From Slovakia to Japan: Interview with an SNP consultant about his eight-month work assignment in Tokyo
“Moving to Japan on a work assignment is a life-changing experience,” says Filip Mohler, a consultant at SNP Slovakia who swapped his desk in Bratislava for a view from one of Tokyo’s skyscrapers. In this interview, he talks about his experience of living and working abroad.
Filip, half a year ago you left your home country Slovakia and moved to Tokyo, Japan, to start an international work assignment. How did it all begin?
I’ve been working for SNP for six years now and I started to think about a change. At the time, I heard about my colleague from Germany who just got back from a work assignment in Japan – she spent several months there. So I talked to my manager, and he offered me the possibility to go abroad. We took various countries into consideration, but it just so happened that our Japanese branch was lacking technical people and it also had always been my dream country – so it was a match!
What did the process look like?
I had a round of interviews with the Japanese management. We talked about what I would like to do and achieve, my goals and their needs. It all went well, and the Managing Director Murade San invited me to join his team in Tokyo. We agreed that I would go there for eight months and have one trip back home during my stay. At that point, the administrative machinery started moving – the visa process, insurance, and lots of paperwork. Then I got my flight tickets and flew to Tokyo. For the first couple of days, I stayed at a hotel until my apartment was ready.
Moving to Japan on a work assignment is a life-changing experience, and I’m thrilled that SNP made it possible.
Consultant at SNP Slovakia
Is the accommodation covered?
Yes, I have keys to my own flat in Tokyo in a very nice neighborhood. The rent and utilities are covered. The apartment is very nice but small. Everything is a bit smaller in Japan, but we are talking about changing it for something bigger, as I will stay for longer than originally anticipated.
How did you settle in? Was it difficult?
I was worried at first because Japan is very different from a cultural point of view. But it was much easier than I expected. The team were very welcoming, and everyone was extremely nice and supportive. I enjoy working with them. People here are generally polite and helpful, so I settled right in.
What about the language? Do you know any basic Japanese?
No, I only started using the Duolingo language app a month before I came to Japan. I’m still learning basic phrases and parts of the alphabet. It is true that it is difficult to communicate in English, especially if you are outside of Tokyo. But people here are extremely willing to help you out even if they don’t understand you. Also, nowadays you have different apps that help you with translation. For example, I’m using Google Lens in restaurants to read the menu.
Talking about restaurants, what is your favorite Japanese dish?
Udon. It’s completely different to what I know from Asian restaurants back in Europe. In Japan, it’s made from thicker noodles, and it’s usually served as a soup. It’s very tasty.
And what does your regular week look like?
I work from Monday to Friday, either from home or at the office.
Nine to five?
I work as a consultant, so it depends on the project and on what is currently going on. But it is no different to my regular working hours in Slovakia.
And what projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on migration and transformation projects from SAP ECC to SAP S/4HANA with our partners, mostly with Accenture.
Lunch with the team while my colleague from Slovakia (Tomas Lazar, second on the left) was visiting for project work.
And what do you do after work?
Sometimes I go for a beer with my colleagues. I enjoy spending time with them and getting to know them better. Other times I go to the gym or just meet my friends. And at the weekend, I’m usually exploring Tokyo and its surroundings. I made lots of international friends – we go to the gym, to the beach, have BBQs together and do other activities around the city. There is this app called Meetup, which is very useful in big cities. You can use it to meet locals or expats who are organizing things like events, trips or hikes. It’s very helpful at the beginning when you are alone in a new country.
Japan is known for its wonderful nature and vibrant cities. Have you had the time to venture outside of the capital and do some sightseeing?
I took two weeks of vacation in June. My friends from Slovakia came for one week and we travelled to must-see destinations: Hiroshima, Kyoto and Osaka. Then I did some solo travelling through rural areas and mountains around Nagano. I also managed to climb Mount Fuji – it’s open only in July and August, so it’s pretty crowded. It was an interesting experience, even though I had to queue from the bottom of the mountain to the very summit.
Illumination during Sakura blooming season in Tokyo
I’ve heard you are planning to prolong your stay, as you were originally contracted to go to Japan for eight months.
Exactly. From the beginning, the Japanese office wanted me to go there for two or three years, but I preferred to start with a shorter assignment to see how things would work out for me. It’s all gone so well that I’ve decided to prolong my stay by one more year.
What’s your favorite Japanese gadget?
The toilet! It’s super modern, with heating, bidet and a radio. It’s so funny for me that someone would put so much effort into designing a toilet.
And now that you’re on your one-month trip back home in Slovakia, what are your plans?
I’m spending one week with my family and then I will be working in our office in Bratislava. I want to catch up with my friends and colleagues. We are also doing our annual 345 km relay run from Tatras to the Danube, and I didn’t want to miss it!
So a busy month in Slovakia and then back to Japan for another year?
Yes. This is a lifetime opportunity for me, and I’m thrilled that SNP made it possible. I would recommend it to anyone – if you have the chance to move to another country and live there for several months or even years, just go for it. It’s a life-changing experience and I’m really enjoying it.