- Remember that your first line of support can always be your Prefectual Advisors (PAs). PAs are perfect for local support, and can be your first option in a crisis. They’re wonderful and kind, and at least consider them before heeding a secondary resource!
- Run by JETs, for JETs, PSG serves as a listening and support service from 8PM-7AM every day of the week
- PSG is 100% confidential and anonymous. Your name and personal information will not be asked for
- Run by JET volunteers, its purpose is to provide an ear and support when you’re in need. Some possible reasons to call include:
- PSG believes that no problem is too small, so feel free to contact them with whatever you need!
- Web mail counseling: https://www.kokoro-soudan.net/en/
- Skype counseling: https://www.fismec.co.jp/hiroba/en/secure/
- CLAIR offers subsidies for professional counselling costs incurred by JET participants for 50% of the cost incurred up to 30,000 yen per year per participant. You can find out more information about the Mental Health Counselling Assistance Programme at jetprogramme.org or by contacting a Prefectural Advisor. We respect your privacy and regard all inquiries as confidential unless stated otherwise by you.
- Kumamoto Shinri Counselling Centre (くまもと心理カウンセリングセンター） A Mental Health Clinic in Kumamoto City that offers counselling service. One doctor (Dr. Kazumi Kutsuna) can offer services in English. Appointment is necessary. Appointments can be made over their website (sinrisoudan.sakura.ne.jp), by phone or via fax. She is not a psychiatrist so she can’t prescribe medicine. Address: Japan, 〒860-0805 熊本県熊本市中央区桜町2−37 錦桜町ビル 6F Phone: 096-322-2288
- Similar to the PSG Line, but operates from 9AM-11PM daily (free).
- Is NOT JET affiliated in any way.
- Long-term and more in-depth counseling available at a cost (03-4550-1146, appointment needed).
- Loss of energy
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Do Physical Exercise. ENDORPHINS FOR THE WIN!
- Get Outside. Ride a bike! Go see friends! Bring your dictionary to a bar and study! Sometimes a change of scene can help (Bonus points if where you’re going is heated)
- Light Therapy: Get a “Light Box.” These aren’t just UV lamps, regular light bulbs, or heat lamps, so make sure you get SAD specific ones. Just 30 minutes a day, usually in the morning, has been shown to help with SAD symptoms.
- Diet. SAY NO TO CONBINI’S! Eat well, cook your own food, and failing that, make sure you keep your supply of fruit and veggies up. You’ll feel better about yourself and your lifestyle.
- Counselling: Professional help can be a good idea, especially as a last resort!
- Initial Euphoria (Honeymoon Period). Anything new is intriguing and exciting: “AAAAHHHH, LOOK AT ALL THE VENDING MACHINES. MMMM SQUID. GIVE ME DRIED SQUID. ALL THE CHILDREN ARE SOOOOOO FRIENDLY.”
- Irritation and Hostility (Culture Shock). Feel homesick and have a negative attitude towards the host culture: “Why is everyone staring at me??? They’re all so rude, why can’t they just be normal, like the backwoods Canadian farmers/ West Coast American hippies/ London Metropolitan aristocrats I grew up with.”
- Gradual Adjustment. Start to adjust and the culture seems more familiar: “The other day I went for udon and rocked out that all-kanji menu like it was my job! I own this city, and I’m going to write a kick-butt blog post as soon as I get back from ikebana practice”
- Adaptation and Biculturalism. Completely adjust to the host culture and may even experience Reverse Culture Shock upon return to home country: “I think I’m going to apply for citizenship.” “I can’t believe I’m back in New Zealand Suburbia. Why in the world are the roads so wide? Also, I can’t believe I have been sitting in this restaurant for three minutes and no one has served me. The least they could have done was yell ‘welcome’ at the top of their lungs.”
- Free-floating anxiety. Anxious but don’t know why.
- Lack of self-confidence.
- Lack of energy or interest in life.
- Panic attacks.
- Loss of initiative and spontaneity.
- Excessive anger over minor things.
- Feelings of hopelessness.
- Strong desire to associate with people of your own culture or nationality.
- Excessive amount of time spent isolated, avoiding exposure to the foreign environment.
- Eat well.
- Try relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or tactical breathing.
- Explore your neighborhood.
- Develop your network of friends here. Don’t isolate yourself.
- Don’t cut yourself off from the Japanese community around you.
- Keep a diary or journal. Write down why you came to Japan, and refer to those points.
- Learn to say “no” to things you don’t want to do and keep some time for yourself.
- If a lot of your trouble is coming from the inability to speak Japanese, study!
- Talk to people. Friends, family, support lines.
It’s normal to feel crazy at first. Usually over time the severity of the dips and peaks becomes less.
Ideas on Coping
Coping with culture fatigue requires mourning. You lose something by coming to Japan. When you come to a different culture, it’s like going to a circus and looking at yourself in one of those fun mirrors that distort your image. You look at yourself and you don’t recognize yourself. You’ve lost the normal you. People see you differently than you are used to being seen, and you may even see yourself differently. You need to mourn your loss (the loss of family, friends, and your own identity). Just like any time you experience grief, it’s important to acknowledge what you feel and move on. Over time, the mirror image gets more familiar, and hopefully you come to like what you see.
Moving to another culture is a big transition. Think back to other transitions in your life (university, 1st job, etc.) Try drawing a graph with time on one axis and how you felt on the other. Chart out how you felt before the transition to after the transition. Chart about 15 months (3 months before the transition to 1 year after the transition). What patterns do you see? Also, what did you do to cope with challenges of transition? The things that worked in the past are most likely to work for you now.
Adjustment is an intensely personal experience. Often children, when they are taken to another country or culture, revert back to behaviors that they had grown out of (which drives their parents nuts). Similarly, when the social carpet gets pulled out from under our feet, we may revert back to old ways and habits that we struggled to get over. In technical terms this is called ‘regression in the service of the ego.’ A helpful strategy to help with adjustment: write out what about Japan particularly bothers you. Not so you can bash Japan, but because it’s important to know where Japan bothers you. Pay attention to how you’re feeling, how riled up you are or aren’t when you make your list. Instead of thinking ‘Why do they always do that?’ trying thinking‘Why do I always react like this when they do that?’ Sometimes it helps to pick where not to adjust so you can adjust more fully in other areas. It’s also important to know and accept your personal style. Are you introverted or extroverted? Optimist or pessimist? Do you talk slow or fast in conversation? What do you say to yourself when something good happens? Something bad happens? Do you think through problems or feel them out? Knowing yourself can help you figure out how to cope and adjust. Keep in mind that whatever worked for you before will help you now. Use your experiences as a way to know yourself better and learn what’s important to you.
Here’s another metaphor: We are like a jewel, and culture is like the light. When light comes from a different source or angle, the jewel looks different. Sometimes just a little change makes the jewel shine, and other times it makes it look dull and unimpressive. It’s not the jewel’s or the light’s fault, it’s the result of the interaction. It’s not Japan’s fault, it’s not your fault. It’s the result of the interaction between the two.