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The Reversed Cultural Shock Experience

With Emiko Rasmussen

Published on: Nov 2, 2018|

Moving to live in another country can undeniably make you feel alienated and separated. The moment you enter, you have that cultural shock experience. Like most Asian who moved out of their home country into the US, Emiko Rasmussen has been in that position. However, by the time Emiko went back to her home country, she also felt that reversed cultural shock. Emiko shares that experience, the struggles she went through as an Asian woman in a foreign country and as an Asian woman who left and came back. She also talks about finding what she wants in her life and pursuing it, breaking free from society’s expectations and into her full potential. Emiko is now a speaker, coach, and the host of “Her Confidence Her Way” podcast.

The Reversed Cultural Shock Experience with Emiko Rasmussen

Life is unpredictable and it can often feel impossible to find a balance between what you want and what you have. Perhaps you’re feeling trapped or constrained because of your cultural boundaries. Whatever the case, I’m glad you’re here with me now. You will hear stories from Asian women who have found a way to create a life that gives them the power, freedom, and choice to be who they want to be while still respecting their culture. Our guest is Emiko Rasmussen. Emiko was born in Yokohama, Japan. She came to the United States when she was twenty years old as a student. Living in America, she faced many language and cultural barriers. As a result, she had been playing small which limited herself from advancing in her career early on. Emiko is a speaker, coach, and the host of Her Confidence Her Way Podcast. She wants to empower Asian women, specifically Japanese women, to overcome their barriers to living purposely with confidence.

Take us back to the time you were a teenager and before you came to America as a high school exchange student. What’s your family like in Japan? Were you the only child?

I’m the oldest and I have a younger brother. All of my families are still in Japan. My parents are not traditional, but they love to travel. When they were younger, they were traveling around all over the world. Because of that, they may have some open-minded ideas. As I was growing up, we did a lot of family trips. My dad is a typical baseball fan. It is huge in Japan. He’s been coaching for many years. As I was growing up I was busy. I’m another typical Japanese kid with extra curriculum. I would go to softball practice, calligraphy, swimming lessons, English lessons, ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading and marching band. Right now, I appreciate it. As I was growing up I didn’t think about money. Now as a mom, I’m like, “How did my parents do this for me? How could they afford that?”

Was it popular for high school students to come to America to explore? Were you able to communicate in English at that time?

I was born in 1982. I wouldn’t say it’s the norm to go to the US. For my generation, English education wasn’t that great. Although we studied from junior high through college, not many people were able to speak English. I don’t think many people wanted to go to America or other countries. The Japanese norm back then for our generation is that you go to junior high, go to the good high school, go to a good university and then get a job. That is the typical idea. I wouldn’t say it was that popular or normal.

Whose idea was it that you come to America as an exchange student?

It was my mom’s. I went to this high school and there was an exchange program that was offered with the city. I look at the paper and it says San Diego. I had no idea about other countries. When I saw it, for some reason I felt that it was China or somewhere. I told my mom, “I’m not interested in going to China. I want to go to America. If it’s in America, I would go.” When my mom was meeting with my teacher during the parent-teacher conference, a teacher recommended my mom to talk to me about this program. As soon as I knew San Diego was somewhere in the United States, I said yes. I applied and I got lots of help. I was able to submit an English essay. A couple of weeks later, my teacher told me I was chosen. It wasn’t me that I wanted to go. It was someone else told me, “Here is this program that you might be interested in.”

Were you disappointed or pleased with what you saw in America at that time?

Back then, we didn’t have the internet or TV. We did have internet, but it was just starting. There’s no YouTube, no Facebook or anything. I didn’t have any idea of what America would be like. The only image of America that I had was through the American TV show. There were only a few TV shows that were aired in Japan and one of them is called 90210 and the other one was Full House. I don’t know if you have seen that TV show. If you’ve seen that TV show, you know that many of them have blond hair and green or blue eyes in California. The other one is in San Francisco. My idea was people or everyone there have blond hair and green eyes or blue eyes.

When I first met my host family, they were the immigrant family from Asia, specifically Thailand and Laos. They were completely different than what I expected. I was disappointed because I’m here to learn about American culture and my host family was teaching me about the Lao culture and Thai culture. I was confused. A couple of days or maybe a week, there was this a-ha moment. “This country is amazing. I’m in America but I’m learning about Thai culture, Lao culture and it’s in San Diego.” It’s right next to the border so there are a lot of people from Mexico and Hispanic culture is huge. I’m learning about the Mexican culture like, “This is amazing.” In the beginning, I was disappointed. At the end of the exchange program, I was excited. I wanted to know like, “What’s next? What’s out there?”

Cultural Shock: When words fail, you learn to observe.

How long did you stay?

I stayed in San Diego for three weeks.

What did you do during those three weeks?

I went to a local high school. I sat down and observed because I didn’t understand what they were saying. I also went to a Japanese class because that’s the population that would be interested in talking to me. That’s where I met my husband. He was a student at this high school. He was taking a Japanese class. Another week was the spring break so we did touristy things such as going to Disneyland, SeaWorld, going shopping. Normally, that’s what the teenagers would do. Another week was going back to school. I sat down in the classroom and observed what it’s like to be in a high school in the United States. It was such a great experience.

What did you make up your mind when you returned to Japan?

I was determined that I’m going to come back to this country again. First of all, I couldn’t communicate with people. I wanted to study English more and be able to communicate. I was determined to study abroad and earn a degree here in the US because I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to see what else was outside of Japan so I was determined.

You came back to America again when you were twenty years old as an international student. Did you earn your master’s degree here?

Yes, first the bachelor’s degree and then the master’s degree.

What was your life at that time living in America alone?

I felt miserable and I felt lonely. I knew it would be challenging but I didn’t think it would be that hard. Not being able to make friends and not being able to eat out because I’m not good at cooking. I was poor as a typical college student and I didn’t want to ask too much money from my parents neither. The hardest part was losing my identity. I didn’t know who I was. I completely lost my confidence because I couldn’t communicate. When I was in Japan, I thought that I could speak English because everybody told me like, “Your English is good.” When I came here, everybody is so fast and there are many phrases that people use that I was never taught of. Many things were disparaging and that made me build my own wall not to talk to anyone. That was the hardest part.

How long did it take you to overcome that?

It took me a long time. Have you heard of this thing when you’re sleeping, you dream, and the language that you use is English? That’s the time that you’re ready. Have you ever heard of it?

Yes, I have heard of it.

I did have that moment like, “I had a dream of speaking in English.” It wasn’t within three months. It was more a gradual thing like, “I tried this. It wasn’t that bad. I’m going to try this. It’s not too bad.” Gradually, it felt I was able to find my own way. I also had to tell myself, “This isn’t okay. I have to push myself. I shouldn’t be waiting for someone to talk to me. I need to break my shell, to come out of my own shell and to speak to someone. Otherwise, no one’s going to be kind and talk to you.”

That’s the challenge that most of the Asian immigrants experience here because of the language barrier. Although we want to talk to make friends, we are embarrassed because of what might come out wrong. We make a mistake of pronouncing it then they keep asking, “What are you saying?” Most of us experience that. We say something and the person keeps asking, “What are you saying? I don’t understand you.” It does make us feel small.

I was embarrassed with my accent. I thought that because my English is a second language, I thought that everyone would judge me and say, “Are you stupid? You can’t speak English?” I definitely felt that too. It was my first time I went grocery shopping at the store. As I was doing the checkout, the cashier lady asked me, “Plastic or bag?” I knew what she meant but I wasn’t used to that culture of being asked what bags I wanted to use. I was standing and thinking, “Which one is better?” The lady was rude and like, “Plastic bag,” and she puts the bags in front of me and she didn’t want to deal with me. Having those experiences definitely discouraged me to do things. I didn’t want to go back grocery shopping for a while.

It’s a minor thing. Sometimes, people who have not experienced living in another country and speaking another language, they tend to be rude and short-tempered. They think that we are stupid or something. We are trying our best to translate, “What does this word mean? Plastic or paper?” and then, “Which one is better?”

We were never given that option. No one taught me.

Now that we have an option, it’s hard to choose. After you graduated from America, you went to work. Share with us your experience of your first job working.

After I graduated, I had no idea what to do because I was still having the self-confidence issue that I’m not confident like, “What can I do? I speak Japanese, maybe I can apply for a Japanese company.” I was able to get a job. The first day, I drove from San Diego to LA and it took me about two to three hours in the morning. I woke up at 5:00 AM and then drove up there. The first thing I was told to do was, “Emiko, thank you for coming. Welcome. Collect all the coffee mugs from everybody’s table. I want you to put it into the sink, use bleach and bleach them out.” I was like, “It’s my job?” That was my first thing. There are several other moments that I felt, “This isn’t right. This is not the place. I feel I can do more than what I was asked to do.” It was an entry job. I should have known that. Being young and ambitious, I thought that I can do more than what I was asked. On the way back I was stuck in traffic, maybe driving for another three hours. I kept crying and I was confused. The next morning, I called the company and said, “I’m quitting.” I quit on my first day.

Cultural Shock: Being young and ambitious, I thought that I can do more than what I was asked.

What was the position that they hired you for?

It was a receptionist type of job. My understanding was greeting people, answering the phones, scheduling for the customers and ordering supplies. I was asked to do different things like collect people’s coffee mugs, always keep the break room clean, and make sure that there’s always coffee. Maybe it was for both the customers and employees. That’s not what I was meant for. My mentality was, “I’m not a waitress. I don’t want to do these things.”

What did you graduate with?

I graduated with communication for bachelor’s degree and then I had a master’s degree in organizational management.

At that time, you already had a master’s degree?

That time I only had a bachelor’s degree for the first time. Hence, I got an entry position job.

What happened after you quit this job? Did you continue looking for another job?

I was able to quickly get another job in San Diego. That was just for one year because I only had one year of working visa. It’s called OPT. It was a great experience but it was time for me to go back. I also wanted to experience life in Japan, especially in a professional setting. I decided to go back to Japan and I got a job in Japan. Here I am again, I was experiencing some discrimination. Japanese culture is strict and I’m pretty sure you understand. Not just Japanese but Asian culture in general. There are the rules that you have to follow and social expectations. When I was working in Japan, I felt small. One time someone was talking about something and I thought that there was a better way. I raised my hand and I shared my opinion. Afterwards, my boss told me and asked me to talk to him.

He said, “What you did was okay, but you should know your place. You shouldn’t be speaking in that meeting because you were there to just be there.” I was like, “You invited me to be in that meeting.” I didn’t talk back to him because I didn’t want to be rude to him. In my head, I was thinking, “You invited me to that meeting. I was prepared to be there and prepared to share my opinions and stuff, yet I got shut down.” I saw another coffee break room cleaning issue where that was a woman’s job, which I was asked to do. My boss said, “Emiko, there is going to be a customer coming at 2:00 PM. Can you bring some coffee?” In my head, I was like, “I am not your waitress.” However, I have to smile and say, “Yes, sir.’” By seeing all these things I was definitely having that reverse culture shock.

A lot of people admire the Japanese culture. It appears to be respectful. Everything is in order. Some part to me it feels still very old-fashioned. I love Japanese products. They pay attention to great detail. Most of their inventions are useful, genius, and very good. The one great thing from Japanese is they take pride in the quality of work, but now I see more and more issues with people working too much in the company. They are neglecting the relationship at home with their spouse, with their children. Did you experience the same way?

Nowadays, there’s a thing called Premium Friday. It’s a specific Friday that people are expected to leave early. It’s once a month of one of the Fridays. However, that’s a government issue. Although there is that recommended early time-off, people do not take it. When I was working, the company that I was working with was old-fashioned. They do have a time, like a school. At 5:30, the bell rings and there is also an announcement, “Thank you so much for working hard. It’s time for you to go home.” The first day I hear the bell and like, “I’m going to go home,” and I stood up and I was the only one who stood up. Everybody else, their heads were down, still working as if they didn’t even hear the bell. It tells you that people are hard-working. However, they are not good with setting the boundary and having that so-called life-work balance. It’s because people are not supposed to leave until the head of the department leaves. If the head of the department is showing bad leadership and staying until late, then everybody feels they have to stay. I don’t want to speak too much about the current Japanese company because it was many years ago. That was the traditional working environment in Japan.

What time did you have to show up and what time were you normally allowed to leave?

It was from 9:00 until 5:00. That’s what I did. I stuck to it. I asked my boss, “It’s 5:30, may I leave?” and he says, “Yes,” so I said, “See you tomorrow,” and then I left.

What time did other people leave?

I have no idea but I heard that some people stayed and then later on, they even go to after-hour things called nomikai in Japanese. It’s drinking for boys club networking things. All those men go there and they stay. I assume that they would stay until the last drink. I do hear that there are some issues with families because the father doesn’t come back early and the kids don’t even have time to see the dad. The wife and husband they don’t even have the time for each other. Here in the US, there’s a thing called a date night. Wife and husband go out, watch a movie or have a nice dinner. That doesn’t happen in Japan. Women are expected to stay home, cook, clean, and take care of the kids. Man is the primary breadwinner.

Most of the time the women in Japan stay home to take care of the household, is it still true right now?

That’s a huge issue. Normally, when it’s time for them to get married, there’s a term called Marriage Retirement. I’m getting married and now preparing to become a mother. Women have to choose one or the other, become a mother and stay with the family or don’t get married and stay in the workforce. It’s hard for Japanese women to stay in the workforce and continue their career.

That means she can leave work but stay home and start cooking, cleaning, and prepare to raise the kids by herself? That’s not retirement.

Meaning they don’t come back to work.

Do you see if those women come back to work after the kids go to college?

After college, by that time the women are so away from being in the workforce that they lose the skills. It’s going to be harder for them to go back. In Japan, it’s strict with age as well. I’m not too up-to-date but there are a lot of jobs that require us to be a certain age. That also makes it difficult for people to get a job. They end up getting a part-time job or something that’s very low-paid. Japan is a developed country. However, Japan is in fourteenth place in terms of the pay gap in the world. It doesn’t look good at all.

Cultural Shock: It’s hard to find somebody to look up to when they are all the same.

I hope that the Japanese government will change it somehow because they are good at technology, invention, and hard work. On the other area which is family and women equality, they are lacking. If they can somehow improve those areas, the company would be powerful. Did you have any role model growing up?

As I was growing up, I don’t think I had one. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this term called, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” Everyone was pretty much the same. There’s no one to look up to because everybody’s all the same. I feel I was looking up to someone that was a wrong role model because they’re trying to meet the social expectations and do what other people are telling you to do. I don’t think I had one.

Do you have any role model now?

I do and that’s definitely my mother. My mom is a working mom. When I was a child and when I was growing up I didn’t see my mom as a role model because it’s just my mom. Now I’m a mom and I’m a working mom so I have a huge respect towards my mom. She’s still involved with school activities and the community. She does lots of volunteers. I do remember she enjoyed herself a lot, so she would go out with her friends, have dinner, stay up late and have fun. I remember my dad would say, “Once my wife leaves, she doesn’t come back until late at night.” I remember that my dad was always complaining but he’d still let her go. That’s a great thing that my dad did for my mom too, “Go have fun and enjoy with your friends.” I definitely would like to have all those things, be able to work, being a mom, being involved with the community and doing lots of volunteer work. Just enjoy myself.

Did your mom stay at home raising you?

She stayed for a little bit. When I was in fourth grade, she went back to work as a part-time job.

Is that what she wants or because you want to contribute financially to the family?

She had both. I remember my mom saying like, “I don’t like to always stay inside the house. I’d rather want to go and work and do something else rather than staying at home.” My mom definitely had that. I don’t think my parents were typical or traditional parents.

They are pretty open-minded, that’s why they allowed you to come to America to study, to stay here and settle here. You are now married. Your husband is Korean and American. Did you have any issue marrying him because he’s not Japanese?

My parents allowed me to marry someone who lives in the United States. However, I had an issue. It was my internal issue that I felt guilty marrying someone who’s outside of Japan. In Japan, there’s a social expectation that the oldest daughter is supposed to take care of the parents. It’s a typical Asian thing. I definitely had that pressure. I felt I was selfish being away from my parents. I had an own block per se. I was crying and I was telling my mom, “I feel bad. I’m sorry I’m getting married to someone who’s not Japanese.” She said, “Don’t worry about us. If you’re happy with marrying your husband, then we are happy.” That helped me to go forward and get married.

What about your brother? You said you have one younger brother. Is he still living in Japan? Is he married to a Japanese woman?

He’s still single. He’s still living in Japan and he’s still living with my parents. He’s busy with what he enjoys doing.

What does he enjoy doing?

He is a comedian in Japan. Being a comedian is a popular thing to be in Japan. He would be on a TV show, not very popular. Here and there, sometimes they go on a TV show. There are many comedians in Japan, they now have to have another skill to stand out. He is also a DJ. He would go during nighttime clubbing as a DJ. My father, he is not happy. From his perspective, after graduating college, he should be working in corporate and start earning more money but that’s not what my brother is doing. He gave up on him a little bit. I admire him doing what he wants to do because not everybody would choose that path because of the pressure that you’re a man and you have to make money and that you should be just working for corporate.

Does your mom still cook and clean for him?

Not so much. That’s the Asian part of my parents. While my brother is here, she helps here and there. She started charging him for rent. His life is completely opposite than my parents because his life is nighttime. That’s the time that he does comedy and shows.

Did you experience any conflict in terms of family values or cultural values with your husband and his parents?

Yes, my mother-in-law is Korean. She’s from Korea. I was telling my husband the day that I was supposed to meet with her. I was showing my husband, my boyfriend back then, I told him like, “She’s going to hate me because I’m Japanese,” because historically, Japan and Korea had a bad relationship. I thought that she was going to hate me. In reality, that wasn’t the truth. She was very welcoming. During Thanksgiving, Christmas or birthday, we have family gatherings. My husband also has an older brother who is married to an Asian woman, but she’s American. She was born and raised in the US. She doesn’t have much understanding of the Asian culture as much as me coming from Japan. I remember whenever I had a family gathering, the women’s job was to eat, finish quickly and then go back to the kitchen then start cleaning or serving more food. That’s what I have seen.

I knew that’s something that I was expected to do, especially meeting and having a relationship with my mother-in-law who’s from Korea. I knew that would be something she would expect me to do. Without her asking me, I went back. I started getting empty plates, going back to the kitchen and started cleaning, bringing some food and she’s like, “You’re still cleaning,” and then look at my sister-in-law who married my husband’s brother. She’s still eating and chatting with other people like, “How dare you,” situation. I felt that was interesting because, from my mother’s perspective, she’s also Asian. From her perspective she is Asian, however, she didn’t grow up in that Asian cultural value much. Maybe she didn’t understand these unwritten rules that a woman should be doing certain things. I might be a little old-fashioned but I still do to make sure to make my mother-in-law happy.

I see that a lot in my family as well. My parents and my siblings, all of us are the first generations here. We still carry a lot of Asian values and traditions in us. I notice that every time we have a family gathering. The men, after they finish the meal they continue sitting there, talking, and drinking beers. Whereas all the women will take out dirty plates, bring back to the kitchen, and we’ll divide up the activities. One will clean up the dirty dishes, the other one will put away some unused items, and the other one will prepare for the next dessert. They’ll make coffee or make tea to continue to entertain the men.

Cultural Shock: Don’t judge others based on the language that they speak, how they look, or where they are from.

One time my mother-in-law said to us, “You don’t have to. Enjoy your meal.” For Asian terms, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to. I stayed and I continued to help her. My sister-in-law, she’s like, “Okay,” and she went back in. My mother-in-law wasn’t happy. From the Western culture, what you say is what it is. I thought that it was interesting to see that cultural value or the cultural difference.

You have two daughters. What do you teach them about Japanese culture?

I speak to my daughters in Japanese all the time. I’m strict. I try not to mix languages. The other value that I want my daughters to have is to respect others. The other thing that I teach my daughters is that we don’t judge others based on the language that they speak, how they look or where they are from. We’re all unique and different so we should appreciate each other. Those are three important things that I’m constantly talking to them.

Talking about respect, how do you teach a kid to respect? What does respect mean to you? What does the kid have to do to show respect?

It’s as simple as let someone talk first. If someone’s talking, you don’t jump in and talk. In terms of wearing my Asian lens, you show respect to older people. Meaning let them go first or offer something. When we’re in Japan, we do bow to each other. Whenever we go back to Japan, I told them to bow. One time we went back to Japan and one of my daughters was putting both of her hands in front like praying. In Japanese culture, we don’t necessarily do that as much. I’m not sure about the other Asian cultures. She was doing that extremely in a weird way and I’m like, “Where did you learn it from?” She’s like, “I was watching TV and this one says, ‘That’s what Japanese people do, bow and use this hand thingy.’” That bugged me a lot because that’s not true. America has some stereotype or maybe they’re not releasing the right cultural aspect of it. That bugs me. When we’re on the train, for example, we tell them like, “If someone needs to sit down, could be someone’s pregnant, someones older or has a lot of luggage, let them sit. Give up your seat and give it to them. Have them sit down.” It’s easier for me to teach that in Japan than in the US, but I want them to have that both. Be able to balance out the culture value, that’s what I would want my daughters to have.

The best way to reinforce it is to demonstrate it. Demonstrate the way you do it. Always give them an explanation because they are at the age they will ask why. What’s the reason that they have to do certain things? Teach them but also give them the power to choose rather than forcing saying, “This is the way we do it, my way or the highway.” You have two young daughters. What if you have a boy, would your expectation for a girl be different from a boy? You demonstrated that you follow certain customs to be an Asian woman. I am guessing that you probably will teach your daughters to do the same way when they grow up. When she’s about five, six years old, she probably will follow you. They’ll say, “Clean up and help mom in the kitchen.” If you have a boy, would you expect the boy to do the same? Will you say, “Go over there. Sit with your father and chit-chat with other people.”

My first instinct about that, maybe I wouldn’t teach that. That’s bad but that’s true. The one thing that I want my daughters to remember is I encourage them. I don’t necessarily just teach them to be cute, smile, and be quiet because that could be a bad teaching example. I would encourage them to do whatever they want to do. Someone may say that we can’t do it because you’re a girl, but that’s not true. I want them to look for someone else who will support them. Showing your respect is still the same. I would like to be able to teach him the language and culture.

Think about it because otherwise, you will have gender bias.

I don’t necessarily want to push too much on what I have learned and what I value because the country that I live in right now is different. That’s typical for those immigrant parents to maybe face because Asian parents want to teach something that they have learned, what is important. However, kids are growing up in the US with American culture. There’s always going to be a conflict. I need to be more open and have them to be able to adjust and loved.

I’ve learned. I have two children. They are 30 and 28. They make me sick before when I was young and I did not know much. I often heard or sometimes I use the phrase, “Because you are a girl, you have to do this.” As I have grown and become a little bit wiser I say, “That’s a gender bias. That is unfair.” Why do I expect the girl to do different things than the boy? They are equal. I love them equally. They have equal opportunity. I’ve seen that happen a lot to young moms. I want to let them know that pay attention to how you treat your daughter versus how you treat your son. Pay attention to the words that you use to them because if you keep saying that, “Because you are this gender, therefore you get this,” you will plant a seed in them that makes them feel small. That makes them doubt themselves about who they are, their net worth. What about your husband? He’s half Korean and half American. Is he involved in teaching your daughters the Korean culture?

Unfortunately, he doesn’t. The only involvement my husband has towards the Korean culture is to watch Korean dramas sometimes and eat Korean food. He grew up not getting much of Korean education because back then, parents were trying their best to raise their kids as an American. They didn’t push their language that way the kids wouldn’t have an accent. That was his situation. The father didn’t speak Korean. The father also asked not to speak Korean because there are certain things he wouldn’t be able to understand and he wouldn’t like that. He said that as he was growing up, he didn’t relate to Asian or the Korean culture.

I see that a lot in the second, third, and fourth generation. That’s the reason that some of their parents or grandparents, the goal was for them to become better at speaking English with no accent. It has nothing to do with cultural values and tradition. We inherit it in us, in our blood, in our DNA. Those values, those traditions, those cultures, some of them are very sacred and precious. Some of them I agree that no longer work. My goal is to reinforce that, to educate people, to help them see that if they can relate to their heritage background, look back. Come and learn what they’re culture has taught them because they come from that country.

It’s a little bit sad when we say we are Asian-American but we don’t know anything about our heritage at all. Language is the first thing, I agree. If we speak the language, we immediately can relate to the culture. Things like respect, honor, treating the elderly with respect that I totally agree. There’re a lot of great value that we need to pass on to the next generation. I encourage people to look at their culture and see what’s worth passing on. Tell us about your podcast and website. Where did you get that inspiration to have dual languages?

My podcast is called Her Confidence Her Way Podcast. It is on woman empowerment, especially for Japanese women living in the US. I decided to do this bilingual podcast because each language brings some unique perspective and a unique culture. English is powerful and positive. However, when I speak in Japanese, there’s some layer and a little bit of soft-spoken. I wanted to mix together. The inspiration of how I get this are pretty much moving to the US and building my whole work life in a new country. I have faced many challenges and language is one of the barriers. After going through my journey and looking for some podcasts that I can relate to, I couldn’t find anything. My solution was, “Why don’t I start it?” I started this podcast where guests can do the interview and use the language, whichever words they want to use. Sometimes we would speak in Japanese this whole entire time and then all of a sudden, we flip to English or vice versa.

Most of your guests are Japanese women?

They’re Japanese women or women who are living in Japan. I did the survey and my listeners would like to listen to other Asian women who are living in the US. I’m hoping you can join my podcast soon.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of being able to connect with my true self and being able to live my force to bring some impact to society. That’s something that I could not do before. I felt I had to hide or I was trying to be someone who I am not. From doing lots of self-discovery, I was finally able to be myself.

It’s the life work, to find ourselves and our purpose. Luckily, we found it. There are a lot of people who are and who will never find their true self because they are not looking. They’re not willing to open to reflect. They’re not willing to face their life, their challenge. Rather than be in charge, to be responsible for their action, for their destiny, for their life. They would prefer to plan someone else. What makes you feel at peace?

Family in general. Many people may think that it’s feeling calm and all that stuff. It’s being with the family and being in this craziness. My house is such a mess and the girls fight all the time, like every minute. At the end of the day, I’m thankful that I get to spend time with my family and being a mom.

Cultural Shock: If we speak the language, we immediately can relate to the culture.

What do you do for fun?

Being a mom is such a huge role in my life, especially right now. My kids are still small. Doing fun for myself, I don’t have a lot of time. Exercise is also part of my fun, creating the time to do some exercise. What makes it fun is to integrate with my girls, like going to the park or going to a birthday parties and hang out with my other mommy friends.

What does the word power mean to you?

Have you heard of the Disney movie called Frozen? Elsa has this snow power. I remember there’s one part where one of the ground patrols told Elsa, “The power you have, there is a beauty and danger in it.” I see that same thing. When you are scared of something the power will work against you. When you learn to love yourself and accept yourself, the power will help you to get through where you want to be. Be able to share the power with others to inspire.

It sounds to me like courage, what you described. When you have fear, it will diminish your goal and you’re not able to move forward. When you have courage, you believe in yourself. You step up, you move forward, and things will happen based on what you want.

Maybe for me, courage and power are similar. I just thought about power. I see it as an inner power. If you know how to work it right, it will work right. If you don’t know how to, then the power will have control over you.

Courage and confidence, what about success?

I thought before that success meant something that is complete, a final version where everything is perfect. As I go through this life experience, that is not what success means. Success can change at every single season of my life. My success is being able to do the life work that matters to myself. It’s being able to continue with my career and being able to be a mom and involved with my kids.

What about fulfill?

Fulfill means doing purposeful and meaningful things like work, volunteer, being a mom, and being a wife.

What will you not compromise or tolerate in your life right now?

I will not tolerate myself for any excuses that are coming from like, “I’m a woman or I’m Japanese or my English is the second language so I cannot.” I don’t tolerate that. That’s also the same for others. There are a lot of women out there, especially Asian women, immigrant women. They might be playing small, but I don’t want the excuse such as, “I’m Asian. English is my second language.” I don’t want the excuse to hold them back to do what they want to do or live the life that they want.

What are the top three lessons that you have learned that you want to share with our audience?

Number one would be self-confidence. It’s something that you need to build continuously. It is like a muscle and it’s there, but you have to use it. Many people think, “I’m not confident enough or I’m not ready,” but you have to start something. It could be a baby step. You don’t have to have this strong confidence. Once you do it, that’s how you gain confidence. I encourage all the readers to take a baby step if you need to. By doing you will also gain your confidence. Number two, the second lesson that I have learned is life work. Find your ikigai. It’s a Japanese term which means a reason for being, being able to do something that makes you happy. I feel many people are chasing for their happiness, but happiness is something that you feel from inside by doing what matters to you or what means to you. That makes you feel happy. I want them to find their purpose. The third lesson is that you are enough. You don’t need to compare yourself to others. You have to give your permission to live the life you want. Don’t settle because there’s so much more out there.

If our audience wants to learn more about you, where should they go?

My website is at www.HerConfidenceHerWay.com. I also have a podcast, Her Confidence Her Way. I also do English interviews. If you are English readers or the English-speaking and don’t understand Japanese, you can search for the English title. Anything written in English, it’s done in English. If it’s not been written in some other language that you are not familiar with, that’s probably Japanese. That means I’m speaking all in Japanese. I’m on social media. The best way for you to connect with me is on my Instagram account, which is @EmikoRasmussen.

Can you teach us a few words about how to say, “Thank you very much?” What would you say?

Thank you very much in Japanese, we say, “Arigatou gozaimasu.” Arigatou means thank you. If you want to say, “Thank you very much,” then it’s, “Arigatou gozaimasu.”

Emiko, thank you so much for being part of the Asian Women of Power who lives, live, loud. I applaud you for what you have accomplished so far and best wishes in the future.

Thank you.

For our audience, what is your number one takeaway from this episode? Let us know in the comment area. When you are ready to participate in further discussions, please go to www.JoinAsianWomenOfPower.com. Until next time, live life loud.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Quotes 

"In Japan, after a woman becomes a mother, she had to retire from her work to raise her child."

"Being in the craziness with my family gives me peace."

"I thought Americans all have blond hairs and blue eyes."

"I learned about America through the 90201 and Full House shows."

About Emiko Rasmussen

Emiko was born in Yokohama, Japan. She came to the US when she was 20 years old, as a student. Living in America, she faced many language and cultural barriers. As a result, she had been playing small which limited herself from advancing in her career early on.

Emiko now is a speaker, coach, and the host of “Her Confidence Her Way” podcast. She wants to empower Japanese women to overcome their barriers to live purposefully, with confidence.

Emiko works full-time in a higher education industry for over 10 years, with 7+ years of a leadership position. A mother of two daughters, 4 & 8 years old, and has been married for 11 years with her wonderful husband. She is currently served as the Board Member of San Diego Yokohama Sister City Society.

Podcast/Website: https://www.herconfidenceherway.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/emikorasmussen/

Facebook Her Confidence Her Way Community: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HerConfidenceHerWay/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/EmikoRasmussen/

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