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Life in Japan – working as a bartender

Soooooooooo……. I’ve been in Japan for over 7 months now and I haven’t given much news.

Well to say the truth I basically spend most of my time working. I work as a bartender since 5 months, I’m also a private French and English teacher (very easy for a foreigner to be an English teacher here, even for French people) and I work from time to time for a video game company (coolest job ever). And of course I’m still working on my graphic design projects – many things to be done…

I’m based in Osaka, in a guest-house called Orange house with a bunch of French, Germans, Spanish, Americans and Japanese people (but mainly Frenchies here). Not on the same room fortunately!

The good thing is that it’s easy to meet people, the bad thing is that I speak French most of the time. Ahah !

About my bartender work. I’ve worked 5 months in an International bar, owned by an American. Most of our costumers are Japanese people who want to practice their English with us (the staff). Quite a good thing since I still don’t understand Japanese (but I’m slowly improving).

Bartender in japan
Bartender in Japan

It’s interesting to meet Japanese people that way. They have a way to go to bars very different from the westerners. I was very surprised at first to see people coming to the bar alone and talking to whoever they will meet inside. Sometimes there’s only me inside so they’ll talk to me. 80% are regular customers so I know them, no problems. If I don’t know them, I’ll start conversation by introducing myself and saying that I’m French. Most of the time they’ll look surprised and will get very excited by that and asking me questions. The first question in usually “when did you arrive in Japan?”. I don’t know why but it’s always the first question. The second question can be “where are you from in France?”. Then I say that I’m from Bordeaux, the city of red wine. And I add “but I hate wine”. Good start for another conversation, and it always work! They always look surprise (but, then, Japanese love to look surprised).

That's me on my first day, pretending to make a cocktail
That’s me on my first day, pretending to make a cocktail

After a while, let’s say after 5 or 10 minutes of conversation, I know another question will soon arrive: “how old are you?”. Yep they love this question. I think it has to do with the fact that it’s difficult for them to read the age on a westerners face. When I say I’m 31, they look more surprised than ever. And…. this is when the tricky part arrive… Most of them stop here but I know what’s on their minds. They are thinking “Hmm, she’s 31 but she just arrived in Japan, she’s certainly not married, how come?”. It’s better to explain that in Japan most of women get married on their 20s. For a woman, not being married in Japan when you are 30 or over is very surprising. Some dare to ask me if I’m married or not, and I say that I’m not and that I don’t want to be married because I want to travel the world and because I don’t want children anyway. I had one customer advising me to get married soon before my “value” start decreasing (understand: before I’m too old ahah).

When they are done asking me questions, I start asking them questions. I usually ask what kind of job they do and if they work long hours. Well… let’s say that I don’t envy Japanese men’s life. It’s not rare for them to work from 7AM until 7PM… 6 days a week. And sometimes they need to go out with customers during the evening. Let’s add that they only have 1 week of holiday each year. And sometimes they can not take 1 full week but only 1 day from time to time. Most of them never travel outside Japan (difficult with no holidays…). Despite that, they are always very kind and polite. Japanese will never directly complain about their life (or about anything).

We also have a lot of salarymen (Japanese white-collar worker ). They, on the contrary, will come in a group, with their co-workers and still wearing their suits and ties. They drink a lot and very quickly. At one point the boss will stand up and decide that it’s time to go home. Immediately all the other will stand up, pay for their drinks and leave. It doesn’t matter if one just ordered a new drink, they will all go home, leaving their drinks empty, half empty or still full on the table.

A particularity in Japan: you don’t tip waiters. Instead you can buy them drinks. Yep, you understand, I get free drinks in my work. Well not everyday. But It happens that I get 3 drinks during the same night (with alcohol of course, so I drink very slowly…). It’s sometimes cool but sometimes strange. Sometimes I feel like I want to drink, because the person who wants to buy me a drink is nice, because I’m bored, because etc and sometimes I don’t want to. I don’t like to feel that I have to drink, but I don’t like to be disrespectful (it’s not polite to say no in Japan). I usually solve this contradiction by having a coke or orange juice instead. ^^

I want to write more things about my life in Japan and my work. It’s time for me to be back on my website! The next post, later this week, will be about my travels in Japan.

Enjoy your weekend!