Sunday, September 15, 2013

Watch your BACK, son!

First, w00t! I've finished the user manual translation I've been working on!! All I can do is hope that it reads smoothly and that I get paid. I spent the past month going home, firing up the computer, and slowly translating an almost 30 page manual. That time also includes making the file "pretty."

However, I want to talk a bit about WHY working in a Japanese office can be so frustrating. 

Let's say that you start working at a Japanese office for the first time ever. There's no cubicles. The office seems relaxed, and no one seems to be interested in what you do. When you look around, you see people who seem to be goofing off, texting on their cell phones, looking at whatever on their computers and you think, "Well, it must be OK." 

Yeah, everyone at work knows what you eat, who you eat with, how many times you pee/day, when you're on your period and the color of your mom's underwear by the end of the week. They know all of this without seeming like they know it. That example, not exactly an example...that's my newest coworker from America. She doesn't speak Japanese well. And she apparently seems to find the job boring as fuck (which may be true).

Another coworker apparently gave her a heads up soon after she got there. I say "apparently" because it's not like I was there when they talked. But, nah, she's gonna do her, and haters are gonna hate. Then it got to the point where a bucho, who doesn't even sit anywhere near us, emails the CEO and a bunch of other people about her. 
"What's she doing in the bathroom for so long?"
"Why is she taking her phone with her to the bathroom?"
"Why is she eating ice cream at her desk??"

All truths. 

Just because it seems like Japanese people are ignoring you, rest assured that they aren't. In the U.S., as long as you are somewhat friendly, do your work and don't go batshit crazy, people generally will leave you be (at least that's my impression). I highly doubt that the average American office worker knows, let alone cares whether or not the person sitting across from them drinks Starbucks coffee or not. 

If you know that people are going to talk, then you can use that to your advantage. Any crumb of information that you drop will spread like wildfire. That's also why Japanese people are sooo secretive about their private lives at work. That hot guy who's easy to talk with and seems interested in you? He's married, and has a kid(s). (True story) He just doesn't talk about it at work, because that aspect of his life has nothing to do with work. 

What else can you do? The big thing is to be friendly, smile, offer to help, and even if you find the first week that you hate your new job, at least keeping the appearance of working diligently for the first month or two goes a long way. Who you talk with can be political, too. More so for your Japanese colleagues than you, foreigner. 
Other things that would help:
Not taking your cell phone with you into the bathroom.
Not taking your notebook, coffee and cell phone into the bathroom.
Not taking the above with you to the bathroom for 20 minutes.
Not taking the above with you to what everyone thinks is the bathroom, but is actually the stairwell.
Not opening a bottle of pop at your desk immediately after lunch.
Not eating onigiri at your desk after lunch.

Hope that helps. It doesn't matter how nice you are...

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