It’s time to get to know another awesome Expat-Mama!
We had an amazing series of wonderful Expat -Mamas & Papa around the World last year, and to start off this year, we have a very interesting feature —Victoria, an American Expat-Mama living in Tokyo, Japan with her husband,Nicholas, and their handsome young man, William (2.5 years old).
Konichi WOW: Parenting in Tokyo, the World’s Largest City
Tokyo in a glimpse
Tokyo-The most populous city , probably the most bizarre and yet fascinating metropolitan with more than 35 million people living in it.Tokyo is not only known for iconic city that was chosen by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to host the 2020 Summer Games,but it is also one big magnet for Expat families. Japan regularly touted as the safest for children and was the 4th (fourth) best place to raise children, according to HSBC’s 2014 survey results.Tokyo is one of safest capital cities in the world, too.
Only in Tokyo that people reserve their seats in Starbucks by leaving their wallets and designer bags on the table! In general, residents respect personal space and privacy, and public spaces are remarkably clean.
Victoria is the Lifestyle Travel Blogger behind teafordinosaurs.com. Originally from Chicago, she spent the past ten years of her life living in Milwaukee. When her husband received a job offer in Tokyo, they chose to embrace the adventure.
Pre- baby, she was a Marketing Director for a nonprofit organization. In her free time, she managed an online shop and danced professionally for the Milwaukee Brewers. Post- baby, she chose to be a stay at home mom. She continued to manage her eBay shop and added an Etsy shop to the mix. In preparation for their move to Tokyo, she closed up both shops and shifted her attention to creating a blog about travel, expat life and parenthood.
Share something about the current country you are living in and notable aspects – (food, leisure, nature, quality of life, childcare, education etc.) local customs & culture, attractions, family oriented activities and raising your kids as an expat.
Tokyo is quite different from Milwaukee as you may have guessed. The streets are crowded, there is a language barrier, driving is weird and we are away from our friends and family. However, it is also very safe, surprisingly quiet, and extremely accessible even with a toddler in tow.
On City Living
For the most part, I love living in the city, especially Tokyo. There is always something to see or do even with a toddler in tow. Our apartment location couldn’t be any more convenient with a metro station right outside and 24 hour valet parking at our building. Still, getting around via train or car or taxi just takes a while. I miss walking out my back door, hopping in my car, and being somewhere, anywhere, within 15 minutes. The train is always at least 4o minutes for me because I’m traveling with William, and although traffic isn’t crazy, it goes slow and there are a ton of traffic lights. Having said that, even walking places takes a while due to all the lights and the fact that no one jay walks. People follow rules here and jay walking is illegal…
The Kawaii culture
This is the Japanese word for cute. We hear it a lot due to having a blonde, two-year old in tow. Of course everyone wants to hear that their kid is cute but a couple of times people (harmless) have rubbed William’s head which is pretty strange. I just hope they’ve gone on to receive plentiful riches from the good luck they’ve acquired.
Tokyo is very kid-friendly. Restaurants have kid settings and cups. Train stations have elevators. Department stores have play areas. Family bathrooms are everywhere. Talking about food, It’s all good, and you can find any cuisine you want.
One of the first things you learn about parenting in Japan is that even very young children are expected to be independent and self-reliant enough to go to school unaccompanied, even if it means taking a city bus or train and traversing busy streets.
We decided to send William to school about three months into living here. We wanted him to interact with other kids his age, become familiar with listening and following a routine outside of our home. Plus, let’s be honest, Momma needs a break! I toured roughly ten different schools and on the low-end figures were coming in around $6,000 – $8,000 a year for two, half days a week. I’m all for early education but that is some serious cash to shell out for 7 hours a week! Eventually, I found a nursery school that fit our budget and needs for this year. It’s not my dream preschool, but we like it and it’s perfect for William’s first “school” experience.
On Language Barrier
It’s not impossible to get around or enjoy Japan without speaking any Japanese. Most signs and the entire metro system are also in English. Hotels speak English and restaurants usually have an English menu or the point and nod works. Still, when you’re actually living here and say, want to return a sweater, it’s frustrating. More so frustrating because we take a language lesson once a week and I still feel like I don’t have the words when I need them.
Or relocating with your kids to another country? What are the common adjustments or struggles you’ve overcome?
Relocating with a two year old was relatively pain free (aside from breaking the news to your family and friends). Our son adjusted remarkably well and now at about 2.5 is starting to grasp the concept that we have two different houses that are very far away from each other.
My parenting style hasn’t changed too much since living in Tokyo. If anything, I am much more relaxed about letting my son explore and interact with new people. We are fortunate to live in a huge city that is extremely safe, of course it’s not perfect but it’s much different from the constant “stranger danger” mentality of the States.
On Work-Family Balance
One of our biggest challenges was adjusting to the work life balance (or lack thereof) in Japan. My husband works much longer hours than back home and it took a few months to really find a groove and get acquainted with our new normal. I think what helped the most was allowing our life here to be something entirely different from we were used to back home. New place, new routine.
What is your opinion about raising your kid as a third culture kid? ( TCK means a third culture that your child is growing up with compared to the culture of your husband/spouse )
Are you happy that you are raising an Expat Kid?
I am very happy to be raising an expat kid. We have been able to show him so much of the world before he’s even turned 3! Although he may not remember all of the experiences, I absolutely believe it has strengthened his ability to communicate, problem solve and understand the world around him. An obvious downside is being away from family, with such a huge time difference, phone calls can be tough. Going home twice a year and having family come to visit us here in Tokyo is a huge help and makes the time go by much faster also. As a bonus, we’re getting really good at taking looonng flights!
How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?
At about two months in to living in Tokyo, I realized that making friends would take some effort. I created a playgroup via Facebook to bring together expat families within our area of the city. I enjoy planning the monthly events and love that the group members are able to network with one another. It’s always nice to know you aren’t alone especially when you are all in the same boat of trying to figure out life in a drastically different place.
Thank you so much Victoria for being part of this amazing series and sharing your life with us. It is a pleasure to meet you!
All images used in this post are owned by Victoria and TeaforDinosaurs Blog. Should you want to use it, please mention or do inform her.
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