Module 14.4

If All Else Fails. . . How to Bail

1. If you need to leave your homestay
Sometimes, the situation is such that you may need to leave your homestay. At this point you should pay close attention to the warning signs in (1) below, (some of which you can grasp from the cases in the previous page). If you do need to leave your homestay, and no program office is available to help you, you should then follow the directions in (2) below.
(1) Warning signs you should pay serious attention to in a homestay:
  • The family doesn’t treat you as a guest when you first arrive, but expects you to know and act like the family members with no initial cushioning period.
  • The family ignores you and acts like they want nothing to do with you.
  • The family has unrealistic expectations of English learning, and sees your function solely as an English instructor.
  • The family has serious problems that are manifested in fighting, violence, or sexual advances toward you.
  • A sudden drastic change in your treatment by the family. For example, if their behavior has shifted from treating you as an honored guest to doing things to make your life miserable.

(2) How to Leave Your Homestay:

Here are the steps to take if your homestay has serious warning signs and if you have no program office (or the program office is not helping you). This was the situation faced by both Kate and Gwen.
  1. Leave fast. Don’t try to stay on, hoping that the problem will resolve itself, or that you can either ignore or resolve the problem. Make arrangements to move in with a friend, go to a hotel, do something.
  1. Don’t call on your family for help. After you find yourself another place to live, tell your family you are leaving only when you have finalized all the arrangements. Don’t extend or change your leaving date, or tell them before you know exactly when you’ll be leaving. Tell them when you are leaving, and then leave on that date.
  1. Don’t try to maintain the façade that you want to continue relating with the family after you leave. You can tell your family a tatemae reason why you are leaving (I want to be closer to my campus, my friend wants me to live with her, etc.) But the chances are they want you to leave as much as you want to leave, so the thing to do now is to get out quickly and cleanly.
  1. Don’t ask your family to help move your stuff, and don’t call on their friends either (unless you don’t care that they will be extremely angry at you for doing this).
  1. Before you leave, take care of all loose ends so that you do not have to return. Clean the space you have used thoroughly, and put everything back in the order you found it. This is extremely important and should be done, even if you are angry with the family. Return all keys and any other items you have borrowed. Do not give presents, or try to have niceties such as tea and cakes when you leave. Things are past this point.
  1. When you leave, bow, thank your hosts politely, and then take your leave.
2. Bail-out tips for other newcomers

The warning signs for a homestay can be extrapolated to other situations as well. If you’re being seriously ignored, bullied, or if people around you are doing things to make your life miserable, you should leave. If your work or other environment has serious problems that are manifested in violence or other serious dysfunctions; or if sexual advances are being made toward you and you can’t get anyone to help you stop them, you should leave.

Here are the steps to take if your situation has serious warning signs and you can’t get assistance (such as a program office) to help you leave.

1. For a newcomer student member of a dorm:  Your situation is relatively easy to get out of. Find an excuse that saves face all around and make arrangements for where you are going to live. Then follow all five tips for homestay guests and leave fast.

2. For a newcomer ALT, or company employee on contract. If you have to leave before the end of your contract you need a serious excuse that saves face all around: for example, that an emergency has happened at home, so you must return right away. Keep in mind that:

    • If you break your contract with the organization that is your visa sponsor, you won’t lose your visa—even if you’re fired.
    • You will lose your return ticket, if this was part of your contract. But you can get another job since you still have a visa, and you can try to get a job that includes a return ticket.
    • **Foreign wives who leave their marriage will not be able to keep their visas (More on this below)

3. For foreign spouses of a Japanese. A foreign spouse (wife) in Devita’s situation who wants to leave must decide whether:

    • She and her spouse will leave the two-generation household and set up their own household together, or whether
    • She will leave the marriage altogether. If this is the case, then she will lose her visa, along with the right to be in Japan.
      • Family counselors are available (free) on the Tokyo English Lifeline (TELL) for issues like this. TELL also provides professional face-to-face counseling on a flexible-fee basis. (Info available on TELL website)
      • “Sources of help – eastern Japan” (google this title) gives a number of associations providing various assistance to foreign spouses in Japan.

4. A branch manager like Ms. Elainius: needs to negotiate her return with her home office.

5. A visiting faculty member like Prof. Witherspoon should try and stay to the end of his visiting term. If this is impossible, a face-saving excuse will work here too.


How to leave your situation:

  • The six steps given above for leaving a homestay are useful for anyone needing to leave a situation which has serious warning signs—whether they were studying, residing, working, apprenticed, married etc. in Japan.
  • You should convert these rules to your own situation and follow all of them.  We have had feedback (and thank yous) from people who followed this advice and did manage to get out of bad situations. You can too! 
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Part 4
Part 5