Xiaoyu Liu: About my experience in Impact Hub Kyoto

During my internship in Impact Hub Kyoto, I worked on my project on designing the member’s wall and it turned out to be a really amazing experience. I learned a lot from this especially how to corporate with Japanese collegues under the collectivistic culture here. It is different from what I experienced in America  since the working environment in the US is always easy to get in. Everyone around seems talkative and outgoing and easy to build up relationship with. However, in Japan, it took me a long time to fit in and establish my role in the group since nobody was what I was good at and how I could contribute to the group. In the beginning, I jumped in with the identity of a foreign student from the United States of America, which means I automatically received some sort of credibility and respect from my Japanese colleagues as a professional and fresh blood from abroad. However, on the other hand, it makes me harder to get involve into the group since my “price” is high and they cannot treat me as a normal new-comer doing messy chores. At the beginning when I was talking to them about my thoughts on some club issue, I could easily found Erin san and Tomo san were uneasy with some of my ideas but they said nothinng. Also, they felt nervous talking with me or ask for favor since they were unsure if I can understand what they said or unhappy to do messy little stuff.  Here, Japanese language ability is also another factor that deeply affects our communication. Since this is a working place, people tend to be speak fast and concise, and it is frustrating to ask your partner to repeat what they said for several time, because your Japanese is not good enough. You can easily get the feeling that you are impairing the group efficiency and making your co-workers to sacrifice their time and energy to your stupidness. What even worse is that Japanese is so delicate that your partner would never understand what you want to say or even confirm unless you use the right wordings. Sometimes you will try to make the story long to let them understand, but this is so inefficient and usually in the end, both of you would got lost and ended the conversation with silence.

Still, I chose to stay there because I wanted to try best to see if I can get involved into this Japanese working environment. Also, l like all the staffs and the cool Noh stages and Bamboo yard in their space.

After I patiently helping with little thing, keeping participating my work, and attending some of their gathering,  I kind of felt that they gradually being more and more relaxed on me, which means they are accepting me as one of their member. After all, it is one of my best time studying abroad in Kyoto, and my Japanese did improve a lot from this.

So, I will say it is a good but rare experience to work with Japanese people in Japan. Usually my US friends would get worried and upset when they found they cannot get into the Japanese community easily. I will say the way of entry is different since you cannot just build up good relationship with them by talking with them only, but also to show your effort and contribution to the community, as well as pretty fluent Japanese, the basic requirement for communication. From time to time after the group member confirmed that you are hardworking and good in nature with their eyes, you will automatically receive an invitation for dinner gathering and next time when you come, you will find everyone is relaxed. Without saying anything, you just become one of them, and everyone knows. Also, you will find ask them to get things done will be much much easier and faster.

Oh, it is really Japanese, isn’t it?


By Xiaoyu Liu, Brandeis 2014er,


Xiaoyu Liu: About my experience in Impact Hub Kyoto” への2件のコメント

  1. Liu-san,

    At the end of your blog post you mention that, in order to build good relationships with the people in HUB, you had to show your contribution to the group. Talking by itself was not enough. Is this different from your experiences in America and in China? Do you think this aspect of Japanese culture is a good thing? Does it help create a more efficient working environment or does it make it harder to get along with your coworkers? Overall it seems like this was a great CIP for you!

    • Thanks, actually I find it is easier to answer putting under the Q,

      Is this different from your experiences in America and in China?
      Yes in America and almost the same in China.In America it is easier to form a group and everyone will discuss what to do and how to assign work for each one. However in Japan, a new comer needs to build up his relaship with the group members and perform his duty, first before he can say and do things freely.

      Do you think this aspect of Japanese culture is a good thing?
      For people used to it and everyone keeps it, it is good enough since it makes people willing to work for the group (hard work gets you permission). For people from another culture, it is really hard and frustrating in the beginning since you saw no rewards and you have to work hard as you feel a little bit insecure.

      Does it help create a more efficient working environment or does it make it harder to get along with your coworkers?
      I mean it is hard in the beginning but after the dining party it became much easier, and when it became easier, it will be much much easier in the future since they seem to agree to have a long term relationship. Still, it is not bad since when you are running a NGO, there is a shitty tons of workload, and sometimes I will even feel sympathy to the overworked staff there. While, I would define Hub as an organization for education, people’s well-beings and good service, so it should not really behave like recruiting temporary worker in Mac of KFC, but something more than that. Still, I don’t think this will last forever as they have to be more socialized and more professionally welcoming to new people in order to get better..