Would you rather live in Japan or China?
Answered by: Mark Evison,I've been to 42 countries, living and working abroad 20yrs
After seven years in China, and a brief trip to Japan, i would have said Japan for sure… but after living in Japan just over a year, I realised it’s actually a terrible place to live as a foreigner (and possibly as a Japanese!).
Japan is boring. And I'd never really been bored in my life before coming here. Maybe it would be better if i had a very high income and lived in Central Osaka or Tokyo… but a major issue is the Japanese. They are usually polite, and safe to be around, but I feel like a second class citizen for the first time in my life as a British guy who spends a lot of time in Switzerland.
I've felt isolated here, and think that's normal. The woman next door is petrified of me (and I'm only 1.7 m, 67 kg and usually in a shirt and tie). People speak English but won't try. Working like robots. Behaving like them too.
The cost of living is higher than I first thought too. Fruit and vegetables are astronomical (potatoes are sold individually, even for small ones). A night out with (just) a few drinks and (only) bar snacks costs at least 100 USD per person. Internal flights are relatively cheap, but the Shinkansen (bullet train) prices are extortionate.
China has food/health and safety issues, shouting and lack of empathy, crowds, serious pollution of air and water, and rising prices… But I felt much more welcome, part of the community, and had a considerably higher sense of freedom in China (surprising?!). The Japanese are too well-behaved to the point of stifling each other, while in China people just want to get on with living.
I lasted 7 years in China. My flight out of Japan next month will mark 16 months here.
Given the choice, I'd live in China, and holiday in Japan.