A world in motion : Wandile

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Welcome to our A World In Motion series. The last two years have been a time when many people confronted the significance of mobility and borders – in our own personal lives and the lives of others. With much talk of people arriving in South Africa, it is also important to acknowledge that many South Africans move to other countries too. Our world is one that is in motion.

We chat to Wandile, who moved from South Africa to Japan


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Why did you decide to move to Japan?  

Personally, I wanted to get out of the clique-ness of Cape Town. I felt that self-growth was difficult with so many social pressures. I found myself in a strange phase because I could fit into many social circles with ease, because of my extrovert personality. I could adapt to my surroundings like a chameleon; however, I didn’t know who I was. I felt unchallenged and wanted more out of life. So, I set out on a journey of self-discovery and growth.  

I chose Japan for various reasons. A) I was always fascinated by Japanese culture B) I wanted to leave my comfort zone. C) I wouldn’t know anyone and D) the language barrier. I couldn’t think of any other place to throw myself deep into the unknown, where I would sink or swim. 

What do you do there? 

I am an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher). I teach English in elementary and high schools. I’ll go out on a limb and say that 90% of foreigners in Japan are English teachers. 

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Do you think it is important to make an effort to integrate into the new society you find yourself in?  

I think it’s imperative to integrate yourself into a new society as quickly and efficiently as possible. Once you understand the heartbeat of a nation, you can start moving with its rhythm ensuring a peaceful transition and just a more enjoyable experience. 

How is your life there different from your life in South Africa?  

Firstly, I am a teacher, which is a whole new experience for me. Another surprising factor, that in Japan, teachers are regarded as high members of society and are seen as third parents to the upcoming generation. The profession is regarded as on the same level as doctors and scientists. So, I am well respected in my community and by my students. However, with great power comes great responsibility. ” Shout out to my boy, Uncle Ben for the wise words from Spiderman” The words are so true. I think twice now about my actions and what repercussions may follow. Pushed to grow up and mature unintentionally in ways I hadn’t even fathomed or anticipated. Back home I wouldn’t think twice or care about my actions.  

What do you miss about South Africa?  

I miss South Africa so much. It is and will always be home. It will always have my heart. I miss my family and friends the most. Having that confidence to do things, knowing that you have an army of support at your side, should things hit the fan. Being so far from home, you realise the true and meaningful relationships with friends that will last a lifetime. I miss the laid-back atmosphere of Cape Town in the festive season of the summer months. 

Do you see yourself moving back to South Africa in the future? 

No, I don’t see myself moving back to South Africa permanently. It will always be home and I will visit from time to time, but I don’t see myself as a permanent resident. I plan to marry and raise a family in the land of the rising sun. 

Japan has a very high work ethic in all the industries. You are expected to work hard and get the job done in the highest quality; from businessman, to retailer, to fast food server. All professions are done with pride resulting in a high standard of living, no crime and just a clean and peaceful environment. People are also well looked after by the government. By no means is Japan a perfect country. It has its own problems like everyone else, but what sticks out to me and what draws me to stay in this country is that people look out for their neighbours and care for other people above their own needs. 

I just don’t feel I could go back to a system that is self-destructive and not forward thinking. Once we stop thinking how we can benefit as individuals at the cost of others and actually help and rise together, then I think we could have a chance. 


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