What Not to Wear in the Workplace (for Foreign Teachers in Japan)

It’s April and the new school year is just starting! If you made a bad impression when you first arrived in Japan, now can be a good time to remake your image as a good, hard-working, and appropriately dressed ALT. With many teachers changing schools, you will be meeting new teachers for the first time, and making a good impression with them can be important. After the recent high school ALT meeting, I was a little shocked at some of the attire and accessorizing of a few of the ALTs. Follow these pointers to make sure your appearance is up to par.

And remember, just because your school doesn’t tell you not to do it doesn’t mean that they approve.

What not to wear:

1) No jeans. Ever. Unless your school has specifically told you it is OK. If casual clothing is allowed, sports clothing is the way to go (track suits, sports pants, fleeces, etc).

2) Ladies, do not wear a lot of make up. A little is OK, as long as it’s not distracting. Your students are not allowed to wear make up, and while we are adults who can make our own choices, it is important to set a good example.

3) Ladies, if you like wearing nail polish, only very sheer pink or pastel colors are acceptable. NEVER wear bright colors, such as red, and especially DO NOT wear strange colors such as black, or dark blue, neon colors, etc. If you choose to wear pale nail polish, keep it well coated. There is nothing less professional than flaking nail polish.

4) Big, dangling earrings are not acceptable in the Japanese workplace. Unless you come from a country or region where there is a clear and important cultural significance to wearing a certain type of big earring, limit your earrings to studs. Facial piercings are also not acceptable.

5) Gentlemen, generally facial hair is not well received in the workplace. However, if you do have facial hair, it is acceptable if it is well groomed. The same goes for long hair. Short hair is best, but if you have long hair please pull it back and keep it neat.

These guidelines also extend to ALT meetings and seminars.

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