As in any case, whether its moving countries or just moving towns, the most difficult part of moving is adjusting to the new environment. The necessary adjustments (if there is such a thing) is more towards the people than towards the geography. The uniqueness, as it has been advocated by so many, of moving to Japan is the totally different culture the country possesses.
There is also a tendency to think that Japanese have a collective attitude, where those who are not 'in' have to work hard to become part of the group. It is to be kicked out of this 'group' that most Japanese are afraid of.
Having said so, though, I do believe, to some extent, that this perception is not necessarily accurate. For me (at least at this current moment, which I cannot reassure to continue forever into the future) this is partially a disguise or an excuse, for both the Japanese and non-Japanese, on their inability to make the necessary adjustment.
In order to feel socially accepted, it is important how soon one can meet someone who will accept you as who you are. It is just as important that the person can also accept the society as it is. Having this kind of attitude is probably more important, than to endure for a period of time hoping that at the end of it people will all of a sudden change their attitudes and begin to accept you.
I was always encouraged to speak Japanese at home, but this only made me worry about my delayed studies, which eventually lead to loosing self-esteem. Japanese is important, but it is also very important for the parents to acknowledge that English is one major part of their daughter's identity, and let her know that it is okay to speak it whenever she wants to.
I majored in Japanese literature at a Japanese University, because I thought it was the best way for me to learn about my identity (I refused my parents' request to move abroad with them again and give up this opportunity).
It took a long time for me to realise that Japan is an attractive country in a very original way. I cannot tell when I was able to feel socially comfortable. Perhaps in a way, I am still struggling. But the more you suffer, the more you struggle to be happy, and maybe after a year since I came back, I was going out with friends I really like.
Although my school days were not so easy, I do not regret it as it made me bicultural--my originality. It's funny and nice that after all these years, many of my old Japanese classmates would suddenly call me up and say "Looking back, I guess you weren't as weird as I thought you were back then".
I learned English and Portuguese, moved to Brazil again, finished highschool there, and now here I am in St. Louis MO.
The hardest part about moving to places where no one understands what you are saying...... is that it's so hard to go forward. Because you long to the old places and things that had accepted you before, it's very hard to look straight in the eyes of the circumstances around you and see that there is actually a way out.
THAT you can help. If you're still keeping in touch with her, make sure she sees the possibilities that she has. Encourage her to do whatever she may be interested in, just so that she doesn't drown in the confusion and desperation. It helps.
You seem to be worried that your friend will lose her American-ness. If you don't want her to change, well, I guess you'll just have to drag her back to US. She WILL change. especially at that age.... But it's not so bad, it may take some time, but generally you become a stronger person.
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