Have You Ever Worked Part-Time While You Were a Student?
Updated in February 2021
When I came to Japan for the first time, I was surprised to find that almost all Japanese students had worked as part-timers (so-called arubaito workers) during their academic years. I myself have worked in China as a part-timer, but for a day only. Most young people around me rarely work as a part-timer because hourly wages are too low. If I were to convert the pay you receive for a 5-hour work, it will only amount to about 800 yen.
Another reason is that as long as you are in China, there is an implicit rule that obliges parents to be responsible for living costs and tuition as long as their children are in school. Most families can support themselves financially if they abide by the single child policy. On the other hand, in Japan, the percentage of families with siblings is high. If their parents are to bear all the living expenses and school expenses, it will become quite a burden to the household. Hence, in Japan, there are some university students who pay their parents 20,000 to 30,000 yen a month in the name of utility (water and electricity) and living costs of their college years.
Because Japanese students live by this kind of culture, I recommend you to experience part-time work if you ever get the chance to live in Japan as a student. Aside from the financial benefit, working as a part-timer will add useful experiences for your future life.
As for me, I started working part-time six months after arriving in Japan. I applied for a part-time job to serve customers because I wanted to improve my Japanese ability. Although I already had JLPT N2 (Japanese Language Proficiency Test has 5 levels N1-N5) at the time, I also took a Japanese class at school and kept good grades. However, I realized that it was because the teachers of the Japanese class use words, grammar and standard languages that are easy to understand. There are many dialects and accents in Japanese, and in fact there are many places where I feel that Japanese is not practical in everyday life. For instance, there is another way of expressing miso soup as “red broth” (akadashi). Working and communicating with a variety of individuals creates opportunities for a person to significantly improve their Japanese language skills. You can also practice keigo honorifics which are not often used in school. Moreover, you can better understand Japanese culture and values which are quite different from what you see in anime and TV dramas. If you want to work in Japan, you can draw on your parttime experiences in interviews and use them in your work. At first there will be many unfamiliar circumstances, but each will become priceless experiences.
However, if you already have the desire to concentrate more on research work with the goal of becoming a researcher, you should apply for a scholarship provided by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) or some independent foundation rather than working a part-time job. That's another story altogether. I hope to be able to address these issues when I have another opportunity.