I've met a mix of Japanese and non-Japanese people in Osaka, and the initial conversations always go a little differently. Going through the name, age and nationality questions is usually the same. It's when we start talking about work that the 'foreigners' take their own tack.
"Oh, so do you teach English?"
I wasn't expecting to be asked this quite so often - or to have such a violent reflex reaction. I've had to stop myself from scoffing when people do ask. My instinct is not to just say "no", but "HELL NOOOOOOO."
Coming to Japan via some sort of English teaching route is simple. A no-brainer. Almost everyone I've spoken to started out as an English teacher or still does it.
It's so widespread and accessible that teaching English here is firmly an entry-level job. And definitely a job, not a career. No particular qualifications or training needed. You can speak English? First or second language? You know what, no worries, here's a classroom full of bored kids, get on with it.
And that's what makes my nose automatically wrinkle. As if I came to Japan after 6 years as a copywriter to take an entry-level position. As if! What do you take me for? I almost spat the words out. Everyone else saw that route as a step forwards - it'd be a step back for me, no matter how badly I want to stay here.
I'm THAT person. Offended by an innocent question, asked by someone who knows nothing about me. The question obviously comes before they find out what I do. Can't blame a soul for taking an interest, and I do want to make friends.
Why do I feel so strongly about this? Because I worked my arse off to get this far? Because I'd like to consider myself more established in my career? Because other people assume we all took the easy route to a one-year visa together?
Nope. It's because I AM in fact an English teacher. Just not in a classroom.
I still do freelance copywriting in English every week. I show my clients how to be more succinct and engaging. I'll send emails to make edits, reword sentences, and suggest synonyms.
I TEACH THEM (BETTER AND MORE PERSUASIVE) ENGLISH.
Oh, that was a terrible realisation, I tell you. The dawning horror was like a steamroller approaching really, really slowly.
On the upside, now when people ask I can just say "yes." Forcing the smile will probably result in extensive dental work, but we all have to make sacrifices.