Moving Made Easy- Tips and Tricks for International Students in Tokyo


Moving away for college can be an emotional roller coaster- on one hand you’re excited to explore new things and take the world by storm, and on the other, there’s that tiny fear of the uncertainty that lies ahead when moving to a foreign country. A country like Japan with its rich culture, busy lifestyle and unique mannerisms is great to visit on holiday; but when you’re planning something long term like studying there, it’s going to take some getting used to.

To make your move more comfortable and as stress free as possible, here are some tips for you to keep in mind on your exciting journey.


If you’ve watched Japanese anime or TV shows, you’re probably already aware of how culturally isolated Japan is. The locals there take pride in their rich language and don’t have much practice speaking in English. Make sure you download Google Translate on your phone right before you leave, so if you want to strike up a friendly conversation with someone, or ask for directions, you can do so with ease.

If all else fails, keep in mind these useful phrases-

Good morning: Ohayoo gozaimasu
Good afternoon: Konnichi wa
Good night: Oyasumi nasai
See you later: Ittekimasu
Pleased to meet you: Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu
Thank you very much: Arigatoo gozaimasu
No, thank you: Iie, kekko desu
Excuse me: Sumimasen
Do you speak English? Eigo hanasemasu ka?
Don’t be embarrassed when trying to speak in Japanese, you won’t be a pro immediately, it’s a rich language that will require practice and patience. Also, the locals will really appreciate you trying to adopt their culture.

Another big part of Japanese culture is body language. A common and respectful way to say hello or thank you is to bow, it doesn’t have to be a flourished production, but a quick bow at a slight angle will suffice. Japanese people also practice very modest behavior and many of the people you meet will come across as stoic. Make sure your body language doesn’t come across as sloppy when having a conversation with someone, as that is considered offensive.


Things to buy on your first day

The most important thing you need to buy as soon as you land is a sim card with a data package, not only will it help you get in touch with people there, but the data package will help with Google Translate and Google Maps which is essential. Plus, it’s handy to have a data package so you can be in touch with your family back home on the move whenever you feel a little homesick. For a good data plan, check out U-Mobile, Sakura Mobile. You can get a good data plan with no contract and it’s one of the only two mobile services in Japan that have English support.

You’re also going to be travelling back and forth from university using public transport quite a bit, so make sure you buy a Suica (JR) or Pasmo (Tokyo Metro) card. These are rechargeable cards for the public transport system.


Pack smart!

Japan is geographically situated in a region that experiences all kinds of weather. Make sure you carry clothes that will be appropriate for the summer, which is an average of 26°C (79°F), and the winter, which is an average of 5°C (41°F). The region also experiences quite a bit of rain during the month of June through July, so pack your umbrellas.

Also ensure that you carry around more cash than you are used to at home. While many places in Tokyo accept credit cards, cash is always preferred. Many of the smaller stores and restaurants do not accept cards.

Lastly, living in Tokyo is going to be a culture shock, and you’re going to find yourself missing home every now and then, so make sure you take a few things that remind you of home to have in your surroundings, it’ll make your move a lot more comfortable.


Dining guidelines

Brace yourself, for the Japanese restaurant at your shopping mall food court is going to be disappointing after you’ve got a taste of the mouthwatering, authentic Japanese cuisine. Tokyo is one of the gastronomical champions in the world. Not only will you learn to sharpen your skills with a pair of chopsticks, you might also pick up a few cooking tips during your time there.

Since the food in Japan is so highly ranked, the preparation of the food there is considered an art form. When you are handed a dish, make sure you clearly communicate your admiration of the work before you eat, it’s considered polite. If you’re at a restaurant and you hear someone make slurping noises while eating their noodles, don’t be startled; it’s a part of their culture to express admiration of the food.

PS: If you’re still worried about adapting to your new environment, don’t fret. As human beings, we are biologically engineered to adapt to different cultures and atmospheres, so at least we’ve got that going for us.