Recap: HENNGE Talks! Episode 1 — Work and Life in Japan as a Foreigner.
We hope you are doing well and staying safe. Last Friday on June 12, we held our first episode of HENNGE Talks! - Work and Life in Japan as a Foreigner!
HENNGE Talks! is a live virtual talk show where our employees share about HENNGE, Japan, and everything in between. In this talk show, our employees share their first-hand life experiences; from debunking myths about Japan, answering the audience’s questions about pursuing a career in Japan.
First of all, we would like to say thank you for those who have joined last Friday (June 12)! We hope you learned a thing or two about working and living in Japan. And for those who missed it, don’t worry, this article will cover it for you! :)
This article is a summary of the first episode of HENNGE Talks! on June 12, 11 am JST. With Jazz as our host, we had our two speakers, Yuri and Jonas, share their experiences of working and living in Japan. Both of them come from different backgrounds and have lived in Japan for over five years.
Global Talent Marketing Manager @HENNGE | Indonesia
HENNGE was Yuri’s second internship before she moved to Tokyo in 2015. The Anime and Manga culture may not have played a significant part in her decision to move to Japan. Still, as she believes, “There are countless other reasons for working and living in Japan apart from the otaku culture.” Let’s find out what these reasons are from Yuri!
Software Engineer @HENNGE | Switzerland
Moving from Switzerland, Jonas has lived in Japan for over 7 years. Why move from such a dream-like country to live in Tokyo? He will be sharing with us what led him to Tokyo and what made him stay.
Jazman “Jazz” Barizi
Digital Marketing Specialist @HENNGE | Indonesia
Still relatively fresh to Japan, Jazz moved to Japan 2 years ago from Indonesia. Apart from well-done steak, Jazz loves video games, anime, and experiencing new things.
PART 1 — Talk Show.
Jazz: Let me start by asking the first question: why Japan?
Jonas: Kind of by chance actually. On my way to Australia, I had a layover in Japan and I ended up really liking the culture since it was so different from what I was used to back home. A few years later, I moved here to study Japanese while working remotely for an American company. After that, I was weighing in if I should move to the US completely or stay and find a job here. Eventually, I picked Tokyo, and here we are!
Yuri: After my graduation, I had to pick whether to work in Indonesia at a consulting company or have an internship abroad. I wasn’t really into Japan at the moment, but I got an offer to have a 3-month internship in Yokohama and I thought “why not?” And I’m glad I did it because I fell in love with the city and Japan afterward!
Jazz: So you both have very different reasons for choosing Japan! Now I am curious, how was your first year in Japan?
Yuri: Before I came to Japan for the first time, I tried not to know more about the country at all because I want to experience the culture shock to the fullest! At that time, google translator was limited and you couldn’t “scan” the kanji like it is now, so the language barrier was definitely there. However, I stayed in a sharehouse where I met new friends (and they spoke Japanese!) and they’d been really helpful.
Jonas: I studied Japanese and my skill was quite decent in casual conversation, but speaking formal Japanese (keigo) was a challenge. Also, back then Google Maps couldn’t help with transportation and figuring out which train to take, and they didn’t really have names for the alleys! Overall, people might seem reserved at first, but they’re actually friendly.
Jazz: So, what kind of opportunities were you looking for in Japan?
Yuri: When I was in college, I was set on joining a big company. Then I was reading this book, David vs. Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell and one chapter was talking about “Big fish in a small pond” vs “Small fish in a big pond”.
So I asked myself which is it? I could work in a big company and perform well, but then there are also dozens of other people who would be just as good. However, if I work in a smaller company, I could feel the impact and contribution I’d make. Eventually, I picked the latter one.
Jonas: In Japan, it’s pretty common to find jobs through recruiting agencies. I had a couple of options at the time but I still wasn’t quite sure about what to do. One day they told me about a small IT company in Shibuya that was hiring. Similar to Yuri, I preferred to be able to contribute to projects and have my voice be heard rather than being a small cog in a huge machine.
Jazz: Finally, what have been the highlights of working and living in Japan so far?
Jonas: There are a lot of communities in Japan for you to meet people with similar interests. Even though I am not particularly a fan of manga and anime, there are still a lot of things to enjoy. Also, the fact that convenience stores are open every day, even on Sunday, really blew my mind when I first came to Japan. In Switzerland, all stores are closed on Sundays.
Yuri: I would say that I really enjoy the time I spend alone as well. Back in Indonesia, people tend to be more collective so we like to do things together a lot. However, here in Japan, I have a lot of quality time just getting along with myself.
Jazz: Both of you have such different answers! I myself love anime, manga, and all that so Akihabara is like heaven on Earth for me. Anyway, let’s get into some Q&A. We had a lot of questions submitted and we will be answering some of the best ones!
PART 2 — Question Time!
Krizza B. (Philippines): I’m a female software engineer in the Philippines. Recently our tech industry has been promoting more women in tech one company, in particular, is aiming for a gender-balanced workforce in a few years. My question is if I moved to Japan, would you say that women would have a hard time getting a job in a heavily male-dominated career such as software engineering?
Jonas: While IT is definitely primarily male in Japan, there are several efforts to improve equality. For example, in the Python community in Japan, which is supported by the non-profit PyCon JP Association, of which I am a board member, and we’re proud to support the efforts of local PyLadies chapters to help women who are interested in Python or programming. We also strive to make our conferences, such as PyCon JP, safe, and enjoyable for everyone to attend. At HENNGE, we have women in our engineering team, but I would say that there are definitely things that we could and should do better to support women who want to work in the tech industry.
Daniel L. (Colombia): I have a question about being away from home in a foreign country for an extended period of time: How do you manage solitude? Is it easy to make friends in Tokyo? Is it easy to make friends at work? Is it easy to make friends if you engage in sports or if you have a hobby?
Jonas: I mentioned this a bit earlier but there are so many communities in Japan, especially in Tokyo, that there will definitely be opportunities to make new connections. I’m not the most outgoing person in the world but, I was able to make a lot of good friends and connections here and I still keep in touch with them!
Yuri: There are definitely a lot of events and activities you could attend in Tokyo. I would recommend using a platform called Meetup. You could join the events based on your own interests. Also, people working at HENNGE are most likely at similar ages, so we tend to hang out together a lot.
Cody R. (The United States): Hey Jonas, you have experience working as a software engineer before Japan and at an American company. What are your insights on the differences in the software development environment in a Japanese company versus your previous experiences?
Jonas: I’ve only ever worked for one US company, and when I did I did so remotely, except for one week for onboarding. I’ve also only ever worked for one software company in Japan, so it is a bit difficult for me to provide a good comparison.
One thing that I found different is what kind of extra free benefits the companies provide. In Japan, it’s standard for a company to cover the commuting costs, but snacks, drinks and lunch aren’t, while in the US it seems to be the opposite. Another thing that was a bit surprising is the way salaries work.
In Japan, it’s common to get a bonus twice a year of about 2.5 times your monthly salary, based on your performance and how the company is doing, so when calculating your yearly salary, you don’t multiply your monthly salary by 12, but rather by 17. I’m sorry I couldn’t provide a better answer, but maybe a future HENNGE Talks panelist will have better insights.
Joshua C. (Canada): Any advice for a junior-level developer looking for a job in Japan?
Jonas: The obvious answer is, of course, apply to the HENNGE Global Internship Program. Other than that I’m afraid your choices to join as a junior developer from abroad is probably very limited. Likely only some of the very large companies would hire junior developers who are not in Japan, especially if they don’t speak Japanese, and unfortunately, at least some of those companies have less than stellar reputations when it comes to how they treat their programmers, especially less senior ones.
Shafira K.(Japan): Hello! thank you so much for this session because it is very informative and interesting :) ! What I’m curious about is how the company helps you to grow as a person? Like is there any certain company culture that you think made you engaged at your work and even perform better? Thank you so much :) !
Jazz: Thanks for asking this question. However, we will not be answering this right now, because we are going to be covering this topic in our next HENNGE Talks! Episode 2: HENNGE Culture in a Nutshell on June 18, 11 am JST. This time we have invited our co-founder & CEO/CTO Ogura-san to share an exclusive live session where you will get a glimpse of what makes HENNGE the company we are right now. The “Kimono Guy” will be answering some of your questions so be sure to stay until the end. See you soon!
Register for our second episode of HENNGE Talks! here. See you soon?