Hi, this time I interviewed Fuchi-san, who moved from Japan to Uganda and talked about the life there and the importance of understanding different cultures.
How long is it since you moved to Uganda?
What made you decide to move there?
Where are you originally from?
Was it comfortable living there?
Was it hard at first?
How is it to live there?
About living with people from different cultures
Any difficulties living there?
Good things about living in Uganda
The importance of knowing different cultures
To Japanese who want to live abroad
To live the life you want
After the interview 28:25
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【Interview with Fuchi-san】
Hi, everyone! This time, I interviewed Fuchi-san, who moved from Japan to Uganda in Africa.
We talked about moving abroad and the importance of learning about different cultures.
Uganda is a country with a variety of ethnic groups and is full of beautiful nature.
With 97% of the population under the age of 65, there are a lot of young workers.
In recent years, various companies from abroad have moved into the country, and the GDP growth rate is over 6%, and the country is developing rapidly
Today, I would like to interview Fuchi-san, who moved from Japan to Africa.
You and I actually went to high school together.
I never thought we would meet again in this way.
So, you are in Africa now! I would like to ask you some questions about how you got to Africa and how you are living there.You are in Uganda, and how long have you been there?
It’s been eight years.
That’s quite a long time!
Did you go to any other countries before you went to Uganda?
I only went to Vietnam and Taiwan for a short trip abroad.
I’ve been to the U.S., and I think many people from Japan often go to Europe, the U.S, Australia or Canada, but what made you decide to go to Uganda?
To tell you the truth, I wasn’t planning to come here at all. My priority was to leave Japan and live abroad, so it didn’t matter where I went. It didn’t matter where, as long as it wasn’t Japan. If I had the chance, it could have been England, the United States, or even Vietnam, but I had the opportunity to go to Uganda.
What was that opportunity?
When I was in my fourth year of university, I was looking for a job, and there was an opening at an NGO. And I found out that they had an overseas branch and there was a possibility that I would be stationed overseas. So I decided to go to Uganda, even though I didn’t know where it was.
That was a big change.
Yeah I guess it was!
Did you always have this idea of wanting to live abroad? Did you just want to leave Japan?
I don’t really remember now, but I was interested in English, so I wanted to work overseas using English in my work.
Where in Japan are you originally from, by the way?
I’m from Higashi Kurume, Tokyo, which is closer to Saitama. No one really knows the area lol
Oh well, I think there are some people who know the area!
It’s not like Shibuya or Setagaya, it’s a more rural part of Tokyo.
It’s a place that is not like the big city, Tokyo.
That’s right! haha
While living there, did you feel that you didn’t like Tokyo or Japan? Did you feel like you wanted to go abroad?
It was not a bad environment to live in. I think I got along well with my family, and it wasn’t like I had any problems with them. I didn’t have a difficult childhood, but I think my discomfort with life in Japan started to grow when I was a university student.
What did you feel uncomfortable about?
For example, when I was looking for a job during my university years. The university I went to was a very large university with a lot of students, but in my third year of university, everyone wore the same black suit to attend job interviews as if they were robots, and all the girls wore their hair in the same knot, like it had to be tied this way. If you had long bangs, you had to part them like this. The people who had been involved in various activities to emphasize the importance of individuality until they reached that age were reading the same books wearing the same clothes for employment. It made me feel uncomfortable, and I knew I couldn’t do that like others. And I thought, I can’t live like that. And be with others who just follow the suit.
Ahh I see. I think that most people who go abroad from Japan have a strong sense of discomfort about such things. I was the same way. I went to Florida for college. In Japan, everyone has a set life-course, like what university to graduate from by what age, where to get a job, how old to get married, when to rent an apartment, and how many years to pay the mortgage and so on. I went abroad because I had doubts about whether I could really live that way, so I can completely understand what you mean.
How did you feel after you moved to Uganda? I think it must have been quite difficult to get used to the culture, the different language, and the different food.
It was tough at times. The first year or two were really tough.
What was the hardest part?
When I felt like I was going through a tough time, I didn’t have any family nearby or friends I could talk to about anything. It would have been better if I could have talked on the videophone, but with the time difference and the fact that I didn’t have any friends nearby to talk to whenever I wanted to, I was alone and lonely. It was quite difficult.
It’s hard to find someone to talk to when you have a problem, isn’t it? How did you get over that?
I don’t know if I overcame it. lol It’s still hard sometimes. There are times when I feel like I’m having a hard time and there’s no one around me, I’m alone. There are many people who feel lonely even in Japan, and I think the difficulty is not so different.
In my case, I wanted to get out of Japan first, and I didn’t have a strong yearning for Uganda or a strong desire to do something for this place at first. So I didn’t get a huge shock by wanting to do what I want and not being able to do it because of the culture differences. Like saying “This is not the life I wanted living abroad!” I think it is hard for people when their expectations are betrayed. I did not have excessive expectations, so it was not a big setback.
I think that might be one of the most important things in order to live well in a foreign country. We often interview foreign migrants who are living in Japan, and they all have culture shock when they first start living in Japan, and they say that if you expect too much from life in Japan, the gap between the reality and your expectations will widen, and the shock will get bigger and harder to bear, so the key to living well in Japan or in a different country is not to expect too much. I think this is really important.
We tend to imagine the ideal life in a different place and expect too much, so.
How do you like the food and lifestyle in Uganda?
I do miss Japanese food, but I get used to it here. I’m not a person who has always been very picky. There is no such thing as a food that I don’t like or won’t eat, so I am able to enjoy my time here.
If you are a person who is very picky, it may be difficult to change your environment. You have to be flexible to fit in. That may be another important thing to enjoy living abroad.
I’ve never been to Uganda, but can you tell me briefly what it’s like? What are the people like in the city?
There are many different kinds of people here. Some live in high-class apartments with 10 or more floors and drive BMWs or Mercedes-Benzes, and shop at expensive supermarkets and eat fancy food. If you move around a little bit, you will find other people who live barefoot in a small room on the ground floor made of clay bricks, have five children and cousins living there, and have several children who cannot go to school due to lack of school fees.
Is there a big gap between the rich and the poor compared to Japan?
I think so.
After living in Uganda for 8 years, do you feel that the gap between the rich and the poor is getting better? Or has it not changed much?
I don’t think it has changed much. If anything, it may be widening.
What kind of foods do you eat there?
People eat rice, a lot of potatoes ,and sweet potatoes. Also a kind of banana called Matoke. It’s a white banana that you can’t peel without a knife. It turns yellow when you boil it.
That’s interesting and sounds healthy.
Food here is high in fiber.
What kind of annual events and cultural activities do you have?
Do you have events like festivals?
Compared to Japan, we don’t have a lot of national events. The reason for this is that there are many religions and people with different backgrounds. But about 80% of the people are Christian, so Christmas and Easter are the major events I guess. For Muslims, the Muslim holidays is a big event.
How is the relationship with foreign immigrants in Uganda?
I think it is very open and welcoming. Many of our neighboring countries are economically/politically unstable, so we accept a lot of refugees from there. Even in daily life, I meet African people who I feel are not Ugandans, and there are many foreigners like me. There are also a lot of second and third generation foreigners who have immigrated to Uganda.
There is a lot of diversity!
Yes. That’s why I feel comfortable here and have been here for eight years.
Is there any discrimination or prejudice?
Yeah we do have. There is discrimination against us, foreigners, and even between tribes. Well, I guess it happens everywhere to some extent.
But it sounds comfortable to have such a diverse group of people living in a place together. I like that kind of environment
Yeah, I think it’s a very diverse place compared to other places.
What are some of the challenges you face in Uganda?
Medical care and such is very difficult. If you get sick or something, you might not be able to get proper medical care. The standard of medical care is low to begin with, so no matter how good a hospital is, there are limits in what they can do. In case of serious illness, people who have money get medical visas and go to overseas hospitals for treatment. They go to India, Thailand, or the United States.
On the other hand, what are good things about Uganda?
It is a good environment for raising children.
You mean, neighbors help each other and they are supportive?
People help each other very naturally. For example, when I take a cab, people around me help my child get into the cab, and when I take my child to a restaurant, the worker there takes care of him/her.
What I also like is that people do not judged by my age, gender, nationality, or education. I am married to a Ugandan man and we have a half Ugandan child. He looks different, but there are many such children and they are living with no problems. Also, there are lots of female principals, and no one cares about your college education. In the first place, people here don’t know about all the prominent universities. The students who attend the college also vary in age and have different backgrounds. Like, my husband is married with children, but he is attending college, and there are many such people, and many older people taking courses as well. There are children who have stayed in elementary school and are of different ages in the same school. This kind of diverse environment is easy for me to live in.
That’s nice. In Japan, there are stereotypes about what a job should be like, how women should not be able to enter the workforce, who should do what job, how we should value our relationships with people because they are from famous universities, and so on.
It seems that in Uganda, people look at humanity rather than just checking status.
Yes. There are also families with adopted children, and many people who are albinos, who look completely different from other Africans. I think it is wonderful to have the opportunity to live with such a variety of people. It makes me feel better that I can live my life without worrying about the people around me just because I am a foreigner.
It’s a place where you can live your own life without being judged by others around you or by your social position.
I think so.
I’d like to visit there someday!
You should! Being in contact with people of different races and with different opinions is something that Japan needs now, and I want everyone to have that kind of experience.
Japan is an island nation, and when you are in it, you tend to think that what you see is all in the world.
Particularly for a country like Africa, which is so far away from Japan, I think people tend to have a fixed image. For example, there are many poor children in Africa, and if you were to go to Africa from Japan, you would do something to help them. But here in Africa, people are living their own lives. So you don’t have to think, “It’s a poor place, so I must go there and do something for them”and bother.
If you want to go abroad, you should go there because you want to!
Yes, I think that’s important. From the Japanese point of view, we don’t want such people coming to our country, do we? We can’t welcome people who come to Japan saying things like, “I feel sorry for Japanese people, so I have to go there to help them!”. I think it’s great if they come to Japan to enjoy the country and culture, but if they come to Japan just to do something that they think is right, that’s arrogant in a way and it will be a nuisance.
Of course there are some people who are really dedicating themselves to make some great improvement, but you can take it easy like I did.
You can move to a place you like and live there first, interact with the local people, and then you may find something to improve the place. It would be a misunderstanding if you start out by saying, “I’m here to make improvements!!” without knowing people living there, wouldn’t it?
That’s right. If you are too ambitious before you move to a new place, you may end up destroying your ideals after you actually move there, thinking, “I can do more, I wasn’t supposed to be like this,” and you won’t be able to enjoy your life there. It is important to see more of the daily life of the people there by living together.
Do you have any advice for people who want to move from Japan to overseas or want to get married with people abroad?
I think they should study hard. Even if you are not looking for a job, but just want to get married and live abroad, you will not be able to fully enjoy your stay unless you can speak the language of the country. If you can speak the language, the people around you will accept you. You may not know where you will live in the future, but I think it is important to read books and study hard. But that doesn’t mean that you should go to college, attend classes diligently, or go to cram schools. It’s about having an attitude of questioning and pursuing what’s going on around you, and that’s studying in a broad sense. If you like music, it’s fine to study music, if you like cooking, it’s fine to study cooking, but don’t quit trying to learn more about something you have questions about or are really interested in.
I often have the opportunity to meet young university students who come to Uganda to volunteer, and there are many who say, “Studying is useless,” or “We don’t need to study for actual communication,” or “In the end, as long as you have feelings and enthusiasm, you will be fine”. But having more knowledge is important. Not only learning language but also history. Africa is a country with the painful history where many people were enslaved and many were killed in the past.
You may just enjoy your stay without knowing the history.
But you should learn the history of the area if you are staying/living
abroad for a while.
So it is important to learn the history of the country, learn the language, and gain in-depth knowledge of what you are interested in.
Yes. Even in Japan, I would be happy if people who come to Japan know a lot about Japan.
There are times when I feel embarrassed when foreigners know things about Japan that even most Japanese people don’t know.
So I think it is important to try to gain knowledge no matter where you are/will be.
And even if you find it hard to live in the place where you are now, or you don’t like your current life, if you go abroad, it might be normal, and the pain you have been suffering might disappear. If you take a step out into the world, life may become easier, so don’t be too depressed if you are struggling in the place where you are now. The cause of your problems may be your family environment, your appearance, or your life, but if you find it hard to live, I think studying hard and going abroad is one way to lead your life as you want.
I think it’s important to remember that the world you see now is not all there is and to make efforts for a better life.
Thank you very much for letting me interview you for so long!
・After the interview
This time, I interviewed Fuchi-san, who moved to Uganda from Japan. I was very happy to know that my classmate from high school is doing well in a different country. We usually interview foreign migrants who have moved to Japan, but this time I interviewed someone who has moved from Japan to overseas. I realized that the key to successfully living in another country is to blend in with the culture of the place without preconceived notions and not to expect too much. If you live in Japan(or in your country) and feel like what you see is the whole world and it’s hard to live here, I think it’s important to know that there are other worlds and broaden your horizons. It’s hard to move around because of Coronavirus now, but I think the number of foreign migrants coming to Japan will increase, and I guess there will be more opportunities for people to move from Japan to other countries to find the life they want.
We will continue to interview various people and work towards understanding and sharing the importance of living people with different backgrounds. Please subscribe to our Youtube channel and Like us, and check out our Facebook page as well. Thank you for watching. See you next time!
See you next time,