Hi everyone! This is Antón bringing you a new volume of Around the world with PayPay! If you missed the very first one, you can find it clicking here .
This time we have 3 new guests who will tell us in first person some stories and experiences about Japan. Let me tell you a bit more about them!
Name: Mathe Botond
Country: Romania and Hungary
Years in Japan: 1.5 Years
What do you do at PayPay: Backend Engineer (BFF team)
Things you love about Japan:
“In Japan everyone is surprisingly open and friendly. I never experienced the bad stories I heard before coming to Japan, on the contrary. People are very interested in my culture”
Name: John Cyrus Palanca Pishva
Years in Japan: 30+Years!
What do you do at PayPay: Web Frontend (Merchant)
Things you love about Japan:
“Japan is known as a super safe country. If you see a heavily drunk person who fell asleep in the train, his iPhone will never be stolen, even if it’s dropped on the floor”
Years in Japan: 4 Years
What do you do at PayPay: Creating tools to help developers outside PayPay to integrate PayPay products <3
Things you love about Japan:
“Here you can be who you want to be. People might silently judge you, but they will not bother you with it. How many times I crossed the path of people in Akihabara and thought to myself “If this guy was walking dressed like that in Paris, he would quickly be in trouble””
I mentioned before that in Japan, foreigner residents represent less than 2% of the total population, so I guess that hungarian-romanians are very difficult to find here! You mentioned in your introduction that everyone shows interest in your culture. Do you meet a lot of people like that?
I go out a lot and meet new people, and whenever that happens, the surprisingly confusing topic of where I am from has to be settled. Really good conversion starter. I am a Hungarian from Romania, it’s quite common in Transylvania, the region where I was born. I claim both as my nationality, I have double citizenship and speak both languages. Another good topic. At this point they tend to start counting the number of languages I speak. For most Japanese I meet, I am both the first Hungarian and Romanian they have met, so it’s a practical way to cross out two items at once on their list of which countries they know someone from. Which is something they never miss to let me know. This simple question always tends to become a long conversation. A colleague ordered a famous product from Romania after I explained about my national cuisine and beverages. Some ask if I know Romanian or Hungarian restaurants in Tokyo. I met someone who visited Hungary and many who said they would gladly visit Romania, some try to guess the capitals, others know famous people like Liszt or Comaneci, as popularized by the Japanese comedian Kitano “Beat” Takeshi (there is a famous move he does a lot called “The Komanechi”).
I heard many times that people in Japan tend to overreact when communicating with foreigners about their cultures and sometimes, some people take it as some sort of attack or “hidden discrimination”. Are we that different? Is it hard to integrate in the Japanese society or is it more a miscommunication problem?
I like the fact that Japanese are very often curious about your culture and I never felt “racism” in a bad way, more like people assuming that I was different and giving me a fork instead of chopsticks to make it more convenient for me, or asking me questions, assuming that I will not be able to speak japanese and try their best to speak English. And as long as you’re respectful, they will be very happy to integrate you and make you participate in their culture !
Is not always good, sometimes it can be confusing or overwhelming, immigration and apartment renting is particularly tedious, but once arrived and settled, meeting new people, even dating, is super easy and fun, Japanese and other expats make you feel welcome to both the country and their inner circles. I came to know about Japan as many other foreigners, through popular culture, like manga, anime, movies and music. But moving to Japan was an adult decision, I had realistic expectations. I was really curious about the working culture. I wanted to understand how Japanese can do their best all the time. How are they so disciplined? And why? After one year living in Japan I experienced both the good part and the not so good part of it. Western culture is much more different, but I don’t think it’s better or worse. It depends a lot on every person and company.
Japanese culture has Tatemae (建前) … so communications are sometimes not straightforward enough and this may cause some inevitable mistakes. But contrary to what people might think, Tatemae makes things easier, like for example, when being rejected you will not feel that bad.
Once, I went to a festival in Kameido, Tokyo. I found out that people there work very hard for their traditional festivals. My Japanese friend’s mom, who is Japanese told me directly: “You came here and you’re not joining?” I said: “No..” She just stared at me and asked again until I finally joined… I got amazing memories from that day, especially eating sushi after with them and learned I was gently suggested to be a part of the Japanese culture.
Cyrus, you have been raised here but you have a very interesting mixed background. Can you tell me some pros and cons of having that international environment in Japan?
I grew up in Japan since I was 2 years old. Both of my parents are non-Japanese. So school was Japanese, TV Programs were Japanese, but My Home Language was trilingual: Japanese, Tagalog, English. My school was in Shiga prefecture which is a little bit countryside. I was often the only foreigner during the school days. The advantage was that it was easy to be popular, but on the other hand, I was strictly instructed from my parents to not act weirdly since I was a foreigner, which made me easy to spot from other’s eyes.
Should we try hard to integrate ourselves in Japan and disconnect completely from our cultures or keep some doors open to our communities here?
I’m not so attached to my community, but the French community in Japan (especially in Tokyo) is very present, so it’s really easy to go back to speaking French, especially at the beginning, when speaking English was not something very natural. It was a relief to be able to go to some bars/events where people were speaking mostly French. Also Japan has the image of France being at the top of the “luxury”, so it’s kind of funny to see that anything that has a “french touch” or a french text or name, is supposed to be kinda fancy.
Regarding the food, it’s quite expensive to eat French food, but the good point is that you will be able to find almost anything you want in Tokyo if you are ok to spend a bit of extra money. So you’re not going to eat some good cheese with good bread everyday, but I found it very easy to just eat it when I miss it, maybe once every 2 months. The part that was the most difficult for me is that the Japanese way of cooking is very different from France and I understood why our country was so famous for food. The dishes in Japan are usually very good, but there is not as much variety as French cuisine and the flavors are a bit repetitive. I found it a bit hard to find a lot of pleasure in food after 1 or 2 years, I think you’ll have to find your own way to mix both cultures for that
How are we keeping the balance between both western and Japanese working cultures at PayPay?
As I mentioned, Western culture is much more different, not better or worse. It depends a lot on every person and company. At PayPay I feel like they took the best of both worlds, the motivation and drivenness of the Japanese with the flexibility and openness of Western culture, to create the best working environment I experienced so far.
People in the Philippines are very outgoing and very relaxed. I remember seeing at the supermarket a group of cashiers working at the end of a long checkout line, happily drawing lots in front of the long queue of customers to decide what they would have for dinner that day, and it made me smile. No one complained about it.. In Japan, thanks in part to the environment I grew up in, I became bilingual and fell in love with programming. I thought I could maximize my value in a global environment, even though the IT environment in Japan is often criticized. Now, I feel that I am actually contributing to the team at PayPay, a company with global human resources, by using both of my skills on a daily basis.
Moving to Japan permanently. How did you make the decision of such a huge challenge?
I learned a few years ago to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself. I have started with small trips, traveling to nearby cities alone, doing volunteer work and gradually these things became bigger and bigger challenges. Moving to and working in Japan was the biggest challenge so far, and the one I am the most proud of. So many of my friends and colleagues supported me, many of them I have never met. They trusted me with small certainty. And thanks to that, it feels like I am on a constant holiday. Of course there is lots (and lots) of work, but even work does not feel like work. I have the opportunity to learn a lot, challenge myself beyond what I imagined. I need to face my limits and overcome them almost every day. I travel a lot, but my everyday life feels as if it’s part of the travel too. I just step outside my door and I am in Tokyo. I feel like I am on a big adventure. .
I had no particular affinity with Japan before coming, but from the few things I heard, it seemed to fit my personality well (I don’t like people randomly coming to me and being familiar from the beginning for instance. I like security, I like calm and so on …), so I had an opportunity to come, I needed changes in my life, I took the chance and I never had any regrets after 4 years 🙂
At the end of the first volume I mentioned that I will cover our WFA policy (Work From Anywhere at anytime) in COVID-19 times. Please do not be disappointed! I promise that this will be covered in the next volume! Please stay tuned! 😊👍