Cliques. I hate ’em. Have you ever known someone that just always manages to conveniently exclude you from sh*t? It’s not a good feeling…at all. It’s definitely happened to me before…right here in Japan. I can think of quite a few times where I hear about how great something is in hindsight. “You have to try this place, we all went a couple of weeks ago.”
In those situations, I just smile it off. I’ve never been (and never will be) a person that chases after someone just to get them to hang out with me; it’s beyond my control. I can’t force someone to like me. In my teenage days/early twenties it might have bothered me way more, but I can’t ever say that it feels good.
Cliques exist for tons of reasons, and it’s not always because a person doesn’t like you, it could be because you’re not into the same things, or maybe you’ve declined so many times that people say “Why bother?” (I’m definitely guilty of this one). Cliques can, and do, exist within companies and externally. But when you’re living in a foreign country, away from your family and friends, it’s essential to have some kind of support system unless you enjoy having the Living Abroad Blues.
I realize that while I was working for AEON, I would hang out with primarily AEON teachers (on the rare occasion that would actually go out). It makes sense. You have the same schedules, you went through the same type of training, you instantly have things in common, and it’s cheaper. I’ve met some truly amazing teachers at AEON teachers. At the same time though I had some memorable moments in Japan with people that didn’t work for AEON.
But what about ECC? What about ALTs? GEOS & NOVA (I think they’ve combined now)? There has to be a wealth of wonderful teachers working for some of these places. I know with GEOS and NOVA, they ran into some severe business issues, but there’s no reason to treat those teachers like they have some kind of disease. I’ve run across some great people who worked for NOVA prior to it’s bankruptcy.
What’s the deal with the company cliques? I can’t for the life of me, understand why people don’t branch out. Scratch that, I think I do understand…because it’s easier. It’s quite simple to hang with the same crew that you always do. Or maybe there aren’t as many opportunities to meet people from other companies/teaching jobs. Whatever the reason may be, I wish things weren’t like that because it closes the door to some great relationships. I know first hand that Japan can be a lonely place…you’ll need all the good friends you can muster.
So if you’re having a hard time as a foreign teacher in Japan, take heart, there are people who know what you’re going through. If you’re having a hard time finding someone to talk to in your own company (even if you’re not), branch out. Talk to teachers that work for other companies, for other schools. It’s not against the rules to make friends with teachers who work somewhere else…I think it’s a wonderful opportunity.