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7 Things New OFWs Need to Understand Before Working in Japan

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So you’re going to work in Japan! Congratulations! As a country that’s being visited by millions — 26.1 million from January to October 2018 — staying here longer than tourists can allows you to visit great attractions and to experience and appreciate a truly unique culture.

Speaking of culture, there are also instances when, as a newcomer, you’ll experience shock and awe how things are done. But to ease yourself from such experience, here are some of the things to know before arriving in Japan as a Filipino worker.

Japanese people are more comfortable with native language

In other words, you need to learn Japanese language before coming over. That’s because knowing Japanese makes it easier for both you and your colleagues/clients to do your jobs and transact business.

That being said, it doesn’t mean Japanese people cannot speak English. Most locals speak English better than they admit. It’s just that they’re more comfortable with the Japanese language.

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It’s not a wonder that one of the common requirements for workers coming to Japan is the language proficiency and ability to speak, read or write Japanese. TESDA offers free Japanese language courses or you can use paid apps and online tutorial, YouTube videos or speak to someone who has mastered the language.

Commuters stand and move on the platform of a train station in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Punctuality is observed religiously

If we’re used to be late for meetings, dates and other appointments in the Philippines, it’s better to ditch the habit and be more aware of arriving at work, business meetings and other appointments on time. It’s not only your reputation as a friend or colleague that’s at stake, but also as a sign of respecting other people’s precious time.

Being punctual is also a sign of a disciplined, well-organized worker. To accomplish this habit, have your schedules mapped out, prepare what to bring before an appointment and check transport schedules and distances. It’s better to arrive earlier than arriving exhausted and anxious because you’re tardy.

Get used to tremors and minor quakes

As part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan occasionally experience minor earthquakes every now and then. As terrifying it can be for newcomers, locals are already used to it so it helps to know that such natural phenomena can happen at any given time.

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Although there are huge tremors that have taken place in the past — notably the Fukushima earthquake in April 2011 — they don’t happen frequently. Also, Japan’s technology innovation has also helped buildings withstand shaking. In case of emergency, there are measures in place such as hearing sirens and direction to evacuation areas.

You need to improve your budgeting skills

Cost of living in Japan is high, so you have to consider your expenses even before arriving in Japan. Costs of food, accommodation and basically other necessities is higher when you live in the city. Although the salary is often at par with your living expenses, you can save money if you’re able to make adjustments. Perhaps living a bit further from workplace in the city, choosing smaller flats and cooking food at home helps you save money.

Discipline is something you’ll learn and appreciate

Filipinos are sometimes notorious when it comes to discipline. On the other hand, while Japan is far from perfect, there are plenty of things about discipline we can learn from its people. Cleanliness of surroundings, law and order and things like recycling their household trash, queuing in line, behaving inside the railway carriages and how people treat their neighbors.

As for you the OFW in Japan, it’s not difficult to follow their lead.

Honesty is the best policy

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You might have heard stories about how the Japanese people dealt with lost items and return cash they found to their rightful owners. That’s just how honest Japanese people are. When you lose your phone or bag, someone who found it will take time to return it to the lost and found counters or police kobans.

Sometimes you’ll ask yourself why can’t this be done in my country. But the good thing is that you’ll be the first to preach the benefits of honesty. You feel safe, and in return you reciprocate the same thing.

Cash remains king

Just when you think Japan is much more advanced than the Philippines and now adopt cards or smart payments more than cash, you’re wrong. Many shops accept only cash and card isn’t always a welcome mode of payment. That being said, make sure to always have plenty of yen in your wallet in order to avoid awkward conversations that can easily get lost in translation.

Just in case you don’t have enough cash, head to a convenience store like Lawsons, 7-Eleven or Family Mart to use the ATM.


Working in Japan can be stressful as the cultural identity is to please the superiors and maintain good reputation among colleagues. But to a hardworking Filipino, this kind of work lifestyle can also be a rewarding experience as they get paid higher, adopt easily and, of course, enjoy the best Japan can offer.

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