Culture Shock & English Teachers in Japan

Culture Shock & English Teachers in Japan

This article, when it was first published, generated a lot of controversy. It made many non-Japanese, living in Japan angry. But I think these, were the people that needed to read these words the most. If the shoe fits….

Moving halfway around the world, to a culture as foreign and difficult
to penetrate as Japan’s is difficult for anyone. If you become an
English teacher here, you will probably have to deal with a Japanese
boss and staff with different cultural values from your own. This can
lead to a feeling of paranoia in some cases; isolation and

To a great extent, leaving your friends and family and going to Japan
to teach English engenders some of the same feelings as that of
teenagers rebelling from their parents in the West. Teenagers rely on
their parents, yet resent and rebel against them. Of course they
complain to their friends about them too.

Foreign English teachers in Japan must rely on their Japanese bosses
for: their work visa, in some cases their apartment, and of course
their salary. Some teachers come to Japan with virtually no knowledge
of the country. Childlike, they ask questions about Japan that many six
year old Japanese know the answers to. The new teacher can feel
embarrassed at times having to ask such basic questions as how do I use
the Japanese toilet in my apartment? Can you open a bank account for me
tomorrow? How do I get home from the school? To someone used to being
independant, it is an uncomfortable, flashback to the teenage years.

Japan is a beautiful, interesting, yet daunting country for the
newcomer. Some people thrive in the adventure that is teaching English
in Japan and others don’t. For them it is the toughest thing they have
ever done. The new arrival to Japan is faced with three alphabets to
learn just to read her pay cheque! One comes to feel pretty helpless
and childlike at times. Going to the doctor for your first cold can be
intimidating. You don’t understand her questions and she doesn’t
understand your answers.

Pictured: Odawara Castle at night

Paranoia is common amongst immigrants the world over. Experts argue it
is a symptom of not understanding what is going on around you–
linguistically and culturally. The isolation this can lead to, causes
the paranoia.

Resentment can set in if you are not prepared for this kind of culture
shock. The possible symptoms of culture shock are many, and of course
different levels of culture shock can occur over many years. If you are
not a member of the majority, culture shock can hit you at any time.
One symptom we often see in Japan is that of foreigners lashing out by
complaining. They complain about the food, they complain about Japanese
people, if they work for a Japanese company, they complain about how
they are mistreated, and if they work for an Eikaiwa school, (which
comprises most Western foreigners in Japan), they complain about the
Eikaiwa school they work for. Some complain about all Eikaiwa schools
as if all of them are the same, and all are bad. Some expats in an
attempt to beef up future sales for the book they are writing, even set
up a whole website to complain about Eikaiwa.

While there are certainly problems in Eikaiwa, there are many great
things happening too. You only have to open the pages of an ETJ
magazine, ELT Journal, or read the latest article at ELT News to see
that. No this prevalence of complaints is something more. Indeed
culture shock is one aspect of this phenomenon.

At many of the big schools the working hours are about the same as they
are at public schools in North America. Yet the teachers of GEOS and
Nova complain about their 28 hours of teaching and 40 hour a week
shifts. (They work a 9 hour shift, five days per week at GEOS, with a
one hour lunch break which equals eight hours of preparation and
teaching). One Canadian elementary school teacher said: ” I don’t know
what they are complaining about. That is what I do every week. That is
what we all do at the public schools in Canada.”

At many schools though, the shifts are much shorter and they don’t
require you to be in the office. The work time of around 20- 25 hours
per week, would be considered part-time work back home. At Kevin’s
English schools the teachers work between 20-25 hours per week with no
requirements to be in the office when they are not teaching. Under the
contract they can be asked to work as many as 28 hours per week but
none are currently doing so. The current average is about 22 hours per
week. They are not required to put in any office hours, so when they
don’t teach their time is their own.

Many of the Eikaiwa teachers miss their friends and family back home.
Some were not happy in their home country and escaped to Japan to try
to sort out their lives–only to find they are not happy here either.
The old saying: “Where ever you go, there you are.” springs to mind.

I assert that the rampant negativism on the internet about teaching at
Eikaiwa schools is only in a very small part due to the schools, but is
a symptom of culture shock and the difficulty adjusting to life in
Japan for some teachers. It is a reaction to the sense of dependancy
some teachers feel as they have to rely on their bosses and Japanese
staff for many things.

The boss who is in some cases also the landlord, is cast by the teacher
(unconsciously) in the role of parental figure, and the Eikaiwa
teacher, the star of our show, is the rebellious teenager with a need
to get it off his or her chest. The internet forums provide the perfect
venue for that.

While most Eikaiwa teachers are well balanced and make the most of
their time in Japan, it is the vocal minority we see on the internet
complaining about how unfair their Eikaiwa school is. While some of
these complaints are legitimate and the Eikaiwa school should be taken
to task, others are merely venting a teenage like rage, as they rale
against what they fail to understand is simply culture shock.

If the person is your friend, you need to listen to them and
sympathize, but at some opportune moment, you may want to suggest to
them, that couldn’t their negative feelings about their boss or school
be due to something else? If their complaint is legitimate then talking
with their union, labour relations board or finding a new job with one
of the many great Eikaiwa schools here, might be the answer.

Kevin Burns, owns and manages Kevin`s English Schools.
He also owns the blog you are reading now.
And I am Hakone

Posted in Mental Health, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

PJ Nichols has Published his novel, Puzzled

An exciting announcement from P.J. Nichols (Most of you probably know me as Peter/Pete/Petey):

I have published my first novel!

The book title is “Puzzled” – it’s a cool adventure story about a group of junior high school kids. (While writing it, I imagined it being a combination of “Harry Potter,” “Goonies,” and “Indiana Jones.”) I wrote it for an audience of preteens/teenagers, but I’m sure adults will enjoy it too.

It’s currently available only in “kindle/ebook” form (I might add a paperback version sometime in summer). But you don’t need a special device to read it, as there are free downloadable kindle apps for computers/ipads/tablets/smartphones/etc.

Please check it out! I have put links below that will take you directly to my book on Amazon USA/Canada/Japan.

If you do decide to purchase and read my book, I have a favor to ask: after you’ve finished reading it, please write and upload a review to Amazon. (When a book has lots of great reviews, it attracts tons of new readers!) Your reviews can propel my book to become a bestseller!

All sales proceeds will go into my son’s (Justin – currently 8 years old) college fund. So you’ll get to read a fun adventure novel, plus you’ll be contributing to the future of the awesome little boy who inspired me to write it!

Thanks and happy reading!


P.J. Nichols

Amazon USA

Amazon Canada

Amazon Japan

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Teacher`s Room

The Teachers’ Room

Exploring the Art of Teaching & Enhancing Classroom Practice

  • Meet like-minded teachers from around the globe
  • Ask meaningful questions about learning and teaching
  • Share classroom ideas, experiences, and research
  • Help one another grow professionally and personally

The Teachers' Room | iTDi

Since 2012, iTDi has been building a reputation for quality courses and a caring community for teachers and teaching. So far, over 1000 teachers have joined our iTDi Global Webinars, Advanced Skills Online Courses, and Teacher Development online lessons.

2018 brings you The Teachers’ Room, a collaborative online space to explore the art of teaching and enhance your classroom practice.

Free in February! TRY FOR ONE-MONTH FREE

$30 for 3 months PLUS February FREE or $110 for 12 months PLUS February FREE


Hosted and facilitated by iTDi Faculty, Steven Herder and Philip Shigeo Brown

Steven Herder“Being able to talk with like-minded colleagues, experienced mentors, and energetic new teachers anywhere in the world is the new professional development paradigm.”
Steven Herder
Philip Shigeo Brown“Whenever you get together with a good group of teachers, learning something new is both enjoyable and inevitable.”
Philip Shigeo Brown
Posted in Conferences, Teaching | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


If you believe like I do, that to go to a teaching conference you should not have to take out a new mortgage on your house, then ETJ`s Expos are for you!


The Tokyo ETJ English language Teaching Expo

Saturday/Sunday February 10/11 (9:00-6:00 each day)
Kanda Institute of Foreign Languages, Tokyo (near Kanda station)

• Over 100 presentations for all types of teaching situations

• Displays of teaching materials by international publishers and individual teachers.

Presentation Schedule Now Available
Saturday Schedule

Sunday Schedule

Information such as the presentation schedule, a map with directions . . .


The Expo is for ALL teachers
There are presentations and displays of materials for college teachers, high school teachers, elementary school teachers, kindergarten teachers… In fact, the aim is to provide top-class presentations and material displays for every kind of teacher.

You can attend all day or for part of the day
There are independent presentations arranged in time slots throughout the day. This means you can drop into the Expo for part of the day if you are busy.

Fee for attending the Expo
Each day
ETJ members: 500 yen
Non-members: 1,000 yen

Join ETJ
(no fee)

To unsubscribe from ETJ / Language Teaching Professionals newsletters,
please just reply with ‘unsubscribe’ as the subject.

Language Teaching Professionals:
Language Teaching Network:
English Teachers in Japan (ETJ):
ETJ Book Service:

Social Media
Facebook page: Language Teaching Professionals
Facebook group: ETJ Book Service
Twitter: Language Teaching Professionals
Linkedin group: Language Teaching Professionals
Linkedin group: English Teachers in Japan

Posted in Conferences, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Japan Apologists

There is a group of non-Japanese (foreigners) who look at Japan as this untouchable country.  Japan is perfect.  Or at least, Japan should not be commented upon negatively by non-Japanese, as we are guests here.

Baye McNeil, Tsurunen Marutei, and Dave Aldwinkle are heroes to me.  Even if I don`t always agree with them.  I have great respect for what they have done in Japan.

I have lived here for 28 years.  I`m an immigrant.  If there is injustice in Canada, I will speak out about it or write about it, and I do.   I do the same in Japan.  But these immigrants to Japan, do not like this when other immigrants do this.   They feel we are guests.  Guests should respect the host, even if the host, has spilt his drink, and is embarrassing himself in front of his guests, and acting badly.  I disagree.     Read More



Posted in Living | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


Video Games and TV Games ビデオゲーム(テレビゲーム)は創造性と関係がある
by Kevin R Burns

南足柄子供英会話 ビデオゲーム(テレビゲーム)は創造性と関係がある


神奈川県南足柄市にあるケビンズイングリッシュスクールでは、授業で時々ゲームを使用します。ゲームの中にはコンピューターゲームもあり、授業で使用することで学習の強化になります。ボードゲームやカードゲームもまた、英語学習を強化できます。 私たちが時々授業でゲームを使用することに不満があるというご両親も、たまにいらっしゃいます。私も、私の子供たちがあまりにも多くコンピューターやゲームをしていたら心配になります。ですが、恐らく私たち親は間違っているのです。

ミシガン州立大学での研究: ミシガン州立大学による新しい調査によると、ビデオゲーム(テレビゲーム)が暴力的か非暴力的かどうかにかかわらず、ビデオゲームをする男の子、女の子のほうがより創造的な傾向があるそうです。 ゲームがどれくらい暴力的なのか、もしくはゲームのジャンルが何なのかにかかわらず、ビデオゲームと創造性には相関性があることがミシガン州立大学の研究で分かったのです。

500人近くの12歳児に関する研究では、ビデオゲームをした子供のほうが 絵を描いたりストーリーを書くような作業においてより創造的であることが分かっています。


ミシガン州立大学の研究では、下記において有益な効果がないことも分かっています。 携帯電話の使用 インターネットとコンピューター(ビデオゲーム以外) ゲームデザイナーが学生にとってよりよい教育的なゲームを作るうえで、これらの調査結果を利用することもあるでしょう。彼らは、未来のゲームにおいて創造性を強化することの効力をより多く利用できるのです。



ですからHiroko、もしくはTaiga playをプレーさせてみてください。ですが、あまり多く遊ばせないようにしてください。 しかし、彼らがこれを行うことによって創造性が強化されます。日本の将来にとって、これはよい前兆でしょう。

Posted in Education, Teaching Children | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


by Kevin R Burns


The Finding Out Series & The English Land Series


子供に教えるためのESL本、補助教材を2つ見つけました。David Paul著の「Finding Out」シリーズと Mari Nakamura& M.H. Newton(Longman Asia ELT)著の「English Land」シリーズです。 両シリーズは日本で広く試されていて、著者が日本の生徒のことをよく理解しているのが分かります。 Mari Nakamuraは、日本中で教師を教育する会議を行っています。彼女は活動的で、教育の記事を書いたり、 教師を教育したり、若い学習者の指導も行っています。また、金沢でEnglish Squareというスクールを運営しています。 さらに彼女はETJ Ishikawa グループのコーディネーターで、アストン大学で研究を行っています。



TEYL(若い学習者に英語を教えること)に関する研究も広く行っています。 「English Land」はとてもカラフルな様式で、本を通してディズニーキャラクターが組み込まれています。 日本の生徒が知っていて、愛されているキャラクターを使うことによって、子供たちに英語を学習するための 刺激を与えるのです。これらの本は、よりリアルな英語で構成されているので子供たちにも楽しんでもらえます。 David Paul著のThe Finding Outシリーズは、子供に読み方を教えるためにおすすめしたい本です。1度Finding Out 1を 習得した子供は、教科書や子供向けの簡単な童話まで、とてもたくさんの本を読めるようになります。 David Paulたちは、このシリーズにおいてたくさんの仕事を行っています。インターネット上には、皆が使えるように 公式と非公式の教材があるのです。



David Lisgoは、このシリーズの補助教材として作られた1つです。ケビンズイングリッシュスクールでは、6歳から11歳の生徒が 英語を始めるときに「Finding Out 1」を使います。Finding Out 1が終わると、生徒はたいてい読めるようになっています。 David Paulは、すばらしい仕事をしました。子供の心に入り込む教科書のシリーズを作り、楽しい方法でフォニックスを 教えるようにしたのです。Finding Out 1でフォニックスを習得した生徒は、次のシリーズのFinding Out 2、もしくは English Land 1、2に進みます。両シリーズにはカードが付属しています。Finding Outは小さいカードですがとてもカラフルです。



一方English Landのカードは大きめで、小さなポスターのようです。日本で子供を教えるのなら、両方の教科書のシリーズと カードシリーズを購入することをおすすめします。副教材に関しては、Finding Outならソフトウェアがあります。 ご存知でしょうが、このシリーズを使う第3者(教師)によって開発されたカードや教材を見つけることも出来ます。 無料のものと、有料のものがあります。David Paulは日本中で講義や講習会を行うなど、最善の支援をしてくれています。 ETJのオーナーやESL本、ETJ Activities at Yahoo Groupsを含め、いくつものフォーラムで積極的に活動しています。



English Landに関しては、インターネットで利用可能な教材があります。ですが、私はそれらを今のところ見つけることが できていません。これは新しいシリーズなので、第3者が教材を利用できるまでに時間がかかるでしょう。 日本の子供に教えるためにも、あなたがこの2つのシリーズを見つけられるだろうと確信しています。 これらのESLの本は、高く推奨されています!

Posted in Books, Education, Yoga | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment