Lessons from my first 6 months at a Japanese company
Yeah, it's half a year since I started working at my current place in Osaka. Hasn't it gone fast? So I figured I'd recap some of the new experiences and things I've learned since signing my contract.
Not every Japanese company makes you do overtime... yet
I don't do overtime. Scratch that - I don't do much overtime. I get into work early every morning, and that's my own fault. But I don't stay late, and neither do most of my coworkers.
In the last 6 months, I've read several news reports of people dying/committing suicide because of overwork. It's still very much 'a thing' here in Japan. And I consider myself damn lucky to be working in an environment that doesn't demand long hours in the office.
That might change - who knows? We get busier and busier. Maybe in another 6 months' time I'll be too knackered to write something like this.
Working for a Japanese business may not mean you learn 'Business Japanese'
Well, okay, maybe you will if you speak/hear it enough. My business Japanese is still terrible.
I don't answer the phone if it rings. There isn't a phone on my desk - I think I'm the only person who doesn't have one. After the 'thanks for calling Company X' greeting, I have no idea what I'm supposed to say. Too risky.
My coworkers are nice enough to forgive my occasional lapses into informal Japanese. On the basis that I teach them snippets of English during my lunch break.
Office gift giving is complicated
We had a whipround for some coworkers who recently got married and had a kid (respectively). Everyone pitched in - I was happy to. I'm happy for them. I figured it'd come back around when my birthday came up.
Yeah, we don't do this for birthdays. Had to take myself out for lunch that day...
But I am getting something back, because apparently it's customary to give a thank-you gift worth 20% of the original donation.
I paid to get a present back. Can't get my head around that one.
Something else I received recently was an o-chugen (summer) present from the CEO. But I need to thank whoever the CEO asked to arrange it instead. Thanking people is complicated.
Even the elevators know when you've been working hard
If I exit the lift on the ground floor between 6pm and 6.30pm, the lift says 'otsukaresama desu' to me. "Thanks for your hard work today" (literally 'you must be tired').
The first time it happened, I was taken aback. It talked to me? It saw me off from the lobby? That's unusual. Mind you, I've never worked in an office block like this, so maybe they're all programmed to do it.
Weirdly, after 6.30 the lift doesn't say anything. I guess that goes back to the whole 'leaving on time' thing. And it doesn't say 'hello' in the mornings.
6 months can be a long long time
In half a year, we've had someone leave and someone new start. The business has expanded, with a new brand launching under the company umbrella later this year. We rearranged the whole office. I've written a LOT, and accomplished a lot.
I realised how much life can change in 6 months when I first got this job. It'd seem more 'normal' to update on my progress after a full year, but this has been a really interesting half.