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  • Working Hours

    Will a foreign worker in a Japanese office be expected to conform to Japanese working hours i.e. not leaving before the boss and working late. So far my husband has been leaving when he feels that he has completed his work for the day, this is usually later than the official finish time but earlier than his Japanese collegues. He doesn't seem to care, despite a few raised eyebrows, and says their time is unproductive in the evenings as they are all just waiting around and not getting much done. As time goes on do you think there will be pressure on him to stay late or will his 'boll*^ks to that' approach survive?

  • #2
    I guess it depends how 'enlightened' his co-workers are. I remember there was this guy in my office who would stay in the office till my boss left, which meant the wee hours of the morning, but from 7pm was just sitting on his arse picking his nose. He didn't give me too much of a hard time for leaving early, but I guess that if you were japanese, he may have had some snide comments to make...

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    • #3
      This is a tough one to call. I think it depends on the company atmosphere and the type of business it is in. By this I mean that if it were in a business where the actual business would be finished at the end of the day, then it would be acceptable to go home. However there are many gray areas. So what appears actually to be finished may not be finished in the minds of the personnel, hence they sit around and do not much of anything. Staying until the boss or at least the immediate boss goes home is ingrained in the business culture.

      The other side of the coin to this is that westerners or foreigners are not always expected to follow what others may do so even though some eyebrows may have been raised, still people might accept his going home before others because he is the outsider. It cuts both ways.

      So how does one handle this? I think one has to finesse it a bit, i.e., not stay as late as others but not go home at the sound of the chime either. Establishing this pattern will then make it easier in the future but if your hubby is just starting off new at the company, it may be a good idea to see how things go and wait a bit (once again how much one should wait is very vague) so that he does not stick out too much by going home too early. If he is the "freshman" in his section, then people would expect the freshman to be more deferential to the unspoken rules or etiquette. So it is not necessary to become like his co-workers but then it is also necessary that he keep his own personality and traits.

      As said, it's a tough call.

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      • #4
        What is at stake? If he has been tranferred here but not actually in the system, so to speak, and not hoping for promotion etc , then why worry about it? What is the point of compromising , being away from family and leisure, just to fit it? They may not like it, but at the end of the day, does he really care? I am sure being with his family is more important.

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        • #5
          Your husband has no hope of being promoted into any kind of meaningful position, so the mere act of staying late for the sake of solidarity and ganbarou is pointless. If he finishes his work and doesn't care about shmoozing with the colleagues, great, go home early. And be happy that he finds spending time on you and your relationship more important than being a work diggit.

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          • #6
            Just to add to my post, I work in an all Japanese environment (school). I go home when my contract says I can. Most staff stay until between 7 and 8pm.

            Do they mind me going so early? Probably
            Am I here for the long haul? no
            Who do I care more about, them or my family? Family
            Do I care that they care? No, not really
            Do I do a good job? Yes, I think so
            Do I enjoy showing them that I can do a good job and leave before 5? Yup
            Do they spend most of the time looking exhausted and miserable? Yes
            Do they actually produce lots in all that extra time? not that I can see
            Am I Japanese? no
            Do I want to pretend to be? No

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            • #7
              Just to add to my post using Waller's checklist:

              Do they mind me going so early? I don't
              Am I here for the long haul? Probably
              Who do I care more about, them or my family? Them
              Do I care that they care? Yes
              Do I do a good job? Not really
              Do I enjoy showing them that I can do a good job and leave before 5? Thought never crossed my mind
              Do they spend most of the time looking exhausted and miserable? Yes
              Do they actually produce lots in all that extra time? No
              Am I Japanese? no
              Do I want to pretend to be? Yes

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              • #8
                Originally posted by mac71
                As time goes on do you think there will be pressure on him to stay late or will his 'boll*^ks to that' approach survive?
                If your husband truly wants to be accepted by his Japanese colleagues, he'll start leaving as early as possible. I start to shut down my computer at 5:59 and I don't even wait for the screen to go dark. If 6:03 rolls along and I'm still at my desk, most of my colleagues will give me a startled look and then quip: "Ah, Sincity's working overtime tonight." So on those rare occasions when I feel that it might not be a bad idea to stay late and take care of some urgent work, I'm faced with something of an ethical dilemma. On the one hand, my presence after normal working hours is guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of all my coworkers because it just doesn't get any funnier than the "gaijin working like a Japanese" monomane routine. On the other hand, I know some of my colleagues want to get home to their families or hit the snacks but there's no way in hell they can leave before the gaijin. So in the interest of preserving harmony, I usually leave at "quitting" time.

                This is the irony of living the life of a foreigner in Japan: to preserve harmony means to emphasize differences.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by waller
                  What is at stake? If he has been tranferred here but not actually in the system, so to speak, and not hoping for promotion etc , then why worry about it? What is the point of compromising , being away from family and leisure, just to fit it? They may not like it, but at the end of the day, does he really care? I am sure being with his family is more important.
                  Thanks for the advice, sounds like he's started off the right way, not leaving on the bell but not working as late as collegues. Risks are minimal, the transfer is 'like for like' and his job in the UK is there if he needs it (so they say). My concern is that, as he's on his own in Japan, until we join him in July, he may 'slip' in to the japanese way of working late through a combination of pressure from collegues and the fact that he may as well be at work or out with collegues than sat alone in his appartment. I figured once this working pattern was established it would be hard to to revert back to leaving at the earlier times. But I haven't got a crystal ball so I'll have to keep my fingers crossed and wait and see.

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                  • #10
                    On the day I joined my company, one of the other foreign guys in my office gave me this article. I think most of it is true and it helped me decide whether to try and "fit in" or not. Unless your husband's picking up skills that will help him somewhere else, it's best to go home on the bell and not look back.

                    http://www.jobs_in_japan.com/book/japanese.html

                    (hint: take out the underbars)

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                    • #11
                      I think that article is great. This paragraph sums up exactly the way I feel about it:

                      In the meantime, ask yourself, "Do you really want to participate in the Japanese work rituals?" I believe the answer is a definitive, "No!" So, be happy with your special guest status where your glass will indeed be 90 percent full. Do not let yourself be overworked, but at the same time, cooperate, do a good job and enjoy this valuable experience at a Japanese company."

                      Mac, I see your concern. I think it really is best to set the precedent from the beginning. However, even if he does get into "bad" habits, it should be pretty easy to disappear at quitting time once you guys arrive, explaining that the family are getting settled in and need him at home.

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                      • #12
                        Cheers
                        I sent him the link to the article, he seems pretty resolute that his hours won't be any higher than in the UK and that he doesn't care if there's a bit of bit^hing from co-workers - as he can't understand what they are saying anyway - so he'll just leave each evening in ignorant bliss.

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