I was talking with a Japanese acquaintance this morning and we were talking about travelling. I was explaining to him the concept of the OE.
The big OE is very much a New Zealand term and it means 'Overseas Experience' where people from New Zealand take usually a minimum of a year and go overseas to experience the big wide world.
For a great percentage of New Zealanders, London is the destination as it is almost considered to be the mother country as a lot of New Zealanders can trace their ancestry to Great Britain.
My friend was fascinated by this and he said that Japan doesn't really have this kind of culture. I said that a lot of students seem to travel around graduation time. 卒業旅行 Graduation trip it is called seems to be popular in Japan but he said it is only for a few weeks and then people come back and join a company, get married, have children, buy a house etc.
He thought out loud why Japanese don't do this.
I think that it comes down to a number of factors. Both New Zealand and Japan are geographically isolated however New Zealand is not linguistically isolated from the rest of the world. With English being one of the main languages in New Zealand we are not so isolated in terms of things like pop culture and the like.
Also another factor against a majority of Japanese doing things like OEs is the lifetime employment concept. Lifetime employment is the idea that you work for the same company for your entire working life. The company looks after you and you basically give them 40 years or more of your life.
Another reason I think that it is popular for New Zealanders is that Britain is considered the mother country and we want to go there to discover out roots. I must admit when I was in Scotland a few years ago it was nice to see where my ancestors grew up.
Japanese don't really have that. They come from Japan and that is their home. Japan isn't really an immigrant country whereas New Zealand is. 900 years ago there wasn't anyone on the New Zealand islands while in Japan it was the Heian Period and the country was ruled as it is today by an emperor.
I think that it is important to get out and explore the world as you can gain a better perspective of where you are from and also you may pick up other useful things like learning a language for instance.