Laura Scholl: How I became a ‘homesick Japanese’

Scholl is very active in matsuri, traditional festivals 本人提供

After living in Japan for several years as a student, Laura Scholl decided to emigrate to the island state. The 34-year-old has now returned to Switzerland to do her postgraduate diploma. Feeling like a homesick Japanese, she wistfully looks back at her time in Tokyo. 

This content was published on November 5, 2017 - 11:00
Ruiko Ono and Christian Raaflaub, (the interview was conducted in writing) When and why did you leave Switzerland?

Laura Scholl: I studied East Asian History of Art, Japanese studies and Sinology. During my time at university I spent a total of three years in Japan. When I set foot on the island state for the first time to attend a six-week language course in Okazaki in Aichi prefecture, I already knew that I wanted to live and work there. 

Immediately after my graduation in spring 2012, I emigrated to Japan to take up a job in human resources and recruiting. I slowly moved up the career ladder from working for a four-member boutique headhunting company to becoming an expert in talent acquisition for Johnson & Johnson. In September 2017, I came back to Switzerland temporarily to do a full-time MA at the University of St Gallen. After graduation, I wanted to return to Japan. Even though I grew up in Switzerland, I’ve already spent a quarter of my life in Japan. What were your first impressions of Japan?

L.S.: I remember the first few months as being very exciting because everything was new to me. However, those months were also challenging as I had to get accustomed to Japanese working life, including the packed trains. What are you planning to do with your postgraduate degree?

Scholl in a yukata, a casual summer kimono zVg


L.S.: I’m currently an MBA candidate at the University of St Gallen. I used to work in human resources, more specifically in recruiting. I see this MBA as an opportunity to change my career. I’m not yet sure where exactly I want to go, but I would like to do something in the field of new business development strategy. Ideally, I’m looking for a job that allows me to combine both my worlds in Switzerland and Japan. You are currently living in St Gallen. Do you miss Japanese food?

L.S.: Yes, I really miss the Japanese cuisine, especially going out for dinner! There’s nothing I don’t like. I love rice and good fish, especially sashimi and sushi, yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), nabe (stew), miso soup, yakiniku (grilled meat) and so on. Going out for dinner has become one of my hobbies. Japan has a lot of superb restaurants which are affordable. I love to meet my friends over a good glass of wine, sake, beer and a delicious meal. What do you prefer in Japan over Switzerland?

L.S.: What I really like about Tokyo is the security, service, convenience, the food (!) and the many good restaurants, the culture and the myriad opportunities to do sports (sea, mountains…). 

Scholl: "Asakusa by night - last year I lived right behind the Senso-ji Temple" zVg What’s the biggest difference to Switzerland?

L.S.: I think Japan and Switzerland are actually quite similar. However, Japan is still much more secluded and homogenous than Switzerland. When it comes to business, the Japanese are not prepared to take much risk. They are quite reserved and it takes a while to get to know them. However, once you have made a Japanese friend, you have a friend for life. Cleanliness, security, punctuality and accuracy are all virtues of both countries. And both nations have an affinity for travel and mountains. 

Winter in Tokyo can be freezing zVg How did you view Switzerland when you lived in Tokyo?

L.S.: I thought it was a great small country with a very good work-life balance and good salaries. My family is still in Switzerland. What I don’t like so much is the bourgeois lifestyle, the cold weather and all that rain… What’s the political situation like in Japan? Are you interested in the politics of your former and maybe future home?

L.S.: Yes, I’m interested in Japanese politics as much as I’m interested in the Japanese language, culture, people, food etc. Did you participate in Swiss elections and popular votes when you lived in Japan? If so, did you do postal voting or e-voting?

L.S.: Yes, whenever it was possible I used e-voting, otherwise postal voting. What do you miss most about Switzerland?

L.S.: My family and friends as well as the great work-life balance. 

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