Why I Switched Interac Branches From Kansai to Kanto
As much as I enjoyed my time in Japan and working with Interac, there were a lot of problems that I had working with them as well. This was my first and one of my worst experiences working with Interac. But for the sake of transparency for anyone who is thinking of working in Japan as an ALT with Interac, here’s a bad experience that happened to me.
A year ago, if it were up to me, there's no way that I would want to move from Kansai. I loved it there, honestly. The people were great, the food was amazing, and Osaka was a perfect sized city. Unfortunately, it wasn't really up to me.
Don't get me wrong. I love living in Yokohama and I love being so close to Tokyo. It grants me the opportunity to visit whenever I want. I was planning on leaving Kansai eventually… I just wanted it to be on my terms. And unfortunately, it wasn't.
I joined Interac midway through the year, in the fall semester. The Japanese school year starts in April, so this meant that I would be entering halfway through the school year. I didn’t even realize this, because the US school system starts in September. I didn't think much of this at the time, but it also meant that I only had a six month contract with Interac.
I'd read online about numerous other people who entered in fall and had no problem, but I also didn't realize that all branches at Interac were run in the same way. Be sure to read reviews about the branch you'll be placed with and make an informed decision... There's a reason why Kansai has a reputation as the worst branch of Interac.
❗Be careful about what kind of contract you get. Read it well and ask questions in email form so you can reference something later if you need to!
Turns out that Kansai branch had a bunch of six month contracts. Despite guaranteeing all of the incoming hires a year-long visa, they only had guaranteed positions for everyone for six months. Two of the biggest city clients with the branch only wanted ALTs for half the year. One of those cities was mine.
Of course, Kansai branch doesn't tell any of the hires any of this. The training and orientation operates as though we’ll all be teaching there for extended amounts of time. The problem only comes to my attention a few months in when my school starts asking me what I'm going to do once this school year ends.
I responded that I’ll be here and see them next year, but they were confused. They told me the city only gets ALTs for six months. Turns out that my predecessor was still around working in Osaka (no longer with Interac) and not back in his home country like I had originally thought.
❗Don’t be afraid to ask questions and clarify sketchy or lukewarm responses. This is your future, after all!
So, the end of the contract is quickly approaching. It's around mid-February and none of the hires in my branch had heard anything yet. Contracts are over in mid-March so it’s getting close to the end. Some of my coworkers email the MC, who says the company will be sending out information soon. We have no choice but to wait with anxiety about whether or not we’ll have jobs.
In late February, a handful of people know about their new placements. Most people are assigned to the same BoE but change schools. Some people are moved to a totally different area, and some people are sent to rural nowhere—these people have to find new housing in those areas within the month. But not me or my partner. We don't know anything yet, and we have half a month until we're out of a job.
Finally, I get tired of waiting and I email the MC personally asking what's up. The very same day, I get a response from the MC saying that they don't have a spot for me or my partner anymore. They said the BoE cut funding and they had to make cuts in turn. Now, I'm furious because my worst fears confirmed and both of us will be jobless come mid-March. But what’s worse is that the email was phrased as though they had known all along and forgot to tell us.
❗The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Be sure to make a big deal if you have a problem. They can’t fire you without reason (or they’ll have to pay unemployment) so you have more rights than you think you do!
Now I had to rush to find a new job, new housing, everything. With like two weeks notice! If they had known from the beginning, they should've told me as a common courtesy. It shouldn't have taken me emailing and probing for information for me to find out the bad news.
Anyway, after some back and forth (read: a lot of angry emails), they offer to put me on an internal transfer list. The branch stresses that I'm not fired, they just don't have a spot for me. I agree (and ask why they didn’t automatically do this), and within the week I receive a phone call from my new branch offering me and my partner a position in Yokohama. I accept, and after explaining the situation, they offer to reimburse me up to $2,500 in moving expenses because the move wasn't my choice.
❗I was reaching in the dark asking to be reimbursed for moving costs. But asking paid off and I saved myself a good amount of money!
Honestly, I'm glad I moved. Apart from some minor problems with one of my current schools (to be fair, Interac has been pretty supportive of me), I'm having a really good experience. The difference in organization and professionalism between the two branches is shocking. I'm just upset because of how poorly the whole situation was handled by the Kansai branch. It’s nice to see what a properly functioning branch is like.
I guess the moral of this story is to not trust that Interac will look out for your best interests. As cynical as it sounds, you should be prepared for the worst because, as a corporation, Interac's interest lies in keeping their clients happy over keeping their employees happy. After all, there’s always a new batch of hires ready and eager to go to Japan if you get tired of taking Interac’s BS.
Originally published on Blogger in 2016.