Monday, March 28, 2005

NJ: Culture Shock

Right now, it is the break between school years.

I am, of course, at school, in spite of the fact that I have absolutely no duties to perform. I am most definitely going through a period of culture shock right now.

The Japanese way of doing things is quite different from the American way I'm used to.

Lewis pointed out an informative article on TIME Magazine's site, here, on worker inefficiency. Here is an actual quote that I am not making up:
Japan's labor force is one of the most unproductive in the industrialized world. And not by a little. According to the Japan Productivity Center for Socio-Economic Development, a government-affiliated research center, Japanese laborers are 40% less efficient than Americans.
40% less efficient than AMERICANS! What's going on here?

Here's a great quote from Outpost Nine (currently mirrored here) on the subject of Oxymorons:
This is a nation that prides itself on it's almost suicidal work ethic. They work until late at night, then go in early in the morning. They work on Saturdays. Sometimes Sundays too. Even holidays. Despite all this working, they're not actually doing much. I can say that when the guy next to me has taken his 10th cigarette break...and it's only 11AM! Hey buddy, maybe if you laid off the menthols you could actually go home *on time*.

Sure, they are legitimately busy from time to time, but a great deal of time is spent making it look like they're busy, or on tea/coffee/cigarette breaks. Yet, if someone actually skipped the cig breaks and finished his work around 4-5PM and, oh my God!, left, they would be a slacker, an embarrassment to the company.
So, this is the culture I'm immersed in. Despite having no tasks that need performing, I'm required to be at work and to look busy, because that's the Japanese way of doing things. It's not that I don't want to be here at work (I don't mind it so much), or that I would definitely stay home if I could (although I would just do the same thing, study Japanese), it's that I HAVE TO be here, against all logic and reason.



  1. I feel your pain, as I'm doing the exact same thing at my desk for the duration of my spring (non) break...NOTHING!

  2. It wouldn't be so bad, if I had something I needed to do! The worst part is looking around at my co-workers. My co-workers who are scrambling around, carrying furniture, rearranging desks, sorting through the year's detritus. My co-workers are busy, and the best I can do is try to stay out of their way.

    Of course, I would REALLY be out of their way if I were at HOME!


  3. You should try just standing there and watching them while drinking coffee, being really obvious about it. It would be interesting to see how they react.

    Actually, I'm sure they probably wouldn't react, because they're Japanese and, therefore, non-confrontational.

    I'm in a similar predicament where I work. It usually takes me less than twelve hours to finish my weekly tasks, yet I have to be at work all day (so long as they're paying me for a full day's work, I don't mind it so much). It's to the point where I'll take on extra work, just so I have something to do.

    I find myself doing a lot of personal stuff at work, which no one really seems to mind (thankfully). I've taken to working on websites, editing my novel, and even doing side work for clients (there's nothing like getting paid to get paid).

  4. Yes, I remember your post about it. :)

    I'm getting used to it, though. I mean, I can't play games at work, so I basically HAVE TO study Japanese. As much as I might claim I would be doing the same thing at home, I probably wouldn't, or at least, not to this extent. I've started reading "Remembering the Kanji", and it has completely changed my perspective of how to learn Japanese. I probably spent 5 of the 8 work hours yesterday practicing Kanji.

    Of course, the other way I'm adapting is the "long lunch break". We don't have school lunch during the breaks, so every day around noon, I go and buy my lunch for that day. Let's just say, I don't hurry back.

    I wonder if I would actually be able to just leave and go home. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't notice, and if they did, they probably wouldn't say anything, being non-confrontational.

  5. One day when I was going to have to stay late, I took a two hour lunch. No on even noticed. I've also left early before, but since I get here before everyone else they have no idea when I'm actually supposed to leave.

    Today at work, I had to add commercial breaks to The Dirty Dozen, so I had to (read: got to) watch the entire movie.