Email and Tweets

china.bonding at

Saturday, January 17, 2009

End of First Week

Starting at a new position poses challenges. The familiar systems and processes that used to serve so well now are useless. Previously simple tasks become an exercise in zen emotional control. How do you order a paper? Who do you call for computer help? How do I get reagents? Where can I find a pen? Where’s the ISIS base raf? These are typical problems in any new work place. Add to this the layer of social unfamiliarity and language barriers and these small issues can grow.

Having moved a few times, usually the quickest way through these issues is a human solution. If you know the people, you know who can help you. That’s my strategy here. There are a lot of smart, helpful people here, and all the management team speaks English. They’ve assigned me a very helpful and sharp admin who speaks basic English to take me to the bank, help find and apartment, etc…

I’ve spent the last week meeting people almost non-stop. These hour long meetings are taking on a tone much different than the meet and greets typical stateside. At least so far, my co-workers here seem much friendlier, more helpful, eager to connect. Guanxi, guanxi, guanxi. Building a relationship for trusted business contacts is vital, maybe more so here because circumstances are so fluid the only constant are people you can trust. Almost everyone I’ve met has given me their personal cell phone number. I’m not sure how much special attention I’m getting as a laowai, maybe they are scared for me, maybe they are remembering how difficult their return to China was, and they are Chinese. Or maybe it’s nothing more than the de rigueur of a smaller company.

The day after my first working dinner I’m invited for my welcome dinner. Still groggy from jet lag, the big easy chair with padded sides at the restaurant proves inviting. I skipped the bronchial tubes and stick to the thinly sliced beef and vegetables. Dinner was cordial, friendly, with only a touch of alcohol to facilitate social interactions. The steam from the hot pot felt good. They spoke English for me, it was nice.

After dinner, two departed back while I went with two other of my co-workers to the store. They are acting like my aunts. Insisting on me buying warmer clothing. We go to the Chinese equivalent of Target and the purchase is easy, no mandarin required. As we are heading out, Auntie Two says “That’s where I get my hair done, would you like a hair wash?”. It’s 930 on Friday night. No. Thinking she means sometime in the distant future, I assume it’s safe to say Yes. To my dismay, she leads us into the salon. Uh..what? All I really want to do is be warm and fall asleep. The hair wash lasts 45min. The woman speaks passable English and is good with customers. The hair wash includes a scalp and shoulder massage. I fall asleep multiple times. I feel so relaxed. Total cost= $10. Score one for China.

No comments:

Post a Comment