Why Is It Difficult To Be a Freelancer if You’re Young&Asian?(Specifically Japanese)
As some of you may know, I started my freelance career straightaway after university without any professional experiences, and that is really an unusual path if you’re from Japan (or I would say Asia in general).
Technically, starting a freelance business requires a lot of time and effort no matter where you’re from, but if you’re Asian, you’ll have another type of obstacle, “Pressures”.
There are several things I want you to know about how Japanese people are trapped in conventional thinking, as well as what I’m trying to achieve my main Japanese blog to change the whole situation in Japan.
The first hard part is to persuade your family
I came across the documentary by a Korean journalist Youjin Do (@youjindo) who filmed a Korean couple that became digital nomad. In the video, they said it was really difficult to persuade their parents, because the tie between family is quite strong in Korea.
I can totally relate to what has been said in this video, because I have also went through a very similar situation. Although my parents were more easy going, I remember they first opposed my idea of living in Germany. Some of my friends said to me “You’re crazy” or “You can’t do that (because you’re going to fail)”.
A stigma: You’re not a “member of society”if you’re unemployed
You may wonder why parents and friends don’t show understandings for unconventional lifestyle such as digital nomad and even pressure those who are trying to take the leap in seeking their own happiness.
Allow me explain. In Japanese society, there is a word “shakaijin” which literally means “member of society” that has been used to describe full-time employees. Usually, Japanese people become “shakaijin” after school. People use this word to introduce themselves when they’re asked for example, “So, what do you do?” — “I’m Shakaijin.” meaning you’re engaging in the society as an important member of workforce.
The most important thing to note here is however, people who work part time are not deemed as “member of society” which implies a sort of discrimination. It’s shameful thing if you’re not “shakaijin” after graduating school, and that social stigma is soooo strong in Japan. People are too afraid to be unemployed, resulting in crazy job hunting where all the students in black suits looking identical try to get a job by doing exactly the same thing as others.
Young people in Japan are confused
I feel young people in Japan are confused what to believe today. I feel young people including me are more Westernized. We are taught to have own opinion and idea to stand out in the crowd, to be original, to be equal to everybody, etc,..that are all influenced by a Western way of thinking, and most young people would agree with these ideas. However, what’s confusing is that the older generation doesn’t necessarily follow the same values that we have,and it is often the case when you are officially employed as a “shakaijin”, the ecosystem in the company doesn’t always work in a way what we have taught at school.
Pointing out the absurdities
Interestingly, so many people are coming to realize this absurdity of how the notion of “shakaijin” means nothing or its invalidity in our society anymore. I can see it from the reactions to the post I contributed to The Huffington Post about how the notion of “social member” is differently used in Germany and Japan. I got so many comments and likes that agreed with what I wrote.
Probably, the word gave people a certain sense of entitlement and responsibility when Japan had economic miracle around the late 80’s until the bubble burst, but it is so ridiculous to be trapped in this outdated idea that is not working anymore.
I’m not saying that everybody should not work in a conventional way and become freelancers, but I want to tell young people in Japan that we can do whatever we want to do, and we should be happy as we are privileged so that we can make others happy as well. There are so much to think about in the world other than worrying about other’s opinions or of narrow-minded ideas such as shakaijin. To break these stereotypes, I am dispatching my message on my blog, and it is also what I talked about at TEDx Youth in February.
My main Blog: http://wsbi.net/