Things that Japan has taught me about myself: Dating & Relationships


For those of you who know me personally, you know that when I first decided on moving to Japan, I'd joke (well, maybe I was about 50% joking...maybe 75%) that I was going to find a Japanese husband and live here forever. Whenever someone posed the question, "Why are you moving to Japan?" my immediate response was, "To find a husband." Honestly. That's what I'd say. And it caused a good chuckle.

Let me give a little reasoning to why I was looking for a Japanese husband:

First of all, I was pretty sure that I'd never find someone from Hawaii. I had this thought that all "local" guys from Hawaii were small-minded, unemotional, and didn't have their priorities in order. Although I have met many that contradict each of those three things, that's what I thought. I just had it set in my mind that "local" guys weren't for me.

Maybe it's from growing up on Maui where the activity of choice is to sit in the bed of your pickup truck, throwing back green bottles. Sorry for overgeneralizing and stereotyping, but hey, stereotypes stem from somewhere.

I didn't date much in college. A few guys from the "mainland." That's what us Hawaii folk call the continental US. But none of them lasted for very long.

When I was nearing the end of my college career, I kind of felt like that perpetual single friend in a group of friends that were all in relationships. Not that I minded. That much. I always knew that I was going to leave Hawaii after graduating college so in the back of my mind, I never wanted to start anything serious.

So why did I use the phrase, "Japanese HUSBAND," instead of, "Japanese BOYFRIEND?"

Well, I'm 23 now. And while that is still super young, I can't help time-lining my future. Think about it. If I started dating the person I'm going to marry now, the earliest I'll probably get married is at age 28. And that's not even taking into account my own career and feeling financially stable enough to take on marriage.

I remember when one of my cousins got married a few years back (maybe I was around 20?), I asked her how long they were together before getting married. 10 years. TEN YEARS. And this cousin is exactly 10 years older than I am. Then she said to me, "What are you waiting for, Liana?"

So after being in Japan for over 8 months sans husband, I pondered that question. There are tons of potentials here, many of them are very handsome and totally my "type." But are they really my type?

Being here taught me a lot about myself and what I actually want. When I first got here, I thought the dating game would be easy. But obviously for me, it hasn't been. And here are some of the contributing factors:


I'm so picky. And that's okay.

I don't think it's a bad thing to have a "checklist" of qualities you want your partner to have. But, I do think it's bad when the list is set in stone, and if the person doesn't posses one of those qualities, it's a deal-breaker.

And I was almost at that point. Not funny enough? Nope. Not smart enough? Nope. Not tall enough? Nope. Too tall? Nope. Bad hair? Nope. Bad teeth? Nope. (Okay, teeth is actually a really big deal for me.)

A night out with one of my Japanese co-teachers got me thinking. We were at a bar and it happened to be really crowded that night. She kept pointing out guys to me and I kept saying, "No, not that one." By the end of the night, she said, "Why don't you give them a chance? You never know."

And she's right. I don't know if I don't give them a chance.

However, I've always been kind of a hopeless romantic. I'm still a believer that when I see the right person, I'll just know. Call me crazy. But I do believe that.

I'm not saying that there's going to be some magical moment with rays of sunshine shining down on a person that I've never seen before indicating that he's "The One." I'm just saying that it should be easy. It should just feel right from the very beginning.

And at that point, the list will get thrown out the door. The weird things he does that I'd think is so weird if anyone else did it will become cute little quirks, because it's him. He'll look good with any haircut and wearing the most ridiculous clothes. Well, at the very least, I could tease him about his quirks, bad haircuts and crazy clothes. But, all of it will still be absolutely adorable (or at least tolerable), because it's part of what makes him, him.

So about giving guys a chance, yeah, I should give them a chance. But not too big of a chance and not more than one. I know no one is perfect, and I certainly am far from perfect. But, there is someone out there whose imperfections make him into a person that's perfect for me.


I want to see you.

If I'm dating you, I obviously enjoy your company. Which means I want to see you. A lot. I'm not saying 24/7, attached at the hip type of thing, but I wouldn't mind having dinner with you. Or a random coffee date after work. Even if it's for just half an hour, or even 10 minutes, I'd probably be happy to see you.

I don't want to have to plan a date with you weeks in advance and hope that you're free on a specific date and have some time in you calendar to pencil me in. No. No matter how much I like you and how cute you are, that's going to get irritating really fast.

The thing with Japanese guys is that they put their job first. Always. Probably more so than anywhere else in the world. They will choose going out for drinks with their coworkers over going to dinner with you about 9 out of 10 times because it's "work."

I can understand the nation's mindset of having great work ethic and always working their hardest (even on weekends and holidays). And I even admire it to a point. But that doesn't mean I like it.  That doesn't leave much time for doing anything else. And no spontaneity. If any fun is going to happen, it's going to be planned wayyyy in advance.

I just want to see you. As Justin Bieber says, "Get used to me falling through just to see your face."


Communication really is so ridiculously important.

There's two parts of communication in Japan that I've found difficult: the language barrier and communication style.

Naturally, communicating thoroughly with any Japanese person is a bit difficult for me since I'm not fluent in Japanese. So, can you imagine how difficult that is with someone I'm dating?

Granted, in the past, teaching each other different words or phrases from our native language has been a good way to keep the conversation going. But that's only going to last for so long. Sure, it'll be funny, jokes will be made about pronunciation and how weird some phrases are. But, that's so surface level, you know? At some point, I do want to know about you as a person.

During a past date, there was kind of a long silence, so I said, "What should we talk about?" And he said, "Do you like talking?" Facepalm. Uhh, yeah dude, I'm here on a date with you, I kind of want to talk to you. And then he said (in broken English), "There are so many things I want to say about myself, but I don't know how to say it in English." Ahhh. I feel you, I feel the same way about Japanese.

So that got me thinking, how much can we really get to know about each other if we can't even converse easily? We'd have to spend a lot of time together (time that Japanese people don't have).

Then there's the communication style. I think as part of their culture, many Japanese people don't communicate directly. At least compared to us Americans. At first, I kind of liked that. I thought they were all so gentle, kind, and polite. But then it's like, what are you really thinking? I'm all for being kind and polite to everyone, but it starts to become a problem when the person you're dating doesn't express any true feelings. And I want all of the feelings, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And then there's sarcasm. The Japanese language doesn't have much sarcasm to begin with. But I am ridiculously sarcastic. Sometimes sarcasm comes out of my mouth before I even realize it. And the person I'm dating HAS to be able to give it back to me. He has to be able to give me as much shit as I give him. I want that banter. I NEED that banter.

Even if he is fluent in English, there are so many underlying meanings to things that only a native speaker really understands. I don't want to have to think about how to phrase something before I say it, in fear of him taking it literally and being hurt by it.

I need someone that I feel comfortable saying whatever is on my mind to. Someone that knows when I'm being sarcastic and can handle it. Someone that doesn't care that I may curse like a sailor sometimes. Someone that gets my stupid jokes. Someone that gets my random references to song lyrics. Someone that I can share my deepest thoughts with. Someone that I can share my wildest dreams with. And someone that feels just as comfortable doing the same with me.


I want to work.

The gender inequality in the workplace is still so apparent here. Much more than in America. You will rarely see a woman in a high ranking position at a company. It does happen, but it's rare.

I like to think of myself as someone who is fairly driven and has high goals, so I find it extremely discouraging that women are automatically at a huge disadvantage in my field (business). I actually feel so strongly about this that I slightly feel like my time here in Japan as an ALT is a waste of time because I'll never be more than an English teacher here. Getting a "real" job as a woman is already tough, but a woman and a foreigner? Almost impossible.

And there's still this stigma surrounding working mothers. Women are almost expected to stay at home and take care of their children after giving birth. This has contributed to Japan's declining population. Women are forced to choose between work or family. It's so engrained in society that many men still believe it. They want their wife to stay at home with the kids. I don't want that.

I believe that the one for me will make me want to be the best person I can be. And who knows, maybe at that time, I'll feel like the best person I can be is a stay-at-home mom. But, I don't want that decided for me by society. I want to make that decision on my own, because I think it's the best for me and my family.

On the flip side, if I want to go to grad school (which I do), if I want travel around the world, if I want to start my own business, the one for me will support me in whatever I want to do--or at least talk me through how rational it is.


So after 8 months here, I realized that finding a Japanese husband probably isn't going to happen. But more than that, I realized that I don't want it to happen.