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Nobiyuki77
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Postby Nobiyuki77 » Tue Jan 18, 2011 5:35 am

I just got word that I've been hired to teach English in Japan by Interac. They haven't given me the 100% placement details yet (they have to do the VISA app and will get me the placement ASAP, we were told this during the interview process), but the long and the short of it is that I'm going to be teaching in Japan starting in April!

I'm mega-excited!! ^^;
Last edited by Nobiyuki77 on Thu Jan 20, 2011 1:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
-Nobi

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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby maravida » Tue Jan 18, 2011 6:53 am

that is ridiculously awesome!!!
congrats!
i really hope someday i get to travel and work! a friend of mine spent a couple months in japan between high school and college, he says it was amazing!

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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Nobiyuki77 » Tue Jan 18, 2011 12:45 pm

Yeah, I can't wait.

I decided earlier this year I was going to make one last push to do this, seeing as I'm going to be 30 in July. I've been studying Japanese for a while, but it's been hard because I've very few ways with which to apply that study on a day to day basis. If I'm physically in the country, it'll help things to stick a whole lot more.

That's the theory anyway. Obviously it's not just going to fly into my head, and I'll only get as much out of it as I put into it. I've gotta work hard once I get there.

But at least I'm finally getting there! Finally! :mrgreen:
-Nobi

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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Ardent Fox » Tue Jan 18, 2011 1:41 pm

Oh wow, nice! One day I'd like to go to Japan but until that point I can but watch it go by on the internet. Congratulations!

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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Kizyr » Tue Jan 18, 2011 3:05 pm

Wait, wait... What company is this with? KF
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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby chiiruchan » Tue Jan 18, 2011 3:54 pm

Hooray!! ^_^ This is awesome!! My friend just got a similar job!! :3 Now I'll know of two people in Japan this summer!!

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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Shiva Indis » Tue Jan 18, 2011 3:54 pm

Congratulations! Do you know if you'll be in a public school? Business classes?
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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Dragonmaster Lou » Tue Jan 18, 2011 4:21 pm

Cool! Congrats!
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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Nobiyuki77 » Tue Jan 18, 2011 6:16 pm

Kizyr wrote:Wait, wait... What company is this with? KF


http://www.interacnetwork.com/


Shiva Indis wrote:Congratulations! Do you know if you'll be in a public school? Business classes?


From what I understand, public schools. They hire ALTs like the JET program, only they're a private company, not gov't sponsored. (read: I gotta pay my own flight etc.)
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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Kizyr » Tue Jan 18, 2011 10:28 pm

Nobiyuki77 wrote:
Kizyr wrote:Wait, wait... What company is this with? KF

http://www.interacnetwork.com/

Ok, I'm not too familiar with them and I can't find a lot of background info on them (what's on their own website doesn't count).

I really hate to be a downer, but I do strongly recommend formulating a few backup plans. Some of the companies of this type are pretty good (e.g., JET, although they're not actually a company), whereas there are several that grossly mistreat their employees and manage to take advantage of a lot of folks wanting to live in Japan for a while. (NOVA was notorious for this before they completely collapsed--after 6 months of just not paying their employees.)

So... make sure you have some backups, meaning:
- At any given point, you can move back to the US in <1 month without any outstanding obligations that you can't fulfill (i.e., if your company doesn't pay you all of a sudden, you're not on the hook for a full year lease)
- You have enough savings to gather your things and move back to the US at any given time
- You're not put on the hook for a bunch of expenses with the promise of future payment (e.g., travel expenses, office supplies, uniforms, etc.)
- Do not be afraid to push back if at any point you feel taken advantage of.

Having to pay for your own flight is a huge red flag to me. Even my company will fly people from anywhere in the country to DC if we want to interview someone--travel expenses for your employees is a standard business cost, and not one you expect the employee to shoulder him/herself.

It could be a fine upstanding company, or it could be miserable. But the fact remains that there are a lot of companies out there that know there're a contingent of people in the US that're willing to work for substandard wages just to live in Japan, and you want to make sure you're not being taken advantage of by someone who views that as an acceptable business model.

Do you know if they used to go by another name, or the names of some of the senior execs in the company? KF
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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Nobiyuki77 » Tue Jan 18, 2011 11:04 pm

All real concerns that I've thought about, and I do have some money behind me (and thankfully if the dragon diamond really hit the fan, my parents would be more than happy enough to buy my ticket home so long as I pay them back. They've lent me money in the past that I've always paid back, so they trust me on this.)

I did some looking around and it seems that after NOVA went under, there was a lot of pressure for all of the various companies like AEON, GEOS (and probably Interac too) to clean up their act. I'm mentally preparing myself for the idea that Interac isn't the world's greatest company, but by the very same token, I'm also out of options. One of the biggest obstacles I've had in trying to get a job in Japan is that, well, I'm not there. Naturally, if the job's in Japan, most would want to hold an interview there. So if absolutely nothing else, if my experience with Interac turns out to be miserable, I'll still be in the area and hopefully be able to look around. I also have a couple of friends there (one a former JET) who I can ask for help to look for something new.

Trust me, I'm every bit as worried as I am excited. I can't spend frivolously while I'm there. I know it's not going to be all roses and adventure. But if I don't take this opportunity, I never will. I'll second guess every company I look at, and then I'll always look back and wonder if it'd have been fine going with them. I failed to get into JET twice, so sadly I consider that option dead.

I know you're just worried. I am too. But I have to go, hope for the best, and keep my eyes open should it come to that.
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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Werefrog » Wed Jan 19, 2011 12:29 am

Their wikipedia page looks pretty good.

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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Kizyr » Wed Jan 19, 2011 2:57 am

I'm not sure where this post is going to go. It could get negative and rambling, but who knows.

I'll start out by saying that the ESL/EFL outsourcing business in Japan is very ripe for abuse. There are a lot of factors that contribute to it:
- Negative attitude of law enforcement towards foreigners
- Slightly negative attitude of people in general towards foreign EFL teachers
- Lax labor laws / application of labor laws for foreign workers
- Large pool of people willing to go to Japan for little in return
- Large pool of people who don't know/understand what they can do re: labor rights
- 'Eikaiwa' schools have been in decline for years, forcing cutbacks

I'm still doing some research on Interac, but there are a handful of strong red flags that it's sending up. Among them:
- Recently bought (last fall) and is now managed by Advantage Partners. Recent acquisitions usually mean 'restructuring' and some layoffs, especially given the declining demand for EFL teachers and generally sluggish economy
- I may be misreading it, but it appears their net worth is 50m yen (or about $610,000). That's suspiciously low for a company that has upwards of 1600 staff.
- THEY'RE NOT PAYING FOR YOUR TRANSPORTATION COSTS. That's something private companies are supposed to do. If anyone says that that's not normal, it's -Dung Beetle- meant to trick people into 'paying to work' and a way of shoving risks onto the employee.

Besides that, there are the usual mix of negative and positive reports from people who have worked for them. The reviews put them on the same level as all the other EFL-outsourcers--which is to say, not all that good, considering how the industry is one where abuse is rather easy. But the three things above are the biggest red flags that I think are the most suspicious. There are some other more minor things (e.g., it's hard to find info about them, or about their CEO/SEO) but I don't want to get bogged down in details.

Nobiyuki77 wrote:I did some looking around and it seems that after NOVA went under, there was a lot of pressure for all of the various companies like AEON, GEOS (and probably Interac too) to clean up their act.

NOVA's problem wasn't entirely internal--they weren't unethical for the sake of screwing their employees so much as unethical because they were facing serious financial problems (*opinion, I could be mistaken*). The pressure on other companies would be only for things they can control, but the financial problems can still be there.

Nobiyuki77 wrote:So if absolutely nothing else, if my experience with Interac turns out to be miserable, I'll still be in the area and hopefully be able to look around. I also have a couple of friends there (one a former JET) who I can ask for help to look for something new.

Visa restrictions may prevent you from doing this. Most work-visa requirements prohibit earning money on the side (although many find informal ways around that), if you were to quit first then you might have to leave the country in less time than you have to find a new job, and if you continue working then you might not have time to find another employer.

Nobiyuki77 wrote:I'm mentally preparing myself for the idea that Interac isn't the world's greatest company, but by the very same token, I'm also out of options. One of the biggest obstacles I've had in trying to get a job in Japan is that, well, I'm not there. ... But if I don't take this opportunity, I never will. I'll second guess every company I look at, and then I'll always look back and wonder if it'd have been fine going with them. I failed to get into JET twice, so sadly I consider that option dead.

This brings me to another big question: Why is it so important that you get a job in Japan?

My concern is that there're a lot of other people in the same position: really wanting to live in Japan (for whatever reason), and having gotten rejected by JET once or twice. That strong desire to go is what EFL-outsourcers take advantage of, because the personal value of just being in the country is high enough to offset the lower wages they offer (and other substandard treatment, like forced overwork, paying for expenses they should be handling, etc.).

Personally speaking, I could do a 1-2 year stint in Japan, but I wouldn't want to live there for much longer than that (and even then, I'd feel more comfortable if that 1-2 year stint were with my current employer). Having known a few people who immigrated there, some who'd been living there for decades (mostly from South and Southeast Asia), the climate isn't all that great for immigrants, and the longer you plan to stay, the more problems you'll encounter--the reason they stayed is the main motivation for most immigrants: money, safety, better opportunities, etc., and none of those really apply to most EFL teachers.

So, whenever I hear someone really dead-set on living in Japan, I have to find out the reason why...

Nobiyuki77 wrote:All real concerns that I've thought about, and I do have some money behind me (and thankfully if the dragon diamond really hit the fan, my parents would be more than happy enough to buy my ticket home so long as I pay them back. They've lent me money in the past that I've always paid back, so they trust me on this.)

So that I'm not entirely negative here, I'll end on this note. It is a relief that you've already considered a lot of this. There are some recommendations I have, or more so some things that I think you should be willing to do if the need arises:
- Make it clear that you're willing and able to leave the country at any time.
- Actually be willing to go back home if you need to.
- If your employer 'skips' a payment, refuse to work until you've been paid.
- If your employer insists that you pay for a business expense, refuse. (Travelling counts, though commuting does not.)
- Refuse to work unpaid overtime.
- On that note, if I were you then I'd send a note to Interac that I can't afford paying my own way to get there, and that they'd need to cover the expense.

Lastly, I'm not saying that you shouldn't take the opportunity. I am saying that it's a significant risk and it may not be worth it, however. But there are some things you can do to mitigate that risk. KF
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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Nobiyuki77 » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:03 am

... Goddamn it. I've already accepted, and now I'm scared out of my mind.

You make important points, many of which I've thought about extensively. But I just can't back out of this. I just can't, my heart won't let me, no matter how stupid it may be.

Well, I only planned on going for a year or two, so hopefully it won't be so bad. :(

As for the reason... well, there's two reasons. One is to get it off of my chest. The other is to be in a position to learn the language. I really want to learn the language and I think I can only really learn it there.

God, I don't know anymore. I'm so confused... help?
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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Kizyr » Wed Jan 19, 2011 6:11 am

Whoa whoa, I didn't want to scare you or anything! Just make sure you were thinking about it from any angles you may have missed.

The key fact is that it's a risk. That alone isn't a problem--every stage of your life involves a risk (at least the ones that contain something worth doing). But the best way to approach risk is to do two things: (1) account for as many possibilities as is reasonable, and (2) make sure you understand what the end goal is--in other words, what are you aiming for that's worth all this risk.

(1) is why I'm trying to give all this information. I should point out though that just because there are risks, that doesn't mean you should go out looking for problem signs--there's a thick line between keeping your eyes open and actively finding signs that don't exist. Again, you could very well just have a great experience; I just would hate to see you miss signs of trouble...

(2) is why I'm asking you why you want to go so badly. It's not an easy question, so don't feel like you need to have an immediate or even a definitive answer. It's just gotta be something better than "Japan is so cool!" or anything that goes beyond a simple fixation. The language is a good reason, but I don't really follow the other one--what do you mean 'get it off your chest'?

Anyway, I really think you should let them know that you're not in a position to pay all your travel expenses, when the entire reason you're travelling is because of them. They pride themselves on getting native speakers from across the world, so if they're willing to pay your way there, then it's a good sign that they're more likely to treat you as an employee and not as some expendable piece.

And read everything you sign carefully. Especially matters pertaining to wage, hours, and how long you have to stay with the company. KF
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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby OO. » Wed Jan 19, 2011 8:21 am

I know that conflict Nobiyuki. I was set to move to Hawaii just recently and it all fell apart in the last hour before my plane was set to fly.

One suggestion depends on the immigration laws of Japan. Let this be known; it's something I entirely lack knowledge of, so I'll indirectly bounce this question off Kizyr as well, but would working for room and board on privately owned land qualify for keeping your visa?

There's an organization called "WWOOF" which is short for World-Wide Opporunities on Organic Farms. You take on different kinds of labor for private land owners/farmers in exchange for a place to stay and certain hosts will also feed you. You probably wouldn't make any money as that's rare to find but at least it'd provide you with a roof over your head while you seek another job.

I've found it's feasible to work for a person who only needs 3-4 hours of work in the morning, usually 5 days a week, then you have the rest of the day to look for a job in town. The last place I worked even gave me a small weekly food allowance (more of an assistance, really) on top of that. Again, I can't speak for Japan because I know next to nothing about their culture or if any of this is accepted by the Japanese government as a legit way to retain your work visa...I just want you to have a possible option if things go south and you're determined to stay in the country.

The only catch is WWOOF membership requires an annual fee. It varies by country and unfortunately Japan is one of the more expensive ones to join. 5,500 yen; that's approximately $67 today. By comparison when I joined the U.S. and Hawaii branches they were $30 and $20 respectively.

Sample of Japan WWOOF "Guest" site:
http://i1116.photobucket.com/albums/k56 ... ef9b09.jpg
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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Nobiyuki77 » Wed Jan 19, 2011 10:55 am

Okay, I guess I should have elaborated. What I mean by "off my chest" is that I've wanted to go to learn the language for a long time now, and I've always worried that if I never go I'll always look back and wonder with regret. If I go and it's a great experience, yay! If I go and it's bad, at least I went. I guess that's the logic.

The primary reason is the language. I've been taking some private lessons for a while, but I feel kind of like I'm not making all that much progress, like it's not sticking. I think if I am to get anything out of studying, I have to be there to use it.

Anyhoo, reading about it online I seem to get the impression that my experience will depend on where I'm placed, kind of like JET. If I'm placed with a good board of education, it'll be good. If not, it'll be bad. We'll see.

I'll think about this a little more.
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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Kizyr » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:44 pm

OO. wrote:One suggestion depends on the immigration laws of Japan. Let this be known; it's something I entirely lack knowledge of, so I'll indirectly bounce this question off Kizyr as well, but would working for room and board on privately owned land qualify for keeping your visa?

There's an organization called "WWOOF" which is short for World-Wide Opporunities on Organic Farms. You take on different kinds of labor for private land owners/farmers in exchange for a place to stay and certain hosts will also feed you. You probably wouldn't make any money as that's rare to find but at least it'd provide you with a roof over your head while you seek another job.

I don't see any way that could work in Japan for a foreign visitor without some level of exploitation going on.

For starters, it's unlikely to the point of being impossible that you'd be able to get sponsored for a visa for agricultural work, unless you're ethnically Japanese or have Japanese ancestry. Second, unless whoever owns the farm is bilingual or has enough money to hire interpreters, they're unlikely to hire you anyhow (it's hard enough getting any work outside of teaching English if you don't speak Japanese). Third, farms are located in the countryside; job opportunities are better in the cities. If you're placed in the middle of Hokkaido, all the time in the world won't really help you find a job given your skill sets (and speaking English isn't really likely to help you on a farm).

I can't view the image you linked from work. But I'd be curious to see how, if at all, those guys are managing to deal with Japan's immigration laws to do this.

Nobiyuki77 wrote:Okay, I guess I should have elaborated. What I mean by "off my chest" is that I've wanted to go to learn the language for a long time now, and I've always worried that if I never go I'll always look back and wonder with regret. If I go and it's a great experience, yay! If I go and it's bad, at least I went. I guess that's the logic.

These aren't bad reasons. But it's always worthwhile to periodically revisit the question of why you want to go in the first place. It helps you to set expectations and goals.

For instance, if your goal were to find a way to permanently live there... well, I really would be actively discouraging you. The climate isn't hospitable for that, and there are far better opportunities in the US. There are certain fields where you can (some businesses, programmers, etc.), but using EFL as a way to try to live in Japan on a permanent basis has so many hurdles it isn't worth it.

But, if your goal is to really solidify your language skills and have an experience you'll remember, that's a different matter. You don't have to worry about things like finding permanent employment, and you don't have to worry about long-term visa issues. That frees you up greatly to avoid getting taken advantage of.

I can talk about ways that you can make sure to mitigate any risks you come across later when I have some time. I mean, at this point I still think you should take the opportunity: I see some red-flags, but nothing that you can't protect against, which is why I'm trying to offer some suggestions on what you can do to make sure that your time there is enjoyable. KF
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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Shiva Indis » Wed Jan 19, 2011 5:36 pm

Kizyr wrote:I can't view the image you linked from work. But I'd be curious to see how, if at all, those guys are managing to deal with Japan's immigration laws to do this.

Doesn't seem viable in the long or medium term. But great for budget travelers, and potentially a way for homeless victims of eikaiwa bankruptcy to keep a roof over their heads. But let's hope there won't be any more repeats of that.

Over the years I've read so much about how ugly the EFL business is, I've made myself sick. At this point I think I'd be better off reading about how people cope with the challenges and make a good experience of it.

...Not that I'm trying to discourage anyone from relating EFL horror stories. :mrgreen:
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Re: Finally going to spend real time in Japan

Postby Dragonmaster Lou » Wed Jan 19, 2011 5:49 pm

My favorite EFL story still has to be the friend of mine who went over there, ending up moving there permanently (despite being about as WASPy as you can be), and even married a (former at the time, but not when they started dating) Japanese schoolgirl...
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