My sister and I (22F, Australian, twins) are both currently in Japan, but both with our own set of circumstances. I've been living in Japan for two years now after getting a job here straight out of university, while my sister has come to Japan last December for what was meant to be a 2 week trip - and has subsequently turned into a two month stay. Now, this usually wouldn't be a problem. She's an adult; she can make her own choices about her life. However, the reason for her stay and her lack or thought, planning, or communication on when (or even if) she'll be going home is putting a very big stress on the relationship between her and me, and her and our mum.

The reason for her visit to Japan was to spend time with her boyfriend (a Japanese man she met when on exchange study the year before last/last year), so I can understand why she would want to stay for a reasonably long time. Being in an long distance relationship and finally being able to see each other after a year no doubt makes it difficult to go home, but she'll have to within the next two weeks because she hasn't yet graduated from university and the last class she must take to complete her courses cannot be done online. She must physically return to the university to complete it. But she's never been fond of university, so it's a toss-up whether she'll even go back for that. And, for the past two months, whenever either our mum or I ask her if she's decided when she'll be going back to Australia she either says 'I don't know yet' or completely ignores our messages.

Now, we don't mind what it is she decides to do. Like I said, it's her choice and we respect that, even though it may make life lonely for our parents or dissapoint them. What we're worried about is that she has no plan at all, or that if she does have an idea of what she wants to do, that she'll completely leave us in the dark and cut off communication with us for some reason before long.

Mum has become frustrated, worried and stressed, and she's told me that she's afraid to ask my sister too much too often because she thinks it might push her away. She's also said that for all she knows my sister may have gotten married to her boyfriend (with whom she's been living these past two months, along with his mother) without telling anyone and will never come back home, which is not only distressing for our mum and I, but also for our dad (our parents are divorced), who can only communicate with us through email (and therefore the frequency with which we talk is much less than with our mum) and will never say whether he's worried or not, though he no doubt is.

My Question

How can I convince my sister to talk to our parents or me about what she's planning to do?

Neither our mum or I want to change her thinking or make her do anything she doesn't want to. We just want her to communicate and stop keeping us in the dark about her plans.


Neither our mum nor I have any way to communicate with my sister's boyfriend or family, so asking them is not an option. My sister has only now, after two months, given our mum her boyfriend's address, so getting any more personal information about her boyfriend's family is most probably not possible. Getting information from my sister has always been like pulling teeth.


We haven't always gone straight in with 'what are you doing with your life?' kind of heavy questions, and we aren't asking her every day or anything, far from it. The last time I talked (or tried to) to her about anything specific was something like two weeks ago. And although we've tried the gentle lead-in of 'how are things going?\how are you?' it's mostly met with answers that go nowhere and don't really have any room to wiggle in the intended conversation. This is the problem: the lack of reciprocated communication.


Added due to recommendation from the comments: My sister (as far as I know) is currently supporting herself financially through her own savings. She is not working (she can't because of not having the right visa) and she's said (a while ago, so not sure if the situation's changed) that while her BF offers to pay for her expenses she's politely rejected his offers whenever she can. I don't know how much she actually has left in savings though, and she would probably ask our mum or dad for help if she began to run out.

  • 2
    Does she have a valid visa? I am also from Australia and had a friend who went to Japan to take photos, stayed a bit extra and then was jailed after someone informed the authorities his visa had run out. Not IPS exactly but it is worth mentioning as it might affect our answers.
    – Jesse
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 2:44
  • @Jesse she has the normal 90 day tourist visa and knows about the time limits. She still has a month on it, and if she stays that full term then she'll have to forego uni, again. The problem isn't if she stays or not or for how long, it's that we would feel more comfortable and worry less about her if she told us what she's planning on doing
    – s.anne.w
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 3:31
  • @s.anne.w Can you add to the Q who is supporting your sister financially? She herself, your parents, her boyfriend/husband, you, someone else? Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 8:46
  • Sounds like your sister is the black sheep of the family, & you're all treating her as such, which has lead to her retreating into a shell. Am I somewhat on target? Also, something that I don't see addressed here is: What is her BF advising her to do? What about his family? In Japan there's a big pressure on women to be traditional home-makers after marriage, and - by all accounts - more and more women are refusing to engage in that social contract, leading to many single men struggling to date/get married. Maybe he's encouraging her to stay, get married, & just drop out of university?
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 14:07
  • @AndreiROM Her BF is also a part time uni student. He's working full-time, though. He's also much more responsible than my sister from what I know, and I very much doubt he would be telling her to drop and become a housewife. Last year my sister told me that they spoke about getting married after they had both finished uni, he'd settled into a new business, and my sister had returned to Japan either through work or some other means, so I don't think it's him wanting her to stay as a 'housewife'
    – s.anne.w
    Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 0:22

2 Answers 2


Well, like it or not your sister is, at least in the legal sense, an adult and free to make her own choices and communicate with you as she pleases...

There's a pretty good chance that she feels nagged and put upon by the family and is establishing her independence. 22 is about the age where people are generally going to be doing that sort of thing and often the age where people get the strong urge to go there own way, make some mistakes, and live some life.

Your best option is probably going to be to give her some space, let her do her thing, and be there for her regardless. Once she feels like the pressure is off she'll likely be much more open to communicating with you. Once it's more of a "How's life?" rather than a "When are you going to get back to school and do X, y, and z?" I think you'll find her more receptive.

Just to add some personal perspective...

I've certainly had a good few times in my young adulthood where I was in your sister's shoes. Well, to be honest I still find myself in that position with a few family members, and honestly it's not a great position to be in.

I knew that they mean/t well and only wanted the best for me and wanted to "help", but at a point it feels amazingly overbearing and rather condescending. I was/am pretty happy with my life and being constantly pestered about when I was going to meet their expectations, and live the life they had planned for me, led me to stop communicating with a few of them... Sometimes for years at a time...

The ones I eventually reconnected with were the ones who could develop a relationship without all the expectations and pestering; the ones that could see that I was living my life and could just be happy for me.

Try to give your sister the room to be her own person. Trust me, it's probably the only way you're going to be able to have a relationship with her if she's already shutting you out.

  • 2
    I know she's an adult. I'm an adult too, but that doesn't mean I keep the people who should be closest to me in the dark about the simplest things and cause them stress and worry over my welfare and motives for being in a foreign country for four times as long as originally planned. She can go her own way. That's not the problem. The problem is no matter what the approach, whether it's 'how are things?' or 'what are you doing about this?' she refuses to answer
    – s.anne.w
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 4:10
  • @s.anne.w you have led with "how are things?" and she refused to answer? - this is very significant and should probably be added to the question
    – Jesse
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 4:35
  • @Jesse it can get a response, but a very short and un-informative one. It tapers off before it can really get to anything, and if it's pushed it gets the usual responses
    – s.anne.w
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 4:39
  • 3
    @s.anne.w That's kinda the point of this answer... Stop pushing and then she'll probably fill you in when she's ready.
    – apaul
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 4:51
  • 1
    Having been the person on the other side, I have found it annoying when people ask the same questions repeatedly. Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 5:25

Similar to @apaul's answer, I suggest to change the way you ask, and reduce the pressure, broadening your questions to encourage her to respond with what she can. However I am suggesting this for a different reason:

Whenever either our mum or I ask her if she's decided when she'll be going back to Australia she either says 'I don't know yet' or completely ignores our messages.

To me, this response tells us a lot. If she had decided to return to Australia in time for uni then she would have certainly told you. Which means she has decided against it and is struggling in breaking the news to you (it seems as though in your situation this is not the case), or genuinely has not decided yet. When trying to get her to share with you, I think it is important that you assume the latter as truth, but be mindful that the former may be possible. The question of "when are you returning to Australia" does not help in either case because as she has shown you, she does not want/know how to respond to it.

Instead I would ask her questions that are related, but might be a little easier to answer. This way you will get a clearer picture of what is going on and learn some of the contributing factors if she is still undecided. It also encourages her to open up if she is struggling to break the news to you by showing her that it is okay to talk about it.

How are you getting along with BF's family?

This question leads into a conversation about how she feels about being in Japan, but is not inherently aggressive or difficult to answer. Likewise, a lead in question about her career related interests may encourage a conversation where you better understand what she is thinking in relation to uni. You have been leading with the toughest question straight away and she is shutting down almost immediately, which means it is important to build up slowly and open the dialogue rather than pushing her to answer your question.

As a nice after-thought, properly talking about her situation with you might help clear up her own thoughts on the matter. Often things seem very mixed up and confusing until we actually put words to those thoughts and communicating with you could genuinely help her figure out what she wants. If you avoid being judgemental, or pushing for a response on what she will do, but instead ask about how she feels/what she thinks then she will be more likely to reciprocate.

Edit: from your edit it seems as though you have started with these things before, and then tried to "wiggle to the intended conversation", which she as always immediately shuts down. That does not change my answer whatsoever. Simply asking these things is not my answer. Same with @apaul I am saying to stop pushing her to tell you her plans. Saying these things should not be a ploy to try and trick her into telling you what she is going to do, or "lull her into a false sense of security". It is clear that she immediately knows that when you talk to her, you are eventually going to try and wiggle the conversation into what she is doing with her life and she does not want that. Instead I am suggesting you work with what you have got. Genuinely ask how she is doing, and show interest/prompt for more when she gives a generic answer. Do not try to steer the conversation to get her to tell anything. She is not communicating with you because you are not communicating properly with her, stop focusing on the one thing she is not currently willing to tell you and try to rebuild your relationship.

  • I've asked all that before, and it gets the same response. She doesn't answer or says something like 'I don't know', depending on the topic. Everything leads to a dead end. As for possibly waiting to break the news that she's not going back to uni, she's had no problems before telling us that she wanted to go to China before uni or that she failed some of her classes when she finally did go. She's not as conscious of trying to soften blows of bad news as that. And besides, we've already told her in various ways we don't mind about the uni problem. It's the lack of communication.
    – s.anne.w
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 4:34
  • For career related topics, she's already applied for same thing that brought me to Japan, but she MUST graduate uni to get it. Unfortunately, she has a habit of dropping out of things halfway, so that's not even a for sure reason for her to come back, and when that topic's brought up, it's the same. Ignored messaged and empty responses
    – s.anne.w
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 4:37

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