When I first moved back to Portland after my horrendous year in Dallas, I was angry and flippant. Once again I was moving to a random US city for my husband’s job, and to top it all off we purchased a house that would ultimately lock us to an unknown place I had never lived in. When we signed the papers to purchase the house, I had to repeatedly ask my husband that the house would not make Portland permanent for us. That we could sell it. He said yes. With hands shaking, I signed the papers to the house located in a city I knew nothing about. I was scared. I was nervous. I was confused.
It’s ironic that one of the most overworked populations in the world is also the country with the longest average lifespan.
Japan has one of the most grueling work ethics in the world, where the average employee is expected to put in more than 80 hours of overtime per month. In prior posts I wrote about a Japanese colleague who worked himself sick to the point where he came into the office with an IV drip; while another Japanese colleague sat at his desk to the point of unconsciousness, only to wake up in the ER and demand his work laptop from the hospital bed. From these examples, it is easy to see how the word ‘karoshi,’ or death from overwork, came to be part of the everyday Japanese lexicon.
Until my recent job, I have had unimaginable good luck when it comes to having a great boss. My prior bosses weren’t just amazing — they were all female, Asian, and extremely badass. Working so closely with such amazing role models on a daily basis not only inspired me to succeed, but also made me realize what good leadership truly looks like.
Takada-San: The Ad Executive
I remember when I first met Takada-san during my interview. She had a black suit on and a stone-faced expression. She questioned all of my credentials. She was hesitant and suspicious of this foreigner from left-field being offered a high paying position at a Japanese company. As I faced her at the interview table, I could feel her ice cold stare diving head first into my soul.
Happy Holidays from Utah! Like I do almost every year, I’m spending Christmas and New Years in my home state of Utah, where I usually share a plate of turkey with my small family of four (plus husband). Unlike previous years, however, there is a big difference in 2020.
I didn’t just fly in for the holidays. I have been in Utah for the last four months — almost half a year.
The Full Wrath of 2020
Saying that 2020 sucked is an understatement. Similar to many others out there, I was also hit by a storm of misfortune. Most notably, the decline in my father’s health in spring 2020.
In honor of Labor Day, I thought I would share some good, bad, and…. well, downright crazy stories I have from working at a Japanese company during my tenure in Shanghai. Although I already recorded some funny stories in deeply buried posts from the past, there are a few more memories that deserve to see the light of day. These memories are so unique to Japan (and China?) that I have just have to write them down.
Can we make her more global?
When I was working at a Japanese company located in Shanghai, I was the only westerner in the building. Besides myself, everyone was either Japanese or Chinese. I was the ultimate unicorn: a trilingual American who somehow ended up working at one of Japan’s top companies in Shanghai.
Since the pandemic hit, everyone’s life has changed. It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven months since COVID-19 locked down the USA back in early March — mostly because time has been flying. Under COVID-19, the days feel long and the months are short. I’m utterly dumbfounded that September will soon be upon us.
It’s also unbelievable that, despite the intense difficulties that COVID-19 has wrecked upon the United States, many of us are coping. The ability for humans to adapt to new circumstances and difficulties is truly amazing. Americans are (finally) wearing masks to conduct daily life activities. We keep our distance when passing someone on the sidewalk. Hand sanitizer multiple times a day is normal. Working from home is now widely accepted and no longer an astonishing new hurdle to overcome. It truly amazes me how we can so quickly adjust ourselves to such intense hardship.
Today is “Loving Day,” the day when the 1967 United States Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia struck down all anti-miscegenation laws remaining in sixteen U.S. states. In other words: it’s the day that all interracial marriages in the US can give thanks to Richard and Mildred Loving for enabling us to legally marry the person we love.
To be frank, I only learned that today was Loving Day this morning thanks to some posts on social media. I wish I could say I was more aware, but I’m not. My lovely friends and acquaintances help keep me informed.
After living in Japan for two years and China for five, I determined that the handling of racial inequities in the USA is very different from Asia. In America, race is an open book. It is a topic that we approach head on. We touch on race in televised speeches and graduation commencements; we comment on race on our TV shows and stand-up comedy (hell, we even have TV shows classified by race), and we openly discuss race among friends and family. Unlike in Asia, race is not something we shove under the rug in the USA. It’s out there for all to see.
As I predicted, the USA’s turn for COVID-19 has finally rounded the corner and we are on track to join our Italian brothers on a viral free-for-all. We have Trump to thanks for that; but hey, that’s an entirely different post.
In an effort to keep the economy afloat while enacting quarantine, many companies are asking their employees to work from home. In the glorious age of the internet, all of us are making the ‘virtual’ our new norm.
Well, for me, it was always the norm. I see many of my friends (and in-office colleagues) stressing out about being cooped up at home with a laptop, and are even googling tips about how to cope with the isolation. Not only that, I noticed a slew of articles online being released about the art of remote work and various opinions on its pros and cons. Some workers even paid a premium to sit with a community of buddies in silence over webcam (no thanks), while others complained about how working from home honestly aint all it’s cracked up to be (totally on board with that one).
Infero. It was a fitting name for our July trip to Italy because we were going to Florence, the hometown of the writer Dante and his works on hell. Inferno is also the name of the famous Dan Brown book featuring Robert Langdon, symbologist hero extraordinare, who ventured through the nooks and crannies of Florence and Milan to ultimately save the world.
Inferno was the perfect word to describe our late honeymoon because, well, it was hot. Really hot. Like, hotter than Dante’s inferno hot. In fact, it was so hot, it was the the hottest summer ever recorded in Europe.