Sunday, October 2, 2011

Japan ALT Realism

To show that I'm not simply being an idealist about teaching in Japan, here's something I came across in the GaijinPot forum.  It's a very interesting post (#22 in the thread), despite the poster being negative and very insulting to the original poster.  I recommend reading the first page of posts, as nearly anything afterward is just a bunch of insults going back and forth.

Having lived in Japan for over 15 years, I can confidently state you're doomed because:

a. Record number of bankruptcies in Japanese business history (90% of language schools are losing money and many have gone bust).

b. Record cuts in benefits and salaries: Every ALT dispatching company, language school and companies that tend to hire foreigners have cut salaries and benefits due to the economic downturn and effects of the earthquake. Read my lips: You will be paid peanuts.

c. Imminent increase in sales tax 5%--->10% Will your company compensate for that? In your dreams.

d. The Era of the Token Gaijin is dead. Many companies back in the 80's and 90's prided in hiring a token gaijiin to handle 'international relations' (dealing with foreign clients, correcting brochures and making the company look international by having a foreigner, usually a skill-less white blond American in their payroll). Those days are long gone.

e. Although a number of companies are said to be hiring 'foreign' applicants, these gaijin tend to be young and sharp and come out of Japanese universities equipped with real Japan experience, Japanese skills and some VALUABLE IT or engineering degree. Native English ability, blue eyes and a smile don't cut it anymore....

f. Most Japanese today don't care about internationalization, don't want or need to travel and are simply not interested in other other words, the need for gaijin for token/decoration/instruction/internationalization purposes has severely decreased.

g. Japan has dropped down from just about every ranking out there: Business, investment, innovation, education, patents filed, etc.

h. I have a wide network of foreign contacts in education, marketing, communications, finance, real estate and human resources in the Kanto area. Most of my contacts have reported losses in benefits or sharp salary cuts, even up to 40%, in some cases. Most of the English teachers I know are scrambling with a full-time and various gigs on the side to make ends meet. About 1/3 of my contacts packed their bags and left in April.

i. Distrust in government and pessimism about the future are at a record high. Japan totally lost its edge.

j. All focus has shifted to China and the BRICS countries. Japan doesn't mean much these days. The earthquake may have actually helped publicity-wise. I know people who have gone to China and are making the same if not more than what they were making here, plus they're enjoying the boom, the optimism...parties...p>ssy galore....

My prediction is that you'll end up teaching at an elementary school and teaching private lessons evenings and weekends, barely making about $3000 a month, 2/3rds of which will go to rent, taxes, food and utilities and the rest you will blow on beer and buying crap you couldn't afford back home (Kindles, ipads, iphones, etc.) You'll be lucky if you can save $300 a month...which you will blow on a trip to Thailand to relieve your frustration....

Fast forward 5 years, when the time comes to go home and you will have no real skills to offer your next employer....good luck...
The last two paragraphs hit home more than anything else.  My mother actually brought up that last sentence.  I can counter some of this, as many/most ALT jobs give 250000 yen per month as the starting pay.  At the time of this posting, that's $3241.54.  And that's not even including giving private lessons.  If I do that, I can expect about $30-40 per hours, believe it or not.  Five hours per weekend at $30 per hour gives me $600 more per month.  I can expand that and earn even more.  Owning my own English school increases that, as long as I get enough students. 
And let's assume that I go home after three years, which is fairly typical for an ALT.  For the past three years, I'll have taught English in another country and learned their language, but probably not worked on many other skills.  My background is in computer programming, though I have already spent two years away from that.  So what would I do?  I admit I don't know.  I'm the type of person who can take a bit of a leap into the unknown, but I prefer to have at least one backup plan in place.

I'll spend some time exploring this list and trying to figure out how correct each is and how I can work around it.

1 comment:

  1. In Japan, 6 prime ministers have stepped down in the past 5 years, which is quite shocking to me.