Avoiding Bitter Foreigner Syndrome in Japan!

If you find yourself teaching in Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, etc., there’s a strong chance you’ll run into your fair share of bitter and angry foreigners. This seems to be a sad reality. During my 14 years abroad, most expats I’ve met are quite happy, but some grumpy (some FAR more grumpy than others) folks turn up from time to time.

I’m going to focus on teachers in this post. The following is post is taken from an eBook about teaching I wrote in 2011. This is basically advice for new teachers to countries like Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, etc. TAKE THE ADVICE:


Life Outside of School (MEET LOCALS)

One of the best ways to ensure you get the most out of your time in Japan and Korea is to get out and do things. As one teacher in Korea put it, “The people with the most negative attitudes tend to be the ones who go from home to work, to expat bar and back to home again.” Spending all of your time with other foreigners will never give you a true taste of the country you have decided to move to. Of course there is nothing wrong with having non-native friends, but spending time with Korean people if in Korea or Japanese people while in Japan is a great way to get a more “true” experience of the place you are in.

(There can be some very negative foreigners living in Japan and many tend to hang out in local drinking holes with other negative foreigners.)

There are of course so many amazing things you can do on the weekends and after work. Too many teachers fall into the trap of simply going home every night after work and watching movies or nightly trips to the foreigner bar after work. They keep themselves in a cocoon of sorts and can at times; grow to resent the country they are in. I can even remember at one point during my time in Korea simply waking up in the morning, going to the gym, Starbucks, home for lunch, work and then back home again. I repeated that routine practically everyday and soon realized that I might as well have been living in Canada at the time. I was missing out on a lot of wonderful opportunities to experience the things Korea had to offer, but I was instead simply staying at home and drinking coffee from a Seattle-based coffee chain!

Many teachers who have lived in Japan and Korea for many years and continue to enjoy their time there recommend getting out of the house and doing things. Go hiking or travel on the weekends. Learn to play an instrument from that country. Take a class in calligraphy, pottery or language lessons. Study Tae Kwon do, Karate or Kendo. Take language lessons or do language exchanges. Start writing a blog or get into photography. There are so many things that you can do to make the time in your new home so interesting and stimulating.



I wrote this several years ago (2011). It was originally part of a self-published eBook called Teaching in Asia: Tales and the Real Deal. I plan to share segments of this book here on Just Japan Stuff. Hopefully some of you will find the information useful. 


The writer:

Kevin O’Shea is the host of the Just Japan Podcast and the Just Japan News Podcast. He is also the guy behind JustJapanStuff. Kevin is a Canadian educator who lives in Kobe, Japan with his family.

Follow him on Twitter: @jlandkev

Email: justjapanpodcast@gmail.com





  1. In addition to what you say, many can wrap themselves up in the internet and skyping with friends back home.
    I was fortunate not to run into too many bitter foreigners, but I met some. They complained a lot about how they were “let inside” Japanese society. While they might have had a little bit of a point, they weren’t right in so much of that. They could have made more of an effort, but they chose not to.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s