Potluck of Cultures

Kiyoe

This is Kiyoe. She is from Japan. She found the Southern accent of Georgia a tricky one when she first moved to Atlanta.

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14650201_668981869916943_6050242986130631560_nKiyoe met her husband Yuya when he was already living in the USA. Three years ago she decided to give up her job as project administrator and join him in Atlanta. Unfortunately, she is not allowed to work in the United States and she feels there should be more opportunities for talented international spouses like herself. ” I think it is very unfair: I don’t have a Social Security Number, I’m not allowed to work, I can’t go to school… So what am I going to do? It makes me feel like I’m not recognized as a person here.”While leaving her job was very hard in the beginning, she admits that she doesn’t miss it anymore. “When I came here, I had tons of time and I had no idea what to do. I talked to my mom, because I was questioning myself and why I was here. My mom said: Don’t worry, take it easy! It’s a vacation from your life, you should enjoy… This really inspired me.” In Japan, Kiyoe’s job kept her so busy she didn’t have much time to think about others; but in Atlanta, she has time to do the things she loves. She spends her free time reading, cooking and baking, and spending time with her friends. She has realized that she does not need a job to spend her days in a meaningful way. “I hated someone asking me, what do you do all day? It’s really hurtful for me, but now I can say that most of the time, somehow I’m really busy and I have something to do every day. I have something to enjoy.”

For Kiyoe, living in a new country is not that difficult; partly because she has already spent a year studying English in Vancouver, but more importantly because she is interested in meeting new people and cultures. Of course she misses her friends and family in Japan, but she feels that living abroad has actually brought her closer to them. “Once I week I skype with my mom and in-laws. This is our routine. Actually, when I was in Japan, I didn’t talk with my mom that much, but somehow, we have a special connection with each other now.” She really14702496_668981763250287_8336229565660300261_n likes the support she has found in her friends from the Georgia Tech International Spouse group. “I think that when you move to a different country and no-one knows you, it is really hard to find someone to support you. The other girls are special to me, because we have the same experiences and the same difficulties and everyone is trying to overcome those difficulties and we try to support each other. Even if we are from different countries, we have the same feelings.” For Kiyoe, meeting people from different backgrounds also has the power to make you discover things about yourself and your culture. “By knowing where someone is from, and what the difference is between us, I can define myself as a Japanese and I can understand myself more deeply.”

She tells us that while parts of Japanese culture are very similar to American culture, others are completely different. She finds it funny how Atlantans seem to spend all their free time outside, enjoying the famous Georgia climate and sunshine. “In Japan, we are afraid of UV’s… we even have sun umbrella’s to take with us when we go outside!” While she tells us that people in Japan want to keep a certain distance between each other for fear they’ll interfere, she admires the open mindedness of Americans and how they seem to express themselves more freely. What she loves most of all is the freedom of living abroad. “Here, I have a lot of freedom to spend my days doing what I like, there is no pressure. This makes me feel more comfortable living in a different country.”  Even though living abroad has made her see her country in a different way, Kiyoe would still be open to moving back to Japan. She jokes that they will have to stay in the US, because her husband likes the American way of life so much. “I’m worried about my husband, actually. He fits this culture really well. If he gets into a Japanese company, I’m not sure if he can do well there. For me, maybe it will take time to get used to my culture again, but I think I can manage it.”

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Interview and writing by Tineke Van Varenberg

Make up by Denise Batista

Interview and Photography by Sonal Sukheeja

 

 

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