Tokyo expat life

In the April edition of our expat interview series we hear from Christiane Brew, a British expat now living and working in Japan.

Christiane, easy one to start with! Why did you move to Japan?

I moved to Japan initially on a three month contract. I thought that if I didn’t like it, then it was only three months! That was four years ago – I kept accepting contract renewals.

What’s the best thing about where you live?

I used to live in Nagoya, and the best thing about that was the access to the mountains with a like-minded climbing group. I then moved to Tokyo, where I live now, and the best thing about being here is the various opportunities. I started going to improvisation (improv) workshops 18 months ago to rekindle my thespian nature, and for the past six months I’ve gradually been performing more and more. I’m also starting to go to auditions and find jobs for narration and voice-over work, and I’ve already acted in a corporate video. These types of opportunities are more accessible here than in the UK.

The healthcare here is also better than in the UK, and I am reluctant to go home because I need so much of it at the moment! I am part of the health insurance scheme in Japan so I only pay 30% of costs. I get seen by doctors/physiotherapists almost straight away. As I have rheumatoid arthritis and back issues physiotherapy is my main treatment at the moment, and it is exceptional in comparison to the UK. I get an hour of massage treatment/rehabilitation and we discuss exercises. For that I pay between £6 and £11 per session, in comparison to a free service in the UK, but which is 15 minutes of mediocre massage, rushed exercises and not much thought or attention. I don’t think it’s the NHS’s fault, its just the way it is.

What (if anything) do you miss about home?

I miss my nine nieces and nephews. My family are technophobes, utterly useless, so I get to see some of the kids via Skype once every three months. This semester is the first time I haven’t gone home for a visit between semesters/contracts, so it’ll be a year since I last saw them.

I also miss Jaffa cakes, hugs and chats with friends who know me well, and bombing around Cambridge on my bike in the summer without a care in the world!

If you could change one thing about where you live, what would it be?

"I’m happy to embrace everything that is Japan!"

“I’m happy to embrace everything that is Japan!”

I would change, um, nothing. I’m here because of this country. Oh hang on, peoples’ inability to stick to road rules when biking on the pavements! I go left as I would in my car, and then the oncoming cyclist goes to their right….Why???  Also, ATM opening times, it’s just stupid that the most convenient country in the world remains inconvenient in the ATM department. Oh, and the cost of travelling around Japan being the same price as a flight out, both are expensive. Otherwise, I’m happy to embrace everything that is Japan!

Do you plan on moving again in the future? If so, where and why.

expat interview Tokyo

Improv and acting groups in Tokyo are a great way to meet people.

I thought of this just this morning, it just popped into my head….Europe, somewhere like Belgium or Germany. The men are hotter, and there is a higher percentage of males who speak English and are not afraid to do so. They are more confident approaching women, they’re taller, and there is also an English improv scene in those places. My ideal would be to live and work in the US, they’ve got the best improv scene and lots of famous groups, but I’ll have to marry to be able to get in on that action! As my health has been so bad, I couldn’t consider it before, but maybe in the future.

What was the most difficult aspect of moving abroad?

Most difficult aspect? Packing for four months at a time knowing there were two completely different seasons to pack for and trying to make my luggage as light as possible. I’ve become desensitised now to saying goodbye to people back home. People have their own lives and it’s a fact that we are only part of each others’ lives for possibly six weeks of the year. I don’t have parents, so it’s just my brother and sisters, godmum, and friends back home.

Share your top three tips for people thinking about moving to Japan.

  1. Bring deodorant and toothpaste from your home country.
  2. Check out to help get you settled in with activities you enjoy and to meet friends (Tokyo can be the busiest but loneliest place ever).
  3. Plan in advance any travelling you want to do within Japan or Asia because everyone tends to have time off at the same time and so everyone travels at the same time, and things get expensive and booked up early.

expat guide brasilBrazil’s strong economy and low unemployment rate (5.1% in 2013) make it an attractive destination for expats. Our in-depth guide for people moving to Brazil includes information about visas, housing, jobs, education, and now it’s all available in Spanish!

An official language in seven of the ten countries which border Brazil, fluency in Spanish has become more desirable in recent years as Brazil seeks to strengthen economic ties with its neighbours.

If you’re planning a move to Brazil find out how to get a driving licence, choose a mobile phone, and open a bank account, all in Just Landed’s guide. Join our expat community and find a language exchange or check the housing portal to find your new home.

Did you know?

  • Capoeira is the official national sport of Brazil, but football is considered the most popular.
  • There are 284 flights per day between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, making it the busiest route in the world.
  • Rio de Janeiro was the capital of Portugal for 13 years from 1808 until 1821.

Guía de Brasil lanzado en español!

Guía de Brasil

Image: Praia de Copacabana – Rio de Janeiro, Brasil by BisonLux (CC BY 2.0)

El Brasil atrae a mucha gente del exterior gracias a una fuerte posición económica y su baja tasa de desempleo (5.1% en 2013). Nuestro guía para los que se van a trasladar a Brasil incluye información sobre visas, viviendas, empleos, educación y ahora lo tienes todo en español!

El español es el idioma oficial de 7 de los 10 países que tienen frontera con Brasil y esto significa que el dominio del español es cada vez más importante ya que el Brasil busca fortalecer las relaciones económicas con sus vecinos.

Si planeas mudarte a Brasil, descubre cómo conseguir un permiso de conducción, cómo comprar un teléfono móvil, y cómo abrir una cuenta bancaria. Todo lo puedes encontrar en el guía de Just Landed. Únete a nuestra comunidad de expatriados y encuentra un intercambio de idiomas o busca casas en nuestro portal de viviendas.

Sabías que…

  • La capoeira es el deporte oficial de Brasil, pero el fútbol es considerado el más popular.
  • La ruta entre Río de Janeiro y Sao Paulo es la ruta aérea más congestionada del mundo con 284 vuelos al día.
  • Río de Janeiro fue la capital de Portugal durante 13 años desde 1808 hasta 1821.

Whether dissatisfied by your native land or seeking a way to avoid paying tax on your hard-earned cash, renouncing citizenship is never an easy decision to make. For celebrities, however, finding a new country to call home is rarely a challenge. These are just a few examples of why the rich and famous choose to relinquish their nationality.

Gérard Depardieu France Russia TaxGerard Depardieu

The most famous character actor on the silver screen, French-born Gerard Depardieu, has taken centre stage in recent years as the saga surrounding his citizenship has unfolded.

A self-proclaimed ‘Citizen of the World’, Depardieu currently has nationality from both France and, as of January 2013, Russia. He has been a resident of Belgium since December 2012, announcing the same month his intentions to turn in his French passport. The following month, Russia granted the actor citizenship. He has since, controversially, spoken out in support of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Many have suggested, however, that Depardieu’s desire to leave France was in fact so he could become a tax exile. The actor found himself at the centre of a debate over France’s proposed ‘super tax’, which would see a 75% income tax introduced for the country’s top earners.

Gérard Depardieu (Siebbi) / CC BY 3.0

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein Germany US citizenship

Einstein was only one of many Jewish intellectuals to flee Europe in the years leading up to World War 2.

The German-born physicist was on a trip to America when Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933. Upon his return to Europe, Einstein received news that his home in Berlin had been raided by the Nazis, prompting his decision to return to, and remain in, the United States.

Einstein openly supported the Allied forces and was responsible for informing the US government of German research into new bombs and the need to begin similar research.

He was officially ‘stateless’ for seven years whilst residing in Princeton, New Jersey; finally becoming an American citizen in 1940.

T S Eliot Britain US citizenshipT.S. Eliot

The influential poet is, conversely, an example of an American leaving behind the land of opportunity, for life on the other side of the pond. Arguably, Eliot identified more with the European artistic movement of the age. He moved to Britain in 1914, aged 25.

In 1927 Eliot converted to Anglicanism, taking up an active role in the English church and wholly embraced British culture; it was even remarked that he lost his Midwest accent.

In the same year, Eliot finally became a naturalised British subject. He would go on to receive the Order of Merit award by King George VI in 1949, one of the country’s highest accolades.

Tina Turner

Tina Turner Switzerland German US citizenship

Another big name to have renounced American citizenship, Tina Turner’s decision to turn in her US passport had been a long time coming.

For the past two decades she has resided in an affluent community of Zurich, Switzerland and recently married a German. She officially became a Swiss citizen in October 2013, receiving a passport from her adoptive nation; however, only after passing a citizenship exam and German aptitude test.

She stated that her reason for choosing to become an ‘ex-American’ was that she did not see herself living in the United States again.

Image: Tina Turner, Drammenshallen, Norway by Helge Øverås

di Stefano Argentina Spain football Madrid nationalityAlfredo di Stefano

Regarded as one of the greatest football players of all time, Alfredo di Stefano is best known for his time at Spanish giants Real Madrid. Di Stefano was, however, born in Argentina.

The rules regarding eligibility have since become much stricter, but di Stefano made appearances for multiple national teams. He played for his native Argentina, Spain, and also Colombia; although the caps for Colombia are not recognised by FIFA.

He officially acquired Spanish citizenship in 1956, at the request of his club, after having played in the country for three years. Restrictions on the number of foreign players permitted in the squad at any one time meant that only once di Stefano was a Spanish citizen, were Real Madrid  then free to acquire a new player from abroad. He was also eligible to help Spain qualify for the 1962 World Cup, however injury prevented him from representing his adoptive country in the finals.

Alfredo Di Stefano in Argentina national team (public domain)