I'm from NZ and live and teach English in Japan

I'm from NZ and live and teach English in Japan

Global English TESOL trainee, Melanie, originally from New Zealand, went to Japan as an exchange student. She loved it so much that after her degree, she returned, and has lived and worked there ever since. 

Melanie’s interview, below, is part of a series we're running, focussing on teaching English in this fascinating country, showcasing TEFL jobs in Japan, featuring stories on teaching English in Japan from non-native English teachers, and highlighting our most popular, accredited online, 120-hour TESOL course for Asia.

Here, Melanie shares her experiences of life and teaching English in ‘the land of the rising sun’ as a native English teacher:

What is it like living in Japan - the good things and the challenges?

I have been living in Japan for more than twenty years (half my life!) and enjoy living here. I love the hot springs after a day in the mountains or on a ski field. I live in Hokkaido (Northern Japan) so there is much nature that I can enjoy all year round in vastly different seasons The seafood and vegetables are fresh, cheap (free if you know the right people), and delicious.  

I have a good level of Japanese so that makes life much easier.

Dealing with the Covid19 situation is a challenge when I know that New Zealand is doing well and that family and friends there are leading normal lives. We are encouraged to stay home, Covid-19 tests are restricted and the progress of vaccination is slower currently.

Are there many opportunities for native and non-native English-speaking teachers - what do employers look for?

From personal experience, there are many opportunities for English-speaking teachers. I often have to turn down jobs but I am well-known due to being actively involved in the local community, and I have permanent residency status. Also, my husband is Japanese, which means I'm more likely to stay in one place for a long time.  

I have met many non-native-speaking people who teach English here but I do know they have a harder time finding a job. There are more opportunities in towns and small cities than the big cities. In the countryside, too, employers are much more likely to welcome you without an interview - as long as they are willing to live and work in the countryside.  

Can you live comfortably on a typical English teaching contract?

Yes, you can because in order to get a work visa your company/guarantor must provide immigration with your salary, which must be over a certain amount. When I was working on a work visa, I earned enough to save about a quarter of my salary every month but it did help that I lived in a cheap area of Japan and used a company car.  

Where are you teaching now?

Now my main job is as an English teacher at a kindergarten but I don't 'teach' English. I am with the kids all day, usually playing outside or in a forest and I speak to them in English. I also teach online English conversation to adults, do translating and interpreting work, and visit local schools and universities to talk about New Zealand school life and I also take part in local international events to represent New Zealand with my family. 

Any other tips for teachers from overseas who are thinking of teaching English there?

Learn to talk in short easy to understand English. Once you're there, get involved with the local community, share your culture and learn as much as you can about the Japanese language and culture. It's amazing. 


Thank you, Melanie, for this fascinating account and we wish you every success with the course and your teaching life there.


Could you teach English in Japan?

For Visa sponsorship, you'll need:
* A degree (from a university where the medium of instruction was English)
* 3 years full-time experience teaching English

Strongly desired:
* A TESOL certificate
* Native English speakers – although this is changing
* A clean criminal record check

* Discover our most popular TESOL course for Japan >>
* Find out more about TEFL jobs in Japan >>
* Learn more about teaching English in Japan on our destinations pages>>

  • Author: Louisa Walsh
  • Date: 01/06/2021

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I'm from NZ and live and teach English in Japan