My Response: “Did We Make The Right Choice?”
For some reason, “Simon And Martina” came up on my Youtube recommended list last night. I used to be a fan of them years ago, but it’s been ages since I’ve watched their videos. But it was very late, I wasn’t feeling well and I was waiting for medicine to kick in. So I watched their video – “Japan of Korea: Did We Make the Right Choice?”
As someone who ALSO spent time in Japan and Korea, I found myself shaking and nodding my head along with some of their points, and wanted to chime in.
First things first, I almost feel like they’ve made the decision a little prematurely? When I lived in Japan, I had an amazing time… until I hit month 13. Once I had been there after a year, a little thing called municipal taxes kicked in, and I was suddenly owing over $1000 in taxes that I had to pay over the next year. Now, Simon and Martina are financially set – being a Youtuber with 1.1 million subscribers, they can probably afford these taxes without much worry. However, the vast majority of foreigners living in Japan are not prepared for this tax, mentally or financially. I, personally, had no idea it was coming, and as a member of a very expensive fandom, I did not have the money put aside.
Now, to go over the categories that they had…
Neighbours and Sounds
I personally want to know what magical neighbourhood Simon and Martina have moved to where people are knocking on their door to get to know them. I lived in a LeoPalace, which is the same as an officetel, and never once had a neighbour knock on my door to get to know me. So like Martina acknowledges, they do live in a very unique situation where they have a flipping house instead of an apartment. I always enjoyed getting to see the houses and those kinds of neighbourhoods when I lived in Japan, and I can see them being close like described by Simon and Marina, but… the average foreigner living in Tokyo is probably not going to experience this. However! I have heard stories about people living in the inaka (rural areas) and it’s rocking that neighbourhood vibe. So in this case, if you’re really wanting the experience that Simon and Martina are describing, try living in rural Japan. But that is a whole other kettle of fish.
One thing I will agree with though – Japan is pretty damn quiet. And Seoul is this mad, chaotic, wonderful place that never seems to sleep (except the subways.) I loved the fact that some movie theatres ran all night. But honestly, if that level of quiet is something that Simon and Martina want to keep, they’re going to have an interesting time returning to Canada. Toronto is loud and noisy as well, and I have been woken up by noises here far more than I did in Korea.
F For Foreigner
Going to have to really disagree with the Japanese side of things on this one. Maybe things have changed since I was in Japan, but when I lived there, I dealt with a lot of shades of fear from staff having to deal with me being foreign. But at the same time, I definitely had that problem in South Korea too. I’m wondering if Simon and Martina have moved to a magical, foreign friendly neighbourhood like Azabu or some other area that has an international school or diplomats around there.
Life as a Youtuber
I am not a Youtuber, so I can’t really get into it. However, I am glad they explained the hoops they had to jump through in Korea just to be a Youtuber. It explains a lot of their decisions.
Simon and Martina also mention that they are under the Breaker Network now, which I think probably makes their immigration status easier because they have people to vouch for their employment status. As well, since Japan has a Youtube creator space, there seems to be a bigger acceptance of Youtubing as a career in Japan, so I can understand why they would pick Japan over South Korea in this case.
Driving In Japan
This is one thing where I will strongly agree with Simon and Martina. The driving in South Korea is absolutely bananas. I still don’t like crossing the street because I’m used to seeing people get hit by cars and busses. I do remember that driving in Japan is very calm (and much more rare I think – I don’t recall ever getting into a car once in Japan!)
But Martina even mentioning that she’ll get into a cab in Japan brings me back to that tax issue. If you can afford a taxi in Japan, you are living a good life. Most people I know in Japan end up taking the subway because it’s cheaper, it’s convenient, and there’s no reason to need a cab. Because taxis in Japan are notoriously expensive.
As Simon acknowledges, “our version of Korea is different to your version of Korea, and our version of Japan is different to your version of Japan.” As Youtubers, they do have a very unique situation. For the average teacher, you may find the structure of Japan stifling and oppressive, or you might flourish in knowing where your place is. If you’re in Korea, you might find the chaos of the cities exciting, or they might be terrifying.
Personally, I loved the character of Japan, but working as an English teacher was very difficult to adjust to. At the same time, I found there was a bit more freedom in teaching in Korea, and yet there was a lot of culture shock. I was very lucky in both situations to have fandom to get me through my time there. Whatever country you decide to move to, make sure that you are happy and have something that can get you through the rough times – because there will be tough times, even though there will be more good times.