Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Arina Kuznetsova (Russia)
Sales & Marketing Manager of a Japanese jewelry shop
(She’s been in US since spring 2007. She’s been in Tokyo for 5 yrs)
We interviewed Arina Kuznetsova after she finished her work that night. Now she is working at Kyoto-based Jewelry company in SoHo, Manhattan (*It has newly opened on 5th Avenue, Manhattan in November 2007).
Before coming to New York, she worked for the company in Tokyo and she joined their activities of supporting foreign women’s life in Japan.
She’s from Russia and has lived in three countries so far. She loves to explore the world and meet many kinds of people. She loves to experience other cultures. We felt she really loves New York, the most diverse city in the world!
Talking about Japan in New York.
Before I came to NY, I had been in Tokyo for five years. I like Japan, I like Tokyo. I found a job at a Japanese company after I came to Japan. It was a car-exporting company. They export Japanese cars to all over the world but they hadn’t cultivated a Russian market. So they hired me to develop one. The Russian Far East is close to Japan and actually Japanese cars have a 98% share of the Russian Far East car market. I had been involved in the car business for one year.
After that, Caroline Pover, a British entrepreneur in Japan, made me an offer to join her company because she had acquired publishing rights of the Weekender Magazine, a Tokyo’s English free magazine. So I joined them in 2004.
Her company was called Caroline Pover Inc. which supports foreign women in Japan, has a recruit agency called “Broad-Minded Business”. They help foreign women in Japan to find job opportunities. When I was looking for a job, I sent a resume to them.
“Japan” in my hometown.
My hometown is Nakhodka, a big port in Russia. My father is a seaman so he often went to Japan. So since I was a child, I have had many Japanese products like Japanese food. He taught me Japanese words such as “Arigato“(Thank you), “Konnichiwa” (hello) and “Do-itashi-mashite” (You’re welcome).
Also I saw many Japanese tourists coming to Nakhodka and Vladivostok very often. All of them took Trans-Siberian Railway starting from my hometown.
When I was a child, I used to dance. I stayed together in a camp. Japanese students also joined us for one months for relaxation and caltural exchange. We performed Russian dances for them and Japanese tourists. I’ve been having some sort of connection with Japanese people and I love their culture since I was a child.
I arrived at Narita Airport and took a bus to go to Kanagawa Prefecture (a part of the Greater Tokyo Area). I was so happy because trees, bushes and flowers were everywhere even alongside the expressways. That scene made me think that I wanted to stay in Japan. I was very happy to be there because I have loved its culture since I was a child.
But when I started looking for a job, it was the time to go into deeper level of Japanese society and Japanese work culture. At that time, I found many aspects of Japan which I didn’t like.
When I was working at the car-exporting company, mainly Japanese men managed it and they were very conservative. Even though they had foreign workers and it could be international, I still experienced discrimination because I was the only foreign woman there. First of all, I was discriminated against because I was a foreigner. Second of all, discrimination on gender. I was discriminated double. So actually I did not enjoy Japanese work environment very much. Discrimination still remains deeply rooted in Japan even though Japanese society has changed a lot lately.
So I started looking for international companies. And I was so happy when Caroline welcomed me to her company and gave me a new position there. It was a really foreigner-friendly company.
New culture, new people, new world.
I’d been in Japan for five years and I explored many things. I enjoyed its culture so much. But I felt I would need to change environment and need to do something else. So I thought of moving out of Japan and I finally decided to explore a new culture and to go to a different country.
I felt that New York would be the only place to have the same lifestyle, social and cultural life as Tokyo. That’s why I chose New York.
I thought of moving to London, Moscow or New York. But it’s too rainy in London. I prefer a nice climate.
Moscow is a very big city, too, and it has a lot of cultures. But it’s in Russia and it’s not a diverse environment very much and not open to other cultures. I wanted to explore a new culture. I wanted to meet people who have different nationalities and explore other sides of the world.
Tokyo is very diverse but it has its limitations. Even though there are many foreigners in Tokyo and you meet many of them, it becomes routine. Because you meet the same people and you get to know what they are doing. So I felt I would need change. I wanted to move to a city bigger than Tokyo. And I wanted to go to the place where I would be able to meet more foreigners.
I haven’t experienced any discrimination here in New York yet. I think because I’ve been here for a short time and I haven’t worked at many companies.
Russian eyes on NY & TYO.
I don’t feel myself in America or in Japan as much as I feel in Russia with its wide fields, beautiful forests, wild nature, kind and generous people. There are too many prohibiting laws in America and Japan. These countries are well organized but people always feel the pressure of the government rules or economic obligations such as mortgages, downpayments and so on. In Russia, there are many laws but people always find a way to get around them. I’m not saying it is a good thing. This maybe the reason why we are not as economically advanced as America and Japan and this may be the reason why I am not living there currently.
But there is much more free spirit and less boundaries. It is changing a lot nowdays though since our economy is rising and we’re getting more organized as a country.
Many opportunities and chances.
There are so many good things in New York.
First of all, you can find every culture here. It’s the most enjoyable part of New York for me because I really love to explore the world. I love to learn about different cultures and I love to try different cuisine. So you can find every kind of cuisine. It’s possible here.
Also New York has special districts like Little Korea, Little Japan, Little Brazil, Chinatown and Little Russia by the sea (Brighton Beach, Brooklyn).
I actually enjoy meeting people here because people are so different and all of them have different backgrounds. You can meet people from all over the world in one city. You never know what’s happening to you or who you’re gonna meet up with. You can get so many opportunities and chances here. Something amazing would happen to you here everyday.
Brighton Beach, the Little Russia of New York.
“Segregation” in NY.
People here welcome so many cultures and they treat you like others. It’s their custom. People come to New York from all over the world and they become New Yorkers. So they don’t distinguish you from others. They seem to be mixed.
But I’ve noticed that there is a lot of “segregation” here in New York. For example, in the Russian community here, people meet each other only in that community. They go out together and have parties together. Likewise, white people meet white people. Black people hang out with black people. But white people and black people don’t mix. Chinese people live in Chinatown and other ethnic groups also live in certan areas. If you walk only two blocks here, you step into another ethnic town. I noticed that people don’t mix that much. Even though you feel there are many cultures here, you would find that people live separately. They live in their own communities.
NY is comfortable for foreigners.
In Japan, Japanese and foreigners are completely separated. But here, they don’t care whether you’re a foreigner or not. They don’t care about your accent. They will understand you. New York is much more comfortable than Tokyo for foreigners.
New York is the city that never sleeps. You can enjoy so many things here but it’s a city mainly for singles. So when I have my family, we will move to a more quiet area closer to nature. But in the meantime, the next two years, I will stay in New York because I still enjoy its lifestyle. I would like to stay in New York.
What is Tokyo to you?
Tokyo was a big challenge for me. It was the city that introduced me to beautiful Japanese culture and gave me an opportunity to be professional.
What is New York to you?
New York is my next step.
I found everything I wanted here. I don’t need to go to Russia because there are many Russian things in New York. There is American culture and other ones here.
So I’m busy because I explore many things here.
Niwaka USA, Inc.: http://www.niwaka.com/us/