Your Own Game

I was talking to a Japanese friend about an article I’d read (also by a Japanese person) about the benefits of living and working in Taiwan, and the opportunities for learning Chinese and English there, and the benefits of gaining a unique set of experiences, especially with Japanese companies expanding overseas. And then my friend said:

“What if one doesn’t know Chinese?” she asked.
“That’s an interesting question. What do you mean? I didn’t really know Japanese well when I moved to Japan.”
“Well, you’d be disadvantaged competing with locals for jobs, because you don’t speak Chinese, and then you’d be disadvantaged going to Japan because you lacked experience in a company.”

On the one hand I was flattered because I realized that my friend was thinking of me as functioning fully as a local in both Japan and Taiwan. I’m pretty adaptable, but not a local. I explained.

“One wouldn’t have to compete with them. One might not speak Chinese as well as a local, but he’d speak Japanese better than them. You could work for a Taiwanese company that is trying to establish links with Japan. And then, if you went back, you’d have a deep linguistic and cultural understanding that you could use to help Japanese companies that are trying to expand in to Taiwan or elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Why play by someone else’s rules when you can make and play your own game?”

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