After reading some other lowai blogs, I couldn’t help but feel a little bad with how strongly I identified with some of the shitty behaviour that really irks a lot of foreigners here. Not that I entirely understand or fully relate to it all (please god), but there are some…. Here is a perfect example of both the behaviour, and the foreigner pointing it out: I was reading Pudding and Chopsticks (or perhaps devouring is the better word) the other day. I discovered it, and I read it all. Pretty much. And the same went for Understanding China One Blog At A Time.
So example one – one day, I spent around… oh, around 2 hours reading blogs. Probably more. During work.
The wasting of time. Or to put it another way, the lack of value for time here. Obviously there are a few factors at play here. But let’s touch on how this manifests. As Pudding has mentioned, time is not spent entirely productively here. I have been wondering for ages (as I cannot read the text and of course the site design is so bad, it’s purpose is fairly unrecognisable) if I was imagining the workers in my office online shopping all day every day, but after reading his reference to Taobao, suspicions confirmed. I have seen other forms of slacking off, all fairly out in the open (to a certain extent) and apparently pretty much ok as far as the boss is concerned. There seems to be a bit of a don’t ask, don’t tell policy where accountability is concerned – on all fronts.
For instance: When I first got to this job my boss directed me to a desk with a computer and told me to research the company, the customers and ….literally dot dot dot. For about 3 weeks. Oh, he gave me a few other tasks, such as translating the Chinglish on the website we were about to launch into something a little more coherent. I think there was something else too, but I’ve forgotten. I seem to recall he disappeared for days at a time, down to Hong Kong, up to Shanghai, without ever giving me much direction, checking up on my progress or indeed expecting much work to have been done once he returned. My current (I say current, the feeling of unease has been growing since I arrived and first noticed the way things were being done/handled etc) unease with the situation is as follows:
I am a really undisciplined person. I mean, I REALLY struggle with the total lack of creativity here so the fact that we are pretty much discouraged from doing any actual DESIGNING here is already frustrating (I can’t begin to define how people are directed to produce work here. I am still observing. I’ll get back to you on that. I have a few theories. It’s not straight up copying, that I can tell, and that’s the party line, but… we’ll see). But the fact that I work pretty much completely unsupervised here is VERY dangerous. That coupled with the first month I spent here just fucking around reading blogs and stuff on the internet (also secretly watching movies, like the rest of the office etc etc) didn’t really give me too good a foundation for getting my shit done.
I do have work to do, and I do it. I feel pretty uninspired and confused in this company, we don’t have a clear direction, or customer, or message. The direction from above is – we want to make some money. And be like xyz company/label. But not copy! But make a blouse with this LV style collar. Shit… I”m getting off topic and I really did not intend to go on a personal rant about how I feel about this workplace… or not entirely.
Back to the original topic – Productivity is low here. But labour is so cheap here, it doesn’t seem to matter. I can’t for the life of me understand why my boss doesn’t hire a couple of other foreign designers – even just another one! – and get rid of the 6 other staff we have here that I can barely believe have studied design. Of course, I’ve heard things about the quality and style of education in China. As I’ve had no experience first-hand with it, other than observing my colleagues, I can’t comment on it. But it’s either a shitty education, or they have rocks in their heads. I’m (honestly) of the beleif that it’s the former. And of course, the reason he doesn’t hire some honest-to-god designers is the money. And to a smaller extent, the lack of understanding about the process of design. Coming from above him, I mean.