How to know when it’s time to go

By on November 29, 2010

Photo © Elena Derevtsova

Should I stay or should I go? Not only was this a question I was asked by friends, colleagues and clients on a regular basis throughout my sojourn in Japan, it was ultimately a question I had to answer for myself.

Some foreigners stay in Japan for many years. Some leave within a year or less.  Some who stay are there because they love it. Others hate it but remain because they don’t know where else to go. Some who leave are happily reintegrated back in their country of choice. Still others spend much of their time bemoaning the loss of their life in Japan. Here are a few tips to make the choice that is right for you:

Read the writing on the wall. If you are ready to go (or have already stayed too long), you may notice that your days are filled with constant annoyance, frustration and impatience with people and things Japanese. When you first arrived, these same things that now annoy you were likely a great source of wonder and excitement. It is natural to experience some frustration when living in another culture, but if this has become a significant part of each day, heed the warning bells. Do you fantasize regularly about the next time you can leave the country? Do you no longer get excited about exploring Japanese culture (attending festivals, studying a language or an art, exploring the country)? Do you find yourself with no goals you look forward to achieving in your time here? All of these signal that your time in Japan may be nearing its end.

Know what you are leaving – the good and the bad. Many people leave prematurely because they let their frustrations with cultural differences overwhelm them. Once they return home and are out of the pressure cooker of life in a foreign country, they are free to remember the many great things about their life in Japan and begin longing to return. Some do to great success; Some only to have their frustrations overtake them once again. If frustrations with life in Japan are overwhelming you and you are getting ready to call it quits, be sure to take some time to think about not only the annoyances that you will be leaving behind, but also all of the wonderful opportunities and experiences that living in Japan provides. Look at the good and the bad objectively and ask yourself what you would really be losing by leaving and if there might not be another way to deal with your frustrations while still sticking around to enjoy all of the good things. Perhaps now might be the time to access counseling to help you cope with your frustrations and prevent throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Know what you are going to. The final key to making the right decision about when to leave Japan is to have a clear picture of what you are going to. Running away from something is less likely to have a positive outcome than running toward something. Spend some time thinking about your passions and create an ideal vision of the next phase of your life. Once you have this in mind, it might become clear that a few more months – or even years – in Japan will help to lay the foundation for what you want to do next in your life and work. It might also become clear that it is time to go. Regardless of which you choose, knowing what you want will make either option more fulfilling.

Andrea Jacques, founder of Kyosei Consulting International, has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of individuals and organizations worldwide. Five of these years were spent in Japan where the core philosophies of her work on the relationship between passion, performance, and profits took shape.  A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates leading eastern and western thought with top-tier leadership, engagement, wellness and sustainability consulting to build the capacity of people and business to thrive. Her clients represent a diverse cross-section of industries including banking, retail, government, insurance, academia and high-tech. She can be contacted through her website at

About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates spiritual insight with top-tier leadership, wellness and sustainability consulting to help individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. She can be contacted through her website at