I’ve learned a lot since being here, and will go home a better person having been here. So hard, so scary, so lonely, so amazing.

So far, so good. 🙂


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