A reader writes:
I am a 26-year old college graduate currently working as an assistant English teacher in Tottori, Japan. My job mostly consists of entertaining junior high school students, for which I get paid almost 40k a year. Even though the recession has hit Japan pretty hard, it hasn’t affected us too much out here in “inaka” (the countryside.) I have it far better out here in Japan than many of my friends back home in the States.
Health insurance is mandatory for Japanese residents, thus they have a national health insurance option for those who are unemployed. I’m on the “social health insurance” program, because I’m technically a civil servant. Despite being a bit pricey, about $300 a month for me, I’ve never had to worry about my personal health since I arrived here. Last year I had a 39 degree fever (over 102 degrees Fahrenheit) and the doctor’s visit and medications cost me about $60. I was in the waiting room for less than fifteen minutes. For what we pay, the quality of health care that my friends and I have received has been outstanding.
So it surprised most of them when I decided to come home in August and not re-contract for another year. Even though I absolutely love my job, and common sense tells me that I’d be a complete idiot to give all this up, I feel like I need to get on with my life. I want to go to grad school and get my masters degree, and I want to be there for my family, whom I’ve missed terribly for the past two years. I also have a wonderful boyfriend who’s been more patient and flexible than I could have hoped for.
I have to admit, I’m almost scared shitless about coming back to the U.S, from what I’ve heard on the news and from people back home. One of my little brother’s friends from high school recently hanged himself after losing a number of jobs and moving from couch to couch for the past couple of months.
Nonetheless, I’m going to be optimistic. I’m healthy, I have no debt whatsoever, and I’ve managed to save a decent amount of money. I have it much better now than my mother did when she was my age. She came to the U.S. by herself from communist Romania, unable to speak English and with barely any money. Today she has a Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the University of Chicago, and is now very comfortably retired in a house that is completely paid off. We really do live in a great country. If she can pull it off, I don’t see why any of us can’t.