Monday, December 2, 2013

End of the Year Blues

The last four months of the year (September - December), are my favorite months of the year. They are also the months that cause me the most anxiety. When I was back home, school would start in September. I also have a September birthday. Then we've got the best holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. As much as I love those holidays, I always felt that I never got to fully enjoy them. Money was the big item that stood in my way.

If I had money, I'd have a nice Halloween costume; a nice Thanksgiving dinner; I could buy cool presents for my family and friends and I could go somewhere fun for New Year's Eve. Before my first xmas/New Year's in Japan, my friend told me in October that she had already made her end of the year plans. "Japan sucks on Xmas/New Year's. I was all alone when I did study abroad, so I made plans early this year."

I thought that she was weak. Who needs people? We're in muthafuckin' Japan!!11
I was certain there'd be parties and festivities and even if there was nothing, at least I was in JAPAN!!11 A foreign country, and I'd never spent Xmas/New Year's in a foreign country. So, I spent my first Xmas in Japan at work and my first New Year's alone. (Well, a friend did come for NYE and left the next day, if that counts)

In 2008, I went home for my first Xmas/New Year's since coming to Japan in 2006. I haven't spent Xmas/New Year's in the US since then.

Christmas at Tokyu Hands


Japan, on Xmas, fucking SUCKS. First, as you can guess, Xmas is not as big a holiday as it is in the US. In fact, it's marketed as a "couple's day." And it's not even Christmas, but Christmas EVE that's the big day. Couples reserve hotel rooms, eat Christmas cake (strawberry shortcake), fried chicken (KFC, anyone?) and exchange presents. Is certainly isn't a day off. 

New Year's is worse. New Year's is when families gather together to ring in the new year. Think of it as Thanksgiving and Christmas combined. Aside from large chain stores, most places are on vacation from December 31 - January 3 or 4. A large majority of people return to their hometowns to spend time with their families. It's not the time of partying with friends and lovers that we have back in the U.S.

What this means is, not only are you alone on Xmas (because you are single or your partner is working), but you're also alone on New Year's (because you are single or your partner is not having you over to spend time with the family). Most shops are closed. There are no New Year's parties. Going to the temple/shrine at midnight is something, but unless you have a local there to explain what to do and how to do it, it's a bit of a let down. 

Then, when work starts back and your Japanese colleagues come in refreshed, you are there...just as stressed as ever. The part that hurts is that, in my case at least, my pay is just at survival rate. And my coworkers have never been abroad, so they ask dumb fucking questions. Around Golden Week, one guy asked, "So, are you going to go back to your home country?" This past month, again, he asked, "Are you going back to America?" It might be an innocent question on his part, but it just makes me feel even shittier. This dude just doesn't understand.

He can go back home for the 3-day weekend and come back to work refreshed. I have to travel close to 24 hours to get home. (This includes all of the layovers and stuff) There's no way for me to go home and come back in 3 days. Even 5 days is pointless. The round-trip fare is close to $1,800. Who spends that much for 5 days?! Two of which are spent on the plane! Then my co-workers wonder why I'm in a bad mood.

I'm trying to find something to look forward to, but I'm not succeeding. I guess I can't expect my coworkers to understand. I don't understand how big Chinese New Year is or how big Diwali is.  But, is it too much to expect my office to give me enough money to cover my loans AND have enough to get home for a major holiday? Seriously. Japanese offices in America that employ Japanese workers understand this and pay accordingly. Gar!

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