Contrary to what the internet has led me to believe, my Japanese colleagues are not the avant-garde, off-the-wall, zany, kooky, weird, fetish –having crazies that they are portrayed to be. The office does not have a vending machine that sells Pokémon animals, nor does it have a policy of ritual suicide if you mess up. In fact as offices go this one is tame, everyone works hard (except for me), no one argues, no one complains, and no one gripes. Which is probably why I go to the office across the hall to whine and bitch, and make a scene.
My co-workers are quiet, peaceful, mild-mannered, shy, and soft-spoken. They are courteous but aloof. I guess that’s why I’m not connecting with them, because there is little to connect with. I don’t mean to say they have don’t have hidden depths that I am as of yet unfamiliar with. I’m sure they do. What I’m saying is familiarity breeds contempt, and they don’t want contempt. It also stops everyone from getting to know each other. For instance, my colleague K2 (so-called because of her initials, not because she is the world’s second largest mountain) only discovered yesterday that: no one bothered to tell me what everyone’s jobs were, and that I had an MA. She actually thought I had just graduated high-school. This is a little surprising seeing as my CV clearly states I have been to three freaking colleges, apparently she just thought I was recruited from a graduating class. This unsettles me. Such an amount of unfamiliarity is already causing problems. Familiarity of the people you work with, their capacities and their limitations, should be a big part of your job, shouldn’t it?
I guess the real problem is this; I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, on the silver spoon was a double helping of sarcasm, and a sprinkling of contempt. I dish it out evenly to everyone I meet. So instead of my usual bile induced, snarky comments and defensive humour that eventually transmute into grudging respect or friendship, I am left with…. Pretty much zip. In fact the only thing I appear to be doing lots of here, is using my ‘phone-voice’ and kowtowing a whole lot more than I ever have done previously in my life.
Seriously, before I began working here when I was told to do something I’d just nod and say “you got it”, now I bow. It’s surreal, I know people adapt to their surroundings, and mimicking physical behaviour puts people at ease, but I didn’t think I’d be bowing like some sort of jelly-spined cartoon character whose head is to big so they need to keep some sort of movement going so their head doesn’t pop off.
There’s another issue of contention in the whole ‘keeping-people-at-arms-length’, communication. I’m bi-lingual but I don’t speak Japanese, aside from two phrases Mr. I taught me in my first week, and no one in the office uses English as the internal language. Although we officially only provide services in English and Japanese. So my colleagues use Japanese to speak to each other, and they use another language to speak to me in (but only one uses English). Now the problem is this my golubtsies, the National Staff who were raised here don’t have a trace of an accent, but the bosses are incomprehensibly accented.
Also their grasp of Western language patterns and customs are- let’s just say they make about as much sense as a kangaroo singing ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’, waving the Chinese flag, while tango-ing across the roof of the Kremlin. Good? No, didn’t think so.
So to recap my current issue, we know nothing about each other, and we can’t communicate in any semblance of efficiency.
Also yesterday they made me un-install Skype, they claim it’s a security risk.