Working and living in Japan as a German Expat

Doing business in Japan, Expats are faced with diverged impressions both on business and private site. As a Tokyo citizen living here since now exactly one year, I write this initial article to bring about an entrance in understanding the way of life in Japan.

Business in Japan

Business overall Japan became more and more saturated in the past. As a result solving this challenge, Japanese companies have started to become global players more and more. Here, also NTT DATA as a Japanese system integrator and IT consulting company was (and is) investing in global business since several years to continuously keep its growth rate for now and the future. One of the companies being invested in is itelligence in 2008. Since then, the relationship between both companies was even continuously deepened. To support NTT DATA’s growth gaining a global leadership in SAP business with itelligence, I was the first Expat being sent from Germany to our NTT DATA holding to Tokyo in December 2010.

So, what about working abroad in Japan? It is great! Even culture is quite different from German working style, it was relatively easy for me to get used to Japanese work mode. This might sound strange, because it means that you have to work often really long (it can sometimes be usual to work until the last metro leaves after midnight), but the behavior of Japanese colleagues compensates this effort: The slogan “community in Japan is very important” is fact – people do care about you and always protect each other. Japanese people are in addition very diligent, like to go for quality and into details – and once it was defined with a lot of consensus (everybody normally must agree), the defined process steps are being kept. That is why combining the Japanese with the German culture (efficiency, goal-orientation) can lead into an immense win-win situation.

What are we doing here? It is generally about worldwide consolidation activities. One of the global key pillars of NTT DATA became the SAP market. This area supports us enormously aiming for the Global Top 5 in IT business sector. Since NTT DATA invested in many several SAP companies worldwide, it was a must to increase the efforts in post merger integration activities. In the areas of organization, R&D, marketing, sales and delivery, the right integration actions have to be done to lead to a benefit for the new entire global regional structure of NTT DATA. Being part of the team supporting Japanese and global business in consolidation and growth, is a great opportunity which I am sure will bring both company and me forward.

Living in Japan

You might have read already a lot of Japanese lifestyle. Indeed, it is fascinating! My major life plays in Tokyo, and it is really a megacity. Anything you want to go for, you can get it. First of all, the Japanese cuisine must be one of the world’s best. They offer a mix of classical food as e.g. Sashimi, Tempura, Soba, Ramen, Udon or Nigiri Zushi which is also for a Western very delicious (feel free to google for it). And on the other hand, Japanese cooks adopted the best of international cuisine additionally – that’s why you can get also any kind of e.g. Italian, French, American and much more – and of course even German food here.

Being honest, you feel the high price level as well, because in comparison to i.e. Germany, the prices for food are maybe about plus 20% to more than 100%. It depends if you go more for local or global food. Anyway, everything is available and really very tasty.

Coming now to the sad part of this article: When writing about Japan, also the sharp break in March 2011 should be mentioned. Many Expats are asking their selves until today how to handle this matter. The earthquake with a magnitude of 9,0 brought to ten thousands of Japanese citizen harm and death. Still today, Japan is fighting to overcome this challenge, rebuilding from the damages of earthquake and handling the challenges given by the Fukushima power plant accident. All Japanese people are doing their best to make this country again a good place for all, e.g. supporting each other in offering apartments and straighten the damaged areas. It is a great example how Japan stands together.


If you got once used to this background, you can all over again step into the world of Tokyo. It means a lot of hard work – but especially as well a lot of fun in private life: a very interesting culture, and in particular incredible fascinating people! This last argument – the behavior of Japanese people to me, in good and in bad times – was the major reason for me to continue spending my next life period in Japan.

As one of the first objectives I suggest future Expats coming here is to get as well an understanding of the Japanese language as soon as possible … but this is a different story, because it could mean that you have to be born already as a Japanese baby.

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