08 September 2007

Working in China

View from my hotel in ShenzhenI've been in China for over a week and am starting to grow accustomed to a few aspects of daily life that are very different from anything I've experienced before. The biggest differences are related to the work day in China.

Each day at the office starts with a 10 minute pep rally of sorts, when all employees gather around television sets scattered throughout the office for their morning dose of company spirit. They sing the company song and recite the company values in unison, and then hear about industry news and recent company sales. Each session includes at Morning Pep Rallyleast one life lesson to encourage all employees to live happier, healthier, and more balanced lives.

At lunch time, there is a song that comes over the loudspeaker to encourage everyone to leave for lunch. If you haven't left the office by 1pm, they turn off all the lights. They also lock the conference rooms at lunch time to discourage employees from eating their lunch there.

Around 3:30pm, another song blares out of the loudspeaker, providing step-by-step instructions for relaxing. It mostly involves massaging around your eyes. The relaxation song is immediately followed by the get-up-and-do-some-exercise song. I think this song attempts to lead us in a round of jumping jacks, but I'm not sure since I've never actually seen anyone do it.

My WorkspaceThe dress is formal office attire, and there is a law prohibiting companies from cooling their buildings below 25 C (77 F). I'm skeptical that our building ever gets that cool.
Everyone is allotted about 7 sq ft (1/2 sq meter) of personal work space, where they sit quietly and work from 9am to 8pm nearly every day. There are no coffee breaks or afternoon trips to the vending machine to provide an excuse to get up and walk around, and the typical lunch break lasts less than an hour.

Even at 8pm (or 10pm on the nights we have dinner together), the traffic back to the hotel is unbelievably bad. Getting anywhere generally involves a lot of lurching forward, hard braking, honking, and moving in and out of traffic lanes within inches of hitting another car or bus. I've heard locals estimate that around 15% of drivers generally don't obey traffic laws. Fortunately, most taxis have at least one functional seatbelt. A few even have two.

Traffic in ShenzhenThe traffic laws most frequently ignored are related to yielding right-of-way, staying in one's own traffic lane, and the direction one is supposed to drive on any given street. For example, drivers like to stay in between lanes as much as possible, for quick access into either lane as the need arises. And since there aren't any signs warning that a freeway exit is approaching, many people miss their exit and simply put the car in reverse to get back to it. One evening this week, I witnessed a group of my colleagues get into a taxi which proceeded to pull out directly in front of a moving bus and come to a complete stop as the taxi completed a 2-point u-turn. Fortunately, the bus slammed on its brakes and stopped a few inches short of hitting them.

1 comment:

Tami said...

There are a few things I missed in my first week that deserve mention:
- The reason they turn the lights off at 1pm is because people take naps at their desk. Some people lay their head on the desk, others setup sleeping cots in the aisle or put chairs together to form a makeshift bed. At 1:30pm a song comes on to wake everyone up.
- In the morning, there is a trio of greeters that shout good morning (in unison) every 30 seconds or so, as people walk into the building. It's a different set of greeters each morning.
- There is also someone in the lobby who appears to be responsible for the overall presentability of the workforce. If someone's tie is not straight enough, this "inspector" will stop the person and straighten his tie for him.

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