Work Ethic

I keep hearing people say that the Chinese are the ‘laziest hard working people on earth’. I get the gist of what people are trying to say with this, bit I am not sure I can agree with it. Rather, I cannot get behind half of it. The work ethic in China is terrible, but terrible in a way that is freighting to behold. It is magnificently terrible.

The truth of the matter is that the Chinese will do anything to not work. Case in point, the other day I had to go to a different branch of my school to pick up my passport when the visa was finally ready. As I got into the lobby, I asked the receptionist if the visa officer was there. “No,” she said, not bothering to look up from her phone. At this point, I have become a master of this kind of obstruction, and I know how to take care of it. I pulled out my phone and said “Oh that’s funny. She assured me she would be here. Let me just call her and find out where she is.” Now the little secretary that couldn’t is in deep shit. On the one, she doesn’t want to do any work, but on the other, she doesn’t want to get into trouble for not doing any work. Her only choice would be to lead me to the visa officer. “Hm,” she said, as if contemplating who was or was not in the office at 9am on the day before the largest holiday in China, “let’s go see if she is here”.

Wouldn’t you know it, she was there. I have no idea why she didn’t want to help me in this case, but I know that these incidences are not isolated. It is just a part of lazy China’s lack of any real work ethic.

I am sure I have already written about the absolute poor reception I had received when I first arrived in China.  But a particularly striking moment was when I asked the receptionist at the front desk  where I could get some passport photos taken. This receptionist did not bother to look this information up. Instead, he looked at me and said “Oh, this is very difficult to do in China. You have to go to a police station to do this”. I was a bit shocked by the answer. I mean, surely China had those photo booths that they have in metro stations all over the world. I asked about this and the receptionist doubled-down. “No, it must be done at the police station.” So I told this to some of the people that were assisting me and they all looked at me like I was crazy.

“Just go to the nearest metro station” they said, and lo and behold in the nearest metro station I found a photo booth, exactly like I expected. The receptionist could have looked it up. I imagine it would have been super easy for him to do, but that would have  been work, and work is hard.

Even one of my colleagues couldn’t be bothered to answer a question intelligently when I first moved to Hangzhou. I was shown to the center where I would soon be working, and before my tour was over I asked where it was that I could buy a bottle of water. “You can’t” she insisted. Apparently, there was nowhere to buy water in a shopping mall or the surrounding area. This same situation would repeat itself one day after work when I found that my bike was flat. I asked a colleague where I could get the tire repaired, and was told I couldn’t. I have since found several, one was even in the mall.

Well, this last paragraph may just be my racist ass coworkers refusing to help me because I am a dirty laowai. But it happened a few other times when I asked my coworkers questions they just didn’t feel like answering.

Unlike some of the other expats I know, I won’t fault the taxi drivers for refusing to take people to certain places. I feel like with that profession you can be selective.  The fact that they won’t take laowai is somewhat annoying.

A better example is the time I walked into a restaurant (recommended to me by a friend) only to find an employee sitting with his feet on a table, playing a game on his phone. He looks up from said phone, sees me, says ‘we don’t speak English’ in surprisingly good English. No attempt to communicate was made, just a nice ‘hey, fuck off buddy, I’m not even going to try’. This is completly disheartening when one considers that I once pantomimed my way onto a Kaliningrad city bus and with no Russian what-so-ever (Ok, that’s a lie. I’m pretty sure I can say ‘cat’ in Russian. Or I could then) managed to communicate to the driver where I needed to go well enough for him to tell me where my stop was.

The truth is the Chinese flat out don’t want to work. And it affects how one lives here. Case in point, I occasionally forget to pack a lunch for work, and about the only acceptable thing to eat around where I work is subway. The only problem with subway is that I can only go there when the manager is working, otherwise I will get ripped off. How? Well, they will skimp on ingredients or charge you six time what they are worth.   Some of this is out of maliciousness, and sometimes it is due to indifference in the outcome of one’s labor.

I could go on about all the occasions where I have noticed people here absolutely refuse to work in China.



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