Why Are There Teaching Company Cliques in Japan?

By Donnie | Articles

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.

Donald Ash

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  • Amanda

    Hmm not sure if it’s a matter of cliques that teachers from different companies don’t hang out, but that they never get a chance to meet. Pretty much all the other foreigners I know are from work. Perhaps if I start taking Japanese lessons or something that will be another way to make more foreign friends.

    • Donald Ash

      AMANDA!!!! Hi. It’s so good to hear from you. I was looking at your blog, too. I’m glad you decided to come back. I was worried about you (Loco too).

      After posting the article I started thinking about it about a bit, and I think you’re right. I don’t necessarily think the cliques are intentional , it’s just more convenient to make friends within the company you work for.

      • Amanda

        Yeah I am back and back to the grind. 🙂

        • Donald Ash

          I hear you on that Amanda. Same here. Grind on my friend…grind on.

  • I think working at a major school…it just happens.

    And people/countries/things tend to think they are better than others. Human nature.

    But once you get out……..like you, yeah, you find a huge world opens up.

    I lived in my little Aeon bubble for 1.5 years. A great time it was but very limiting…and narrowed my view/perspective on real Japan.

    So it was good to get out and ‘see Japan’ so to speak

    But most will tell you, Tsukuba is NOT real Japan. it’s a very unique university town! 🙂


    btw…I posted a very very very important message on my blog……could you pass it on to all your readers too? it is in both e/J


    • Donald Ash

      Tsukuba is kinda like a bubble city, ne? I’m trying to make some serious efforts to break out of my little bubble though. Leaving AEON has been a struggle so far, that pay cut has been a serious financial sting. But I know it’s for the best. Cool. Thanks for the link, Vivian.

  • Roger Starkey

    Kind of think you’re missing it here…it’s a big place and really the connections you have are those that you make. At least in the case of the ones that stick, and by stick I mean that these people are still your friends even if they move. Ask yourself if your AEON friends would help you move, or paint your room, or let you stay at their place indefinitely between jobs. Maybe most wouldn’t;; but if you have one real friend here who will, that’s all you need and you’re lucky.

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