Tag Archives: Japan

Research on Well-being and Aging: Comparison between U.S. and Japan

We have only begun to look at the evidence, but it appears that different aspects of well-being matter for health in different ways depending on the cultural context where people reside

Source: blogs.plos.org


Well-being in the West is formulated more in terms of the individual and how he or she may feel about how they’re doing in life.


In the East, well-being is much more about the self embedded within social relationships; for example, how well you’re doing in meeting your obligations to others.


In the U.S., self-report tools ask people to report on their levels of positive and negative affect. Usually the two types of affect tend to be inversely correlated. Emotions are strongly related to people’s health in the U.S.: those with more positive and less negative affect report better health. This is true even when we look at more objective health criteria, like stress hormones, or other biological risk factors.


That is not true in Japan. Both affects tend to be more moderately reported. That is, there is no cultural prescription for feeling mostly positive emotion and not feeling much negative. In Japan there’s nothing wrong with feeling negative emotion; it’s not viewed as something amiss that possibly needs to be fixed in therapy


In the West, the core objective is to get people out of the experience of negative emotion – whether it’s anxiety or depression. The way that well-being tries to do that is to get patients to focus on their experiences of well-being by keeping daily diaries of positive experience.


In Japan therapy is designed to treat distressed or maladjusted people, but the focus is not on fixing emotions. In fact, they are viewed as beyond the person’s control. Emotions come and go and people do not control them. They may be positive or negative, and you can observe them, but it’s not worth your time to try to fix them. What you can fix is what you do. So the therapy tries to get people to shift into thinking not so much about how they feel, but what they are doing.

See on Scoop.itGreat Life Coaching

Moscow Business Stories: Japanese Companies in Russia

See on Scoop.itLife in Moscow From an Expat Perspective

This article is an Interview with Takushi Seki,  the Director of Corporate Issues and Communications for CIS, Romania and the Adriatic region, Japan Tobacco International, Co-chairman of Japanese Business Club

Correspondent: How can you characterize your Russian employees’ qualifications, their devotion to work, to the company’s success?

At first I was afraid that we would not be able to work as a team. However when I got to know my Russian colleagues better they turned out to be very friendly and devoted to work. I think we have a lot in common. We respect and admire those people who work in our team for the benefit of the company”.

Russians are distinguished by their professionalism and positive attitude towards work. We respect and admire those people who work in our team for the benefit of the company. Besides, the Russian people are easily taught. For example, we launched a programme of innovation proposals’ gathering, based on the Japanese philosophy Kaizen and our personnel took little time to master it. The number of received proposals was higher than we had expected.

Anne Egros‘s insight:

I have been living and working in Japan almost 10 years altogether between 1990 and 2006 (l went there three times) and I have found similarities with Russians as explained by Mr. Takushi Seki. I do agree that people here in Moscow are really working hard and are eager to learn. I have been also amazed by young Russian professionals speaking English very well. The concept of Kaizen wich can be translated as “continuing improvement through team work” is natural to Russian employees who are less individualistic than Westerners, especially compared with Americans.

I had low expectations when I came to Moscow because everybody told me negative clichés about Russians or living in Moscow : the harsh winter, horrible traffic jams, people not smiling or rude with foreigners. Maybe some of those stereotypes are true but I chose to focus on the positive things and people and I am really enjoying my life as an expat in Moscow.

People do smile at strangers and like to help when I try to speak with my broken Russian language. Business wise I have met many Russians eager to collaborate and especially be impressed by Russian women entrepreneurs.

See on moscow.ru

American Culture: The Non Vacation Nation

OECD Countries Blue

Who get the most paid vacation ? Check this list Minimum Employment Leave By Country

France is one extreme with minimum 5 weeks vacation up to 8 weeks when combined with various holidays and compensation time when you work more than 35 hours /week.

United States is the other extreme, being the only developed economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation or holidays. As a result, 1 in 4 U.S. workers do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays.

How does this translate in term of productivity ? You can see in this table compiled by the OECD on Labour productivity levels in the total economy  that France is very close to the US with GDP per hour worked as % of USA (USA=100) = 97.9

But does GDP a good indicator of well-being, quality of life and  happiness ?

What You Measure Affects What You Do-Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize in Economics

The OECD has developed a tool called the Better Life Index using various parameters such as housing, jobs or health. They have designed an interesting interactive map that you can use to select the parameters that are important to you and compare how various countries perform: http://oecdbetterlifeindex.org/

So if you just take one parameter such as “life satisfaction” , the results are better for the U.S. than for France:

For the United States, the self-reported life satisfaction has been rising over the last decade. In recent polling, 70% were satisfied with their life and 80% believe that their life will be satisfying five years later. 76% of people in the United States reported having more positive experiences in an average day(feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is higher than the OECD average of 72%.

For France, in recent polling, 51% were satisfied with their life and 64% believe that their life will be satisfying five years later. This is however a very low ranking when compared to other high-performing economies in the OECD. 73% of people in France reported having more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is close to the OECD average of 72%.

The self-evaluation has some biases however as French are more critical and less prone to give positive feedback than the Americans.

You can also see the ranking of countries for work-life balance :  People in France people work 1554 hours a year, lower than the OECD average of 1739 hours. People in the United States work 1768 hours a year, higher than the OECD average of 1739 hours. In theory the less hours you work the better you can balance your life but this is not counting the fact that working more and getting paid more can help you buy some time and the United States has a great culture of services to individuals.

In Conclusion: Don’t rely on simple numbers to decide your next international assignment. There are so many cultural factors to include on top of economical data, that you better talk to people who have lived or are working in the country you are interested in to get some information. If your company does not provide pre-departure cultural training, you may need to hire an expat coach to help you make your decision. Here the link to the Expat Coaching Directory.

Personally I think the quality of life in the U.S. is better than France but lower than Japan

Real experience is what matters, can you tell your story about living abroad ?

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Orthographic Projection of Japan (green) and i...

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Excellent article on problems and tips on how Japan executives should deal with their headquarters. Published by Eurobiz Japan

I spent almost ten years in Japan during three different expatriations, in 1990, 1996 and 2003 and I agree what this article describes  about the types of problems commonly faced by Japan executives with their counterparts in their headquarters.

This summarize pretty well the right attitude to adopt when you are the boss in Japan, In any case:  “Never use the “because Japan is different” as an excuse nor accept it from the  local staff “

Read the articleMoshi moshi | EURObiZ Japan.

Expat Life: Finding Home Abroad

Greater Tokyo Area is the world's most populou...

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My definition of a home as an expatriate includes: the architecture, the layout, the light and energy vibes of the house, the neighborhood with its schools , the sport facilities. the shopping, the recreation zones, restaurants, support groups and communities, possibility to work as a spouse, public transportation, commutation time.

Choosing the right home is a crucial piece in the success of an expatriation, yet most of the time expats learn at the last-minute they will relocate to another place, usually they only have one week maybe two to find a home with a relocation company hired by the company. If the new country is too far, like Japan from France, it is rare to have a pre-visit paid by the company so expats usually stay in a business hotel or furnished apartment until they find a suitable home.

All my expat life (20+years) I have followed that pattern every three years on average. Of course the definition of my home changed along the years starting as a young student couple followed by an international double career with no kid (or DINKs), then we became a family of three with my son and I quit the corporate ladder for becoming an entrepreneur  while my husband is still climbing at it.

I am going to share some of my experiences about what it means to make “home” abroad for me.

In Japan we have lived in 4 houses at different periods of our lives between 1990 and 2006. Our first expatriation to Japan was in 1990-1991, we were post-Doc students and around 25-year-old. We were outside the “yamanote line” ( the train line in a circle that marks the limits of the center of Tokyo), in a small town called Oimachi. We had a pretty new apartment but with a traditional Japanese room with new tatami mats and futons(beddings used at night but put in closets during the day to make a living room). I still remember the smell of rice straw and reeds,  the natural and biodegradable materials that make a tatami.

At that time outside the Yamanote line no English or roman letters were used in the trains or in stores, so we learned survival Japanese pretty fast as it was not an expat area or even a place for international college students. I fall in love with Japan and this tatami smell is part of what made me at home in Japan. This first experience had a tremendous impact on the choices of our other homes in Japan.

Because this first experience was linked with wonderful experiences both about the culture and the Japanese people, we always felt at home in all of our houses and apartments in Tokyo in very different neighborhood such as the vibrant Shibuya or the very calm Komazawa-Daigaku and Shirogane

What we experienced in the USA was very different but still what made me most at home were places where I had strong emotional bonds and feeling good with people around me.

In NYC we had a relatively “big” apartment for Manhattan (3 bedrooms) on 38th street an 1st Avenue. with a tiny kitchen with no table or sun light. It was very noisy all day and night long with car horns, police and ambulance sirens. The fruits and veggies were not very fresh compared to Japan and more expensive. Yet I adored NYC ! I could walk like in Tokyo, no need for car, I was feeling free, arriving in July 2001 expecting my son to be born 1st week of October. I was just enjoying the relocation process without the usual rush to be settled quickly. For some women having a baby makes them seeing everything in pink and I was one of them and even if our apartment was far from being the ideal home, it was my home and I liked it. My baby was delivered in the NYU hospital with great doctors and nurses although it was only 12 days after 9/11. I was blessed to become a mom as that time and felt strongly connected with New Yorkers and other people during this dramatic event.

The second time that we came back to the USA was in Atlanta. At first I hated this place that was not a real city for me where you have to take your car for everything: drive in pharmacy, drive in Starbucks and Mac Donald. It was the first time I did not have time to explore and do my homework to find a house and I regretted it. It was a true culture shock as I thought I already knew how to live in America because I spent 3 years in NYC. I did not like the house I chose although I had one week to find  it with a relocation agent. I did not feel safe in this house because I had a wooden backyard, and my husband was travelling often. The heating system broke in the winter and we could not find a good handyman to fix some other stuff that were not working. I look at my new house in Atlanta with all negative filters, it was a big one but with an empty heart !

Hopefully we had a happy end like in most American movies. After 6 months, we moved to a small community of 30 houses with very nice people in Buckhead and I really loved it. It felt home because it was only 15 min drive to the school, the sport club, 5 minutes to shopping mall. I had time to make friends at the International school and I started studying how to become a professional coach and registered my coaching business Zest and Zen International there  and  got some clients before moving to Brussels.

Reference: At Home Abroad:How Design and Architecture Influence Overseas Living: http://www.interchangeinstitute.org/files/At_Home_Abroad_final.pdf

What Leaders Can Learn From Japan’s Earthquake ?

The ancient  Bushido code or  ‘way of the warrior’, also named “The Seven Virtues of the Samurai” was established between the 9th and the 12th centuries but  is still very much anchored in ordinary Japanese people.

The seven main virtues/principles of Bushido are:

  1. Honor
  2. Loyalty
  3. Honesty
  4. Courage
  5. Respect
  6. Rectitude
  7. Benevolence.

After the Earthquake and the Tsunami that kill more than 10, 000 on March 11, 2011 and have left hundred thousands homeless people, you could not see real panic among Japanese people. Observers did not see a lot of  looting or thefts  but  just people waiting long queues for hours to get some food and water. Even under constant stress from after-shocks and a huge nuclear threat, most people did not even show their anxiety.

“In Japan people smile with their face and cry inside,” says Professor Jeff Kingston from Temple University in Tokyo. (BBC News Asia Pacific, March 20,2011

The “Fukushima Fifty” are workers who have risked their lives at the nuclear plant to save others,  not only Japanese, but other people around the world that could have suffered from severe radiation if a meltdown of the reactor had happened.

On the other hand, the top management at Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the operator of the Fukushima plant, poorly handle the crisis.  Crucial  information was retained and the reaction of the top executives were very slow. Tepco president Masataka Shimizu, “the missing man” was not seen for a week and did not show-up at the nuclear plant to  clearly explain the severity of the situation resulting in anger from many  Japanese people.  Several days later Mr Shimizu offered an apology that was rejected by the governor of Fukushima prefecture, Yuhei Sato.

This crisis also revealed a  problem regarding accountability of the Japanese government relying too much on private companies like Tepco to get reliable information on time.

Listen more about the poor management of the nuclear crisis here : Company’s Handling Of Nuclear Crisis Sparks Anger

Many people asked if leaders are born or built  which in my opinion is not the question. I think that true leaders are revealed in time of crisis, emotional distress and chaos. A true leader is able to act quickly, make informed decisions and is not afraid to share the bad news, be prepared for the worst and not gambling with the lives of his employees. Like the captain of a sinking ship he should be the last one to leave the boat !

Letter From A Foreign Local in Tokyo: March 16, 2011

Symbol of radioactivity

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Here the letter I received  from a Dutch  friend living in Tokyo , Jacinta Hin  http://www.facebook.com/JacintaHin

My friends,

First, thank you so much for all your messages and words of support and concern. I am really touched by so many of you reaching out to me. And through me to the people in Japan. Second, I am okay. Still shaken, pretty tired, sometimes pretty emotional, but mentally and spiritually strong. Right now all of us here are experiencing something we have no experience with. We have no handbook ready on how to deal with what is happening, neither do we know what will happen next.  Real and surreal at the same time. We live from moment to moment, from day to day.

Here in Tokyo we try to do our normal things, yet nothing feels normal. Life as we knew it is gone. We are already living life differently. Priorities have shifted, relationships changed. We surely feel as one community, close and on the same page. We all had the same traumatic experience, and all agree we are lucky, here in Tokyo, compared to the Northeast.

I know that you are concerned about the Fukushima nuclear plant and hearing reports on people leaving Tokyo to safer grounds. It is true that many foreigners have left the city.
Some embassies, among which the Dutch embassy, has urged their citizens to leave. Many foreign companies have relocated their expatriates and families. I respect their decisions, especially if children are involved, but do not plan to follow their example.

I am among the group of foreign locals who is still in Tokyo and that does not want to leave. Many of us have strong connections with the city and its people. We have family, friends, coworkers or staff we are responsible for. And many of us see no reason to leave. We all monitor the news, we have lots of resources of information here, and we constantly exchange information. Facebook and twitter play an amazing role. For me these two are a real lifeline right now.

We all know there is a lot of uncertainty and that nobody can say for sure what is going to happen. We are getting reports on something new happening almost every hour. At the same time we are also getting more and more background information that is helping us put things into perspective. This helps us stay calm, make informed decisions and be prepared.

I like to share an update from the British Embassy dated yesterday, afternoon. Widely read and spread here in Tokyo. Although we cannot say anything with absolute certainty right now, this update from the Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government makes a lot of sense to many of us here. Moving from panic and fear to getting informed, and next to putting things into perspective is so important in situations like this. Especially for the people in the situation.

Please be assured this does not mean we are getting into denial or going overboard on the positive thinking side. Believe me, we are all very reality-minded here.

I encourage you to read it:

Our plight here, although not a light one, fades in comparison with the people in the Northeast. Every time we feel an earthquake or aftershock in Tokyo, and we have many, we know in the Northeast they probably feel it stronger. Every time we look at the empty shelves in supermarkets and wonder if we should start stocking food  (which we should not, there is still plenty of food here), we think of the people in the disaster area evacuation camps where food supplies are getting scarcer by the day, with reports that at some places people only get one riceball a day.  And as far as radiation is concerned, if we are already concerned here in Tokyo, we can only image what it is for those living closer to the plant (and in the disaster areas).
Please keep sending your thoughts and words of love and prayers to Japan. The Japanese people truly appreciate it. They feel very much supported by the world. The words of admiration for how the Japanese people have been dealing with everything since Friday, conveyed via press, personal messages and twitter (very big in Japan), makes them feel proud and helps restoring their spirit. It all helps. It really does.
And of course you can also help with financial donations. Very much needed. I am happy
to send you suggestions of good organizations.

For now, with love,

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