JP Staff (The Jakarta Post)
Thursday, June 23, 2022
While settling in Japan may offer opportunities they don’t have in Indonesia, the expat community may experience some setbacks along the way, namely a lack of belonging and cultural marginalization.
Trying to adjust to a place far from home where people have a different culture can lead to culture shock. While this is normal, to some extent it can translate into anxiety about reverse culture shock, especially knowing that one’s time abroad is fickle, it’s a time of lack of belonging and an identity crisis.
Since moving to Shizuoka, Japan three years ago, 26-year-old Reza Montazery Permanda has had to adapt to unique local culture and customs, such as interacting with neighbors and managing household waste.
“Japanese people are very sensitive to noise and privacy, so I’ve become more careful when doing any activity to make sure I don’t disturb them,” said the Banda Lampung native.
“On the other hand, Japanese people are very strict about hygiene, such as sorting garbage according to its ingredients. So, I have become more thoughtful when shopping to avoid any difficulties. [when I dispose of stuff]. Plastic bottles and jars can only be disposed of once a month, so I have to keep them at home. “
However, getting used to stricter norms and rules has affected how Reza sees his identity as an Indonesian, especially as he begins to compare how these countries handle public services with other fundamental issues such as education systems and citizen data regulation. .
“I’m used to more structured systems and regulations,” said Reza, an embedded software engineer in Japan. “When I realized that Indonesia was still far behind this point, I thought when I came back to Indonesia one day, I would relive the culture shock.”
Homesickness: Reza Montazery Permanda says homesickness isn’t just about places, it’s about people. (Courtesy of Reza Montazery Permanda) (Courtesy of Reza Montazery Permanda/Courtesy of Reza Montazery Permanda)
Compare features, change perceptions
Occasionally, these concerns are shared in casual conversations with fellow Indonesian expatriates living in Japan. Reza and his friends tend to discuss their lack of national pride by comparison — from the mindsets of both societies and the responses of their respective governments in times of crisis.
“Often, we vent [and say] For example, “unlike the Japanese who have a strong awareness of vaccines, many Indonesians will reject it until it becomes a must to go to the mall”, or “the Japanese Prime Minister at the time” [Yoshihide Suga] Resigned after failing to deal with the pandemic — [it’s] something [would never happen] In Indonesia,” Reza said.
“In short, we discuss [reasons behind the] lack of our [national pride] a lot of. [We] There may be bias, but that’s how we feel. “
The situation is slightly different for Kusumah, who has lived in Japan for about 30 years. The 60-year-old, who began his journey in Japan in 1982 as a participant in an “on-the-job training” program, has seen a major change in Japanese perceptions of foreigners in general.
“When I’m here [in Japan] For the first time, they were so kind, friendly and warm,” said the man known as Akang by fellow Indonesians, the older brother in Sundanese.
“However, since 1995, when [the government of] Japan finally allowed about 5,000 people of Japanese descent from Latin America to enter and spread out across the country, and the Japanese were starting to get a bit closed off.Especially because of the way the Japanese government condones Japanese descendants from Latin America [at that time]. “
For context, with the abolition of feudalism at the end of the 19th century, large numbers of Japanese left their country to escape poverty. Their destinations were mainly Latin America, mainly Brazil, Peru, Mexico and Chile, because the region needed labor and the predominantly white countries of the time discouraged non-white immigration.
Halal Grocery Stores: Kita HalalMart includes Indonesian in its signage. (Provided by Kusumah) (Provided by Kusumah/Provided by Kusumah)
A century later, at the end of the 20th centuryth At the turn of the century, Japan was in the midst of its greatest economic boom in history. The prosperity has attracted illegal immigrants from neighboring Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as less affluent South Asian countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, which the Japanese government has dismissed because of cultural differences.
However, the country still needs workers – especially the so-called “Three Ks”, ghost well, ghost and kiken – Difficult, dirty and dangerous industries that most Japanese would avoid.
The government’s solution to this problem was to admit descendants of Japanese who had immigrated to South America, assuming they were easier to integrate into Japanese society because of their ancestry.
However, the decision proved to be controversial as these people were Nisei or second generation – meaning they were culturally more Latin American than Japanese. Most of them struggled to adapt, and by the end of the boom, many had returned to South America.
Even today, the fiasco affects Japanese attitudes toward immigration, Kusumah said.
‘I love Indonesia’: After years of living in Japan, Kusumah and his family still insist on staying as Indonesian citizens. (Provided by Kusumah) (Provided by Kusumah/Provided by Kusumah)
“I’m still Indonesian”
Kusumah took his wife to Japan for the first time in 1990. His wife, Henny, was in awe of Japan, and she envisioned her new family staying there permanently, which became a reality in 2007.
Their focus on the Indonesian diaspora led them to found the Indonesian Community (INTY), which connects various ethnic communities such as Komunitas Kerukunan Sulawesi Jepang (Japanese Sulawesi Fellowship Community), Paguyuban Pasundan Jepang (Japanese Pasundan Association) Etc. Although the organization is not active today, INTY works with the Indonesian Embassy in Tokyo to help Indonesians with immigration and consular issues.
Today, the couple is still actively involved in a number of expat organizations, including Persatuan Pelajar Indonesia (Indonesian Student Association), Komunitas Indonesia Shizuoka (Shizuoka Indonesian Community), Nahdlatul Ulama Shizuoka and Kokusai Kotoba Gakuin (International Language Institute), as well as a Carmelia is a local Consultation service provided by the government for foreigners in Shizuoka Prefecture.
In addition to participating in the diaspora community, the married couple has a unique way to unite fellow Indonesians: a grocery store. Together they run Kita HalalMart, a halal restaurant and grocery store, and an information center for students, interns or any Indonesian in Shizuoka. The store is positively welcomed by the diaspora.
Family business: Kita HalalMart, run by Kusumah and his family, helps fellow Muslims in Japan. (Provided by Kusumah) (Provided by Kusumah/Provided by Kusumah)
“Kita Halal Mart is a platform for Indonesian expats who miss Indonesian food and Indonesian local spices,” Kusumah said.
Ultimately, despite the years of living and melding with the Japanese, and the shaky pride of Reza as Indonesian, Kusumah and Henny both say the same thing: they are still Indonesian, and they will continue to be.
“My wife, daughter and I are still Indonesian citizens,” Kusuma insisted. “Despite its flaws, I still love Indonesia.”
For Reza, belonging isn’t just a matter of place, it’s a matter of people.
“I don’t think [sense of belonging] here, [and I still] Miss my hometown. I understand belonging from a family perspective. Because I have no family here, I don’t feel like I belong here. “