|William wearing Ming's winter work hat|
I recently read another blogger's eye-opening post on what it's like to work for a Japanese company. Basically, it sounds awful and made me feel really grateful that I've never had the displeasure of working for a Japanese company. It also made me realize that, after a decade in China, I don't even have any concrete experience working in a Chinese company. I spent some time working for the local high school when I first came to Chengde, as well as working for a foreign-run educational company while in Beijing, but I've never been an actual salary(wo)man.
Since I have such little experience, I can't write a lot about what it's like to be a foreigner working in China. I can, however, detail the frustrations of what it's like to be a foreign married to a working Chinese man. I prefer not to divulge my husband's exact job, but let's compare it to a US postal worker. It's the kind of job in which you are employed by the government and serve the people. It's the kind of job that leaves little room for promotion but lots of stability and security. And as with most jobs in China, it's also the kind of job that means your time off is not necessarily yours do with as you please.
|a class where I taught high school in Chengde, 2005|
My husband has it much worse than I ever had. Most of my mandatory work extracurriculars were pretty entertaining. Despite my current grumpiness and displeasure towards working off the clock, I could probably be talked into more departmental dinners. The exotic food (think 1000 year eggs and chicken's feet) and baijiu always puts some color into an otherwise mundane day. Ming doesn't get to have fun, free meals. Instead, he often has to sit through boring meetings on his day off. He has to go to Beijing for various reasons, all of which I won't list off here, but most recently he's been summoned there for three days to undergo his annual physical.
This is extremely irritating for a number of reasons. Firstly, I find it ridiculous that they require all the workers to go to Beijing to have a physical when it could just as easily be done at one of the hospitals in Chengde. My husband and I have a list of theories why they must trek to Beijing--most likely, the higher-ups at his job have some sort of guanxi (relationship) with that particular hospital. I wouldn't be that bothered about him going to Beijing though, if he were being paid for it. He is not. The time he spends there is time he would otherwise spend at home with his family.
I also get upset that these sort of things pop up at the most inopportune moments, often last minute, with no regard for prior plans or engagements. As will be the case this year, last year Ming had his physical in late March. I was nervous about him leaving as it left me home alone, in a foreign country, with my grade school-aged step-daughter, 9 months pregnant. This year the situation isn't quite as dire, though I do have plans for March 29th, the day, we have just been informed, of his physical. Luckily, Ming managed to convince his boss to move up the date, but it will mean he has to use one of his vacation days for the trip (again, extremely irritating).
The annual Beijing physical is just an example of what goes on. Ming has had to leave nearly once a month for much of recent memory. And the situation is even worse for many workers. Most of my students' parents, especially their dads, are gone frequently. In many of their families, it seems like the dad is away on business more than he is home. Some kids frequently stay with grandparents because their parents are both out-of-town for work. I know my situation could be much worse, but I sometimes get hung up on the unfairness of it.
What about you? Have you ever felt like you were overworked or underpaid?