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THE WAY of Life in England (EN)

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

Every month on WOMENCANFLY.CO’s blog series, The Way, we introduce inspirational women who live abroad.

This time we meet Airi Nanase, who lives in Essex, England. Essex is located about 35 minutes east of London by train. It’s Airi’s seventh year of living in England and she has become accustomed to living there but for the first year, she cried every day because she wanted to go back to Japan. We talked about the loneliness she felt in the UK, the hardships of job hunting, childbirth in a foreign country and what raising a child in the UK is like.

Meeting the love of her life in her dorm

Airi has been learning English since she was in primary school and is the thing she has continued learning even though she gets tired easily. After that, she majored in English in high school and continued to study it.

After graduating from high school, she started working for a foreign pharmaceutical company. Training and meetings were held in English and many of the employees were in an environment where it was natural to speak English.

"I was inspired by my colleagues and seniors who worked in English and decided to study abroad because I wanted to master English perfectly!"

In May 2010, Airi left for New Zealand without even having decided where she would stay.

"New Zealand has opposite seasons to Japan so I arrived in early winter and because I’d come all the way there, I decided to snowboard and stayed in a dorm near a ski resort for a while."

This dorm had six-person rooms with five women and one man. The man who stayed in the same room would become Airi's future husband. Three years after this encounter the two would get married.

Airi met her life partner in a dorm near the ski resort.

Spending her first year in England feeling lonely and crying every day

Life in England began when Airi got married. Airi's family kindly approved of her moving to England and Airi herself had no resistance to living abroad.

"I always stood out because I was 180 cm tall. Especially because tall women are rare in Japan, I sometimes get fingered at. I feel that it’s easier for me to be abroad."

However, when Airi started living there, she felt lonely. Due to her shy personality, she couldn't make friends easily and spent the first year crying every day saying, "I want to go back to Japan".

Airi’s situation began to change about a year after she started living in England. She actively began to communicate with the people around her.

"I told myself I can’t keep living like this! I realised that in order to get others to be interested in me, I had to open my heart positively."

She thought she couldn't just stand there and wait so she approached and talked to people when meeting them for the first time. In this way, she gradually changed her environment through her own actions.


Submitting over 60 resumes and the difficulties of job hunting in the UK

After moving to the UK in February 2014, Airi immediately started to find a job which began with submitting her CV.

"Even though I could speak English, it was difficult to get a job I wanted without a bachelor's degree or experience related to the job. I remember being surprised when asked if I had qualifications for a job at a cafe. "

Airi continued to not get any interviews no matter how many CVs she submitted and sometimes she would go and give her CV straight to companies who were recruiting. She finally got a job in October 2014, eight months after she started job hunting.

"In those eight months, I submitted more than 60 CVs and researched everything from scratch and even though it was tough, it was a good experience."

Airi started working at an apparel company with about 200 employees. In December of the following year, she gave birth to a girl. After about a year of maternity leave, she went back to work, working one day a week, every Sunday.

"My husband worked on weekdays and spent time with family on Saturdays. I decided to go back to work on Sundays. In the UK, all women are working and it’s common to return to work after giving birth. I don't think there’s a concept of a full-time housewife."

Airi worked part-time one day a week until she changed jobs in June 2018.

Airi is currently working full-time at a Japanese trading company in London. Her second time job hunting went smoother than the first but she still had to submit more than 10 CVs.


The cost of raising a child in England

Airi had her first experience of giving birth in England where there are no medical fees. Childbirth costs are also free and you are free to choose where and how you give birth.

On the other hand, the hospitals are basically large rooms where the mother and child stay together immediately after giving birth. Even fathers and relatives have to go home after the visitation time.

"I was really tired because it took me more than two days to give birth after my water broke. Nevertheless, I got to be with my daughter from that day. Since the room was a six-person room, someone's baby was crying all the time and I couldn’t always rest. It was painful.”

You can take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave in England. During that time, 90% of your previous salary will be paid for the first six weeks and you will be able to receive maternity benefits for up to 39 weeks with subsequent reduction adjustments.

However, when it comes to returning to work, there is a heavy financial burden. For example, preschool costs an average of £1,000 (approximately 140,000 yen) per month. There are many households where parents work full-time where you have to hire a babysitter because there are laws in the UK where parents have to pick up and drop off children at school and children should not be left alone without a guardian.

"English companies don't cover commuting costs so my salary is almost gone with monthly childcare and transportation fees."

In order not to lose their jobs, some people pay deposits for their children even if their income and spending are in the negative.

On the other hand, there are many free museums, art galleries and parks and places where people can interact with nature and animals that are more exciting than in Japan. There is an activity called ‘Play Group’ in every area where preschool children can play and Airi, who lives away from her Japanese family, has never felt lonely while raising her daughter.


A work style called ‘Job Sharing’ where two people share one job

There are many companies in the UK that have adopted shorter working hours or working from home and it seems this arrangement is easy for women to work. At the company Airi works at, a system called ‘Job Sharing’ has been introduced where two people work together on one job.

For example, at Airi's workplace, the clerk roles are divided into Monday-Tuesday and Wednesday-Friday and two people take turns to work.

“It was the women who are currently working under that arrangement who proposed the introduction of job sharing. I usually talk a lot with my boss, including private matters, so I think it's easier to give an opinion to your boss and colleagues than in a Japanese workplace.”

It seems that the satisfaction level of job sharing is high because people can spend enough time with their family while working.


The English way of being okay with not being perfect

Airi had always thought about wanting to do something big or accomplishing something. However, her thoughts changed when she gave birth.

"Since I decided to only have one child, watching my daughter grow up will happen once in my lifetime. That’s why I became more motivated to value time with my family while working."

Airi got a big tip from an English friend on valuing her time with her family which was to give up the pressure of always being perfect. You don't have to dress up beautifully or have to spend so much time and effort to cook every day and when you can't do something, just let it go.

In fact, many British people rely on frozen foods for their lunch and give their children peanut butter toast sealed in a zip-locked bag. When you are busy, you can leave the cleaning to a cleaner or cleaning service.

"My current concern is raising my daughter. I am thinking about how much I should teach my daughter about Japanese manners and how to support her with learning Japanese every day."

According to a mother who has also raised a half Japanese child, one day the child will say "I don't want to speak Japanese". As the child grows up, they’ll start to make comparisons. They won’t like to stand out amongst other children by speaking a different language.”

"I can understand the feeling of not wanting to stand out so I’m thinking deeply about this."

English people drink tea really often. They drink tea not only when they’re happy or want to relax but also when they’re having a hard time or when they’re worried.

“When my child grows up and leaves, I want to meet my neighbors and have cake and tea”, says Airi when talking about her dreams. She says, "I don't have to achieve big things," but has now started studying Spanish. We can see Airi becoming stronger and more flexible from her core where she continues to work hard even though what she values and prioritises has changed.

Thank you for reading this, and We are always here for you!

Women can fly.

Much love, xxx

Team WCF

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