It was just my personal agenda for the week, but still, it was the first time I’ve sent an intra-office email in English in over a year at this job. Even though English proficiency is a job requirement. I always thought that, as the foreigner, I should keep my head down and lull them all into forgetting that I was an outsider.
But who am I kidding, if they read my mangled emails in Japanese, they know. So, why should I waste my time?
Confidence x Identity
In all my jobs in Japan, I’ve worked like hell to prove that I belong (until 5:30, that is. I don’t do that overtime stuff). I wanted to show that even though I don’t speak or write as well, I can hold my own with anyone there. Linguistically, I can’t, of course. I know I’m better at initiative and efficiency than the bulk of my coworkers (again, I go home by 5:30, with all my work done), but the language thing always gets me down. I’m afraid I’ll never be valued as an excellent employee because I don’t speak as well.
But maybe I don’t have to. Maybe if I stop obsessing over trying to be as good in Japanese as my Japanese coworkers, then I can reassert myself and work with a little more confidence. Loads of Japanese companies hire foreigners to do nothing more than polish external communications (I’ve been that guy, and I still do it from time to time). There’s no reason I can’t turn that on its head. If I need to put something out in polished Japanese, I’ll have someone else polish it for me. In the mean time, I’ll be over here, getting stuff done.
At least, that’s the idea. So far, in just over a year at this job, plus three years at the job before that, I’ve managed one work email in English. But hey, it’s a start.
And speaking of starts
This is the start of a new idea, blogging more about what it’s like to work here in Japan. Part stress relief and part a suspicion that it’s no less interesting than what I usually write about. I’d put a lot of stress on myself in the past to make this a writer blog and to say really insightful stuff all the time. But really, it’s a me blog. And that’s whatever I happen to feel like talking about.
So what do you think? Going to ignore all the “JWS” (Japanese Working Stiff) posts in the future? Or is this something you could get used to? Let me know below!