A cross-cultural partnership: Kazumi and Aaron Campbell
(caption for the above picture: Aaron and Kazumi Campbell with former Japanese Ambassador to New Zealand Hideto Mitamura)
- living in Bishopdale for the last 10 years, Kazumi comes from Yokohama, Japan and Aaron from Invercargill, they moved to Christchurch in 2006 after living in London and Tokyo. Kazumi works as an International Student coordinator, is on the committee of the Japanese Society of Canterbury. Aaron has been a professional photographer for four years following a career in hospitality and was elected onto the Community Board for Harewood in 2016. They ran a catering business in Kaiapoi for six years, loving the close community connections. In 2010 they made “The World’s Largest Pavlova” in the Christchurch Cathedral, raising money for the charity KidsCan and worked with the Japanese Consulate and Ministry of Foreign Affairs following the Feb 22nd earthquakes CTV building collapse assisting families of the students injured and lost.
Yokohama City is located near Tokyo and 3.7 million people live there. It’s famous for its harbour within Tokyo Bay and has a long history for import and export and there is where many foreign people live.
My grandmother was keen for her children’s good education and she chose Christian schools to do this, teaching them English from the early 1940s- it was unusual in Japan at the time. My Sister and I also went to Christian Schools and College. I studied English when I was student and became interested in other cultures at the same time. After graduation I struggled to find my career because at that time society still thought females are better not to work and stay home. Japanese culture was famous for being a male dominated, though it has been changing recently.
In my mid-twenties, I studied teaching Japanese for non Japanese speakers and started work as language coordinator in Tokyo. I was able travelled to the US, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada and UK. I met Aaron my husband about 20 years ago when in Japan and we lived in London together. I was impressed with the culture of the UK. I still remember the beautiful St Paul’s Cathedral and enjoying visits to historic churches. After marrying in Tokyo I started work for a US IT consulting firm and after several years was the Training Coordinator for the Asia Pacific region. I continued to learn cultural differences between the countries in the role.
After I moved to Christchurch, I still feel it is not easy for me to find a career in Kiwi society, my experience in Tokyo and other countries was not easily converted into New Zealand ‘work experience’ so it wasn’t easy to find a job. Now I am lucky I work as coordinator for Japanese International students studying here in Christchurch, enjoying supporting and helping them. Also I work as a medical interpreter. Probably 70% of the time I speak Japanese and 30% in English. I am still learning and studying English and Kiwi culture day by day. And as I am Japanese living in Christchurch, I feel it is important to show support for each other among Japanese people because it is easier to understand each other.
Twenty years ago I spent my first year in Japan on a working holiday visa, living in Fukushima and later Tokyo after travelling extensively through the western part of the country.
Without formal lessons I found it difficult to learn Japanese but found that wasn’t a barrier as I could find ways to work, travel and live there while still enjoying the experience of the wonderful culture and people.
Living and working in London was a shock for me after Japan but there was a range of experiences gained there that couldn’t have been gained anywhere else. It was multicultural and accepting yet it was not uncommon to find migrants frustrated with difficulty meeting their professional ambitions yet others succeeded beyond their own expectations.
I met a middle aged (newly trained) Chef who couldn’t work in his profession as an Architect designing high rise apartment buildings which he did in his home country of Egypt. Another gentleman I had the pleasure to meet from Nigeria had a Master's degree in Political Science but worked washing dishes for a restaurant I was at- you can imagine we had some amazing conversations. Others sought out opportunities for themselves and found much satisfaction in the way their lives had changed.
We settled in Tokyo on our return to Japan after backpacking on a budget from Cape Town through Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and later Southern Europe. Spending time in each country to meet locals and see the challenges they faced was eye opening and gives me a valuable perspective I wouldn’t have otherwise. I continued my career as a Chef in Japan before spending four years at The Westin-Tokyo hotel serving occasionally the likes of former US Vice President Al Gore, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Royalty and Diplomats.
It was during that second year in Japan that I was determined to take formal language lessons which helped me immensely over the following years as I was the only native English speaker working with the staff of 140 chefs in the hotel’s multiple restaurants. It was an asset for the hotel to have a bilingual foreign chef who could then interpret for European guest Chefs brought in for promotional activities- adapting menus and recipes to match local/ seasonal produce, help meet budgets, finding compromises by understanding and communicating the expectations of all involved and solving issues when difficulties arose.
Despite my optimism and positive outlook, there were times being a foreigner in a mostly homogeneous society was made apparent with words, actions or inference. I felt the best reply I could make was to work harder and be even more gracious in the hope that over time I could prove myself, which proved itself with promotion, greater responsibility, trust and mutual respect across the organisation.
Our Kiwi-Japanese marriage is special because it’s a strong relationship between two people who both have good role models in their own parents, families and friends. Cultural differences are seen as chances to learn and understand. It’s made such a positive difference having lived in other countries as well as in each others home country.
- Kazumi and Aaron Campbell