Teaching English & The Pros and Cons of Big Cities and Small Cities
If you’re about to embark on a career teaching English in Japan, one thing to keep in mind is the size of the city you’re looking to move to. The number of teaching jobs in big cities and competition for them is high in cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Why? Largely because of the available
amenities, work and the nightlife that they offer - you name it.
If you want to teach English in culturally distinct cities like Kyoto, competition can be bloody fierce. Word of mouth has a lot to do with how fast you find work teaching in these places. Competition for English teaching positions is less in smaller cities as they’re seen to be too boring or rural. When we say “big”, we mean from 750,000 to several million. In Japan a small city is considered to have less than 500,000 people.
Get Started on the Right Foot
Start by thinking about what you want out of the experience of teaching English before you select a city. Also spend some time thinking about your mental make up. Do you like a fast paced life or not? Are you the lonely type or just fine living life alone? Are you looking for a big change and embrace new experience or not? Here’s why.
Big City Upside
Big cities offer more “action”, more imported foods and often more energy or vibrancy. Large cities will have shopping malls, movie theaters, bowling centers golf driving ranges etc... Finding other foreign teachers will be easier and you won’t stand out in a crowd as much. It’ll be easier to build contacts and have a bigger social life.
Finding work teaching English is easier too. With a stack of resumes you can make the rounds and hit the chain schools in one afternoon.
Another advantage to living in bigger cities is the amount of networking you can do. Often the best jobs are found by word of mouth. So if you’ve made friends with other teachers, this paves the way for getting higher paying jobs, more private students and gives you the flexibility to change jobs.
Just like anywhere else, if you find yourself in a bad position, you’ll be able to get out easily. There will probably be another language school one block over. Another big city advantage of being in a teaching circle is “inheriting” private students when your fellow teachers return home.
Big City Downside
However, be prepared for higher rents, more noise and a faster pace life. Nova rents will average 50,000 to 70,000 yen. Geos, another heavy-hitter in the English conversation world will charge 55,000 yen for their apartments while Aeon will subsidize their apatments for 42,000 yen per month. All numbers don't include utilities.
Other English schools will charge upwards of 70,000 yen per month. A couple nights on the town and you’ll be counting the days to payday. It can be more difficult learning Japanese simply because it’s easy to surround yourself with your English speaking colleagues.
Also the pay rate for entry level teaching positions in bigger cities often isn’t any higher than small cities. If you like getting attention or feeling special - you won’t in a big city. You’ll be just another face in the crowd.
And Let's Not Forget About Noise
Another downside is the shear volume of noise. With millions commuting to work by car, scooter. motorcycle, bus, train and taxi combined with heavy population density, this makes living in Japan something that takes a bit getting use to especially if you grew up in a rural setting.
Then there are also the endless sirens from police and ambulances. And to top it all off you have scooter gangs of 10 or 20 members called bosozuku who rev the engines on their scooters as hard as they can without blowing a piston at 1 to 3 a.m. on weekends.
But just to ease your worries, not a single Japanese city cracked the top 40 in terms of population density. Sapporo did manage to hit #45 and as you might expect Tokyo hit #50. In case you're wondering Mumbai India got the gold medal for highest density. source: City Mayors.com.
Small City Upside
For some, teaching English in smaller cities offer a more “authentic” experience.
Rice fields dot the countryside, the air and water is cleaner. People are often more friendly and rents as well as parking spaces are cheaper. Housing - actual purchase prices for houses are downright cheap.
Your salary will go a bit further. If learning Japanese is a priority, there will be fewer distractions and fewer chances that you’ll wind up surrounding yourself with other English teachers. This will give you the chance to learn Japanese faster. For those of you who really want to get into the language, you also won't run into so many Japanese who are gunning for free English lessons.
Small City Down Side
It’s harder to find foreign friends. There are fewer schools and therefore fewer foreigners. Many also complain of a feeling of isolation in living in the country side of Japan. However one should duly note that the ability to speak Japanese eases this considerably.
Be prepared to stand out like a sore thumb. In smaller cities where foreigners are few and far between, you’ll be unique. Some love it. Others don't.
Also, finding more work teaching English either privately or part-time will be more challenging. Simply put there are less schools close by so you may wind-up traveling more if you’re trying to crank-up your income.
Another consideration: finding new accommodations when you want to quit. If your accommodations are tied to the company you work for and you quit, you’ll have to find other accommodations that allow foreigners. No easy task. You won’t have the luxury of checking into a gaijin house to get your bearings. (If you'll be teaching English in Japan, make sure to check out our page on guest houses in Japan.)
If you like your privacy, enjoy western amenities and the company of fellow teachers, country life may wear you down in a hurry.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Life becomes very different when you fly 6,000 miles east. If you’re an outgoing, adventurous type you’ll probably have the mettle to not only withstand country side living in Japan but enjoy it. When we say “adventurous” I mean you enjoy eating new foods, speaking new languages, making new friends, you thrive in different or unique environments and you're not threatened by things you don't or can't understand. You go with the flow - so to speak.
On the other hand, if you groove on having everything the same and doing new things, eating new foods etc. “bugs” you, your chance of having a fun and memorable time in Japan will be slim. Choosing a large city with more western amenities to start your career teaching English would be wise.
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Hi I am now retired and have time on my hands and have always wanted to teach English in Nagoya. I have a TEFL cert, have 2 years teaching experience