We asked our current JETs what they wished they knew before coming. Here are their responses:
I wish I knew…
-to save up for the huge lump sum of residential tax we’ll be forced to pay at the beginning of the next year (this affects those going into their 2nd years and up more than 1st years).
*Note: depending on which city you live in, you may pay it all in a lump sum in June, or it may be taken out bit by bit in each monthly paycheck.
-that we can’t get any more than 3 years worth of pension back (even if we stay 4-5+ years).
-to open a credit card and bring it from home. Even if I won’t use it much, it’s a good idea to start building your credit history early to get a Japanese credit card, for example. Most MVNOs will require a credit card to buy a sim card plan (you can usually later switch to taking money out of your bank), and it saves a lot of hassle and worry when trying to buy things that require a lot of money–plane tickets, for example.
-to start budgeting earlier. When you arrive you’re going to be so tempted by everything you see that your money will evaporate in no time! I know it’s boring advice, but if you’re hoping to make some savings out of your time here then the earlier you become conscious of how much you’re using the better! It’s easy to blow money on clothes, meals out and other stuff. Saving is very easily done, over half your check possibly if you’re disciplined! We recommend using the Moneytree app or TOSHL for devices that don’t support the former.
-although they usually charge you a couple hundred extra yen, to use the existence of bank transfers and convenience store transfers to your benefit. Ever been in the situation where there’s only 1 item left in stock or the item you’re looking at is on sale for a very limited time, but not sure if you really want to buy it yet? Instead of choosing to pay instantly with a credit card, choose a bank or conbini transfer–the store will normally give you a few days to get the payment in, so you have a small extension to think over whether you want the purchase or not. If you don’t pay in time or choose not to, your purchase will simply be cancelled with no penalty to you.
-that cool biz “officially ends” Oct. 1st and we are somehow, automatically supposed to know to dress in blazers, etc. from that point onward.
-that fall and early winter are the only times you may feel like you have a job, since all the other times the teachers are super busy. Plan big projects that require multiple lessons for this time of year!
-to never pour your own drink at a work party–pour the cups around you, and others will do the same for you.
-to bring extra omiyage (souvenirs from your travel/home to share with everyone) and hand them out not just to my coworkers, but also to my friends and neighbors.
-to pass out omiyage individually so that I can get to know each of my
colleagues and break the ice instead of leaving it in the pantry for them
to help themselves.
-don’t buy omiyage/rewards that aren’t individually wrapped.
-that my supervisor (and sometimes JTEs) are expected to help me with my daily life, and if they can’t, I can go to the PAs or the CIR for help.
-how to not get screwed over with WiFi (or lack thereof). I went in and made the mistake of asking for “internet” without specifically specifying “WiFi.” I got the cheapest option the guy recommended, which I learned 2 weeks later upon installation was Ethernet. I could pay the company 500-1000 yen a month to rent their router, but I found out 2-3 months later that buying a router (that works with my computer) gets me fabulous, working WiFi. I bought a 2000 yen router on Amazon, and now have WiFi for the price of Ethernet (+ the one time router expense).
-to not let people constantly baby you; learn Japanese if you haven’t already, make many contacts–not just a few, because if you make only a few with people who baby you, you can get screwed over.
-to sign up early for internet banking for Ashikaga Ginkou. Also sign up for Shinsei Bank account (which has English services and is especially useful for travel, emergencies, savings, etc.).
-to wait and shop around for cell phone plans instead of just taking the first one I found. Also look into MVNOs if you have an unlocked phone you can bring from home–they tend to be much cheaper than the major brands in Japan.
-to invest more time in studying Japanese. From the beginning I was comfortable with the Japanese I already learned, so I didn’t study, and now after a year I feel my Japanese hasn’t gotten any better than when I came.