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秋春粉墨

若兰的上海生活

 
 
 

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The Japanese, Beijing and Shanghai Way of Life  

2013-03-19 00:22:22|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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The Japanese Way of Life
My friend K has basically been working himself to death.  Literally.  I think he's actually going to give proof to the word 過労死 from the Japanese language.  He hasn't had a weekend off for almost two months, works everyday until 12 AM (or later) and probably only sleeps 4 hours a night.  Even when his girlfriend was visiting from Japan, he kept on truckin and working overtime until all hours of the evening.

You may think, "that's not living!  That's just becoming a slave to the company!"
...and by god, I agree with you 100%.  This is definitely not living.

K called me in regard to some translation work the other day, and after we worked out the details he signed deeply and said:

"I've only slept 3 hours in the last 3 days.  There's just too much work to do."

"I know there's a lot of work, but if you don't rest you can't function properly."

"But there's deadlines, too much to do, and only I can do it...  I don't have a choice."

"Well, doesn't that mean something is really wrong?  There's no one to help you?"

"Everyone's too busy with their own work.  We all work every weekend."

"Sounds like there's something wrong with that company.  If you're all working that long, obviously the method of operation is not very effective or you're understaffed."

After I said this sentence, K was silent for a long time.  Finally, he replied:

"No.  Nothings wrong.  If we don't do this, then we don't make money.  And besides, it's fun."

My brain exploded on the other line.  What?  Fun?  It's fun to work every waking hour of the day and forget what 'living' actually means?  It's fun to sleep in your company on a cold, company couch with no heating or eat all of your meals at a desk?  It's fun?

In the USA we have a phrase that goes, "work to live, don't live to work."  Obviously Japanese people can't comprehend the basic meaning of this phrase, because work IS life in Japan.  I think in the beginning they're tired and hate working overtime, but have the whole 'sho ga nai' attitude and keep truckin on.  Pretty soon, they feel like staying late in the company is better than going home to an empty apartment.  Or, maybe they work so much and become so accustomed to just pure business dedication that they literally forget what it feels like to NOT work.  Go to dinner?  Shopping?  Traveling?  Just plain sit in bed at your home and watch Modern Family?  Forget it.

Even now I still don't understand this Japanese concept (even though I work in a Japanese company) and pretty much refuse to.  I'll work an hour or two of overtime for no reason at all, and even this, to me, shows how I've changed since coming to Asia.  In the USA we're given an allocated time slot to finish all our work, and we haul ass to get things done.  I think Japanese people resign themselves to fate, know they have to work late, and just get things done hella slow.  Yeah, working until midnight may seem like you're super ganbaru or whatever, but in actuality you probably did 3 hours of work in 10. Good job.  At least it LOOKED like you were working hard.

Anyway, the fact K said working until your body basically gives out is "fun" had my jaw drop to the floor.  Japanese people, seriously.

Shanghai and Beijing--How Can You Be So Different?
Lately I've been really irritated with Shanghai, but that's probably due to the fact that I've lived here for almost two years now.  That, and Shanghai people drive me nuts.

I don't know what it is about Shanghai, but on an emotional plane it's like the super ice cold version of Beijing.  People are really mean and only concerned about their own lives and profit, and they'd pretty much push you in front of a car in order to cross the street and make it to work on time.  I mean, who cares if you die?  Makes no difference to their life.

Anyway, another thing that drives me nuts is Shanghai dialect.  China has about 230,000 (or something like that) dialects, and they all sound crazy ass different.  I know people in Japan say that Kansai-ben and standard Japanese are "sooooo different," but this is nothing in comparison.  Yeah, Kansai people replace 'nai' with 'hen' and say weird words like ookini and akan, but communication wise the message gets sent across.  People can actually talk to one another.

Not with China.  Every dialect is completely different.  Big boss Mao decided to make Dongbei dialect the standard language of the country, which we know today as "Mandarin."  A lot of people say that Beijing dialect IS Mandarin, but this is LIES!  Beijing is near Dongbei, thus it sounds very similar.  Although Beijing dialect is 99% similar to Mandarin, the accent is really intense.  It's like talking to someone form the South.  What in god's name are you saying?  I know you're speaking English, but good lord.  Trying to communicate with a Beijing taxi driver is like talking to a bear.  Literally.  I think grunting would probably work more than actually speaking Chinese.

Beijing was great because I spoke Mandarin, my neighbor spoke Mandarin, the person working on the bus spoke Mandarin, the old lady selling me bracelets speaks Mandarin, the dude cleaning the toilet speaks Mandarin--hell, everyone speaks Mandarin.  It's just convenient. 

But not in Shanghai.  Shanghai inhabitants love to speak their local dialect (Shanghai-hua), which sounds like you're making a gag noise over and over again.  I mean, I used to think Vietnamese was the ugliest language ever but since moving to Shanghai, I've totally changed my mind.  Hearing Shanghai-hua literally gives me the urge to find a blunt object and stab it into my eye.  Because that feels much better than listening to Shanghai-hua.

Unlike Beijing, everyone in Shanghai speaks Shanghai-hua.  I already labored 2 years to learn Mandarin, so I'm just not even going to try with this weird dialect. 

Shanghai people are also ice cold.  They won't help you and, really, want fckin nothing to do with you.  They'll probably even say that to your face, too.  "Hey, do you know where the subway is?"  "Get the fck out of my face."  I mean, this kind of dialogue happens all the time in Shanghai, and after a while the sting of the mean comment doesn't hurt so bad, but after hearing 'go fuck yourself' over 100 times in Shanghai-hua, you start feeling empty and hollow inside.

Shanghai people's conversation topics range from 50% property inflation, 50% money, and... oh wait, that's it.  All they talk about is property and money.  How they can, or their children can, benefit from your relationship is all that really matters?

Friendship?  Pfff.  That doesn't make money.

Beijing people are warm and friendly, and although they may be rough, at least most of them will smile and actually try to befriend you (and not with a ROI in mind). 

Beijing.  I miss you.
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