Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Company Quirks

I'm having a lot of fun working at a Japanese company. I've been learning a lot of new vocabulary, meeting new people, and learning ever-new ways to massacre the english language. I'm a bit ashamed to say it, but even my own company logo is: "For Better Tomorrow". *sigh*. I've been delicately skirting the topic, trying to find a good time to bring it up, but I can never seem to find the right time. Takeshi suggested bringing it up at the company sponsored drinking party, which seems like a very good idea.

The new vocabulary itself isn't that exciting. What is interesting is if you look at the individual characters that make up a word. These characters all have their own meaning, just as the entymological roots of an english word helps to understand that word's full meaning. Hidden among my 200 boring business words were some true gems:

  • bo-nen-kai
    (the company's year end party = 忘年会) means "forget - year - meeting". ie, get so drunk you forget all of the bad things that happened that year.
  • chu-niku
    red ink pad = you use it for your name stamp. shu is 朱, red or bloody, and niku = 肉, meat.(like yakiniku). bloody meat! Niiiice!

Speaking of vocabulary and such...a lot of my Japanese friends can speak english, because genius loves company ^_~. But if you're planning on coming to Japan, don't count on people speaking english, because mostly they can't. Reading and writing, however, the general population is fairly proficient at, because they have all memorized several thousand nouns, and can't pronounce any of them.
The company president is one of those people who have a very large vocabulary, but absolutely no sense of grammar. When I had an interview, he was trying to explain my contract to me. Showing off his skills, he decided to explain it to me in English, by which I mean nouns only. The rest of the monologue (verbs, adjectives, articles) was in Japanese. Imagine you're on the other side of the table of someone saying:
"sono *payday* ha *month* no *end* dakara hayaku *put* wo shite kudasai".
Me: "ah.......*snicker(coughcoughcough)*........hai!"
By the end of the conversation he was very concerned over my health, since I appeared very cold. I couldn't come out and say my apparent shivers were me trembling with effort to supress my laughter..amazingly enough, I was hired despite my ..ill-health. ^_~;;

Now, you would think that since I found a job, it means that the dreadful interview phase is over, right? I did it! I passed! right?? Haha, sorry, maybe next time, sucker! My company is a contracting firm, so they supply programmers to big companies that don't have enough in-house programmers. So, I'm at the end of my training phase and am being shuttled off to interviews! It's pretty stressful, but at least my boss thinks rather highly of me. On the phone I sometimes hear him: "we have a staff member here who knows java and perl, she's american but can speak japanese well." and then, when he runs out of things to say about me, he'll bring up random things. "She likes website design, and uses photoshop." Then, if that fails to impress, he'll bring up the kicker: " She also has a brown belt in judo, hahaha!"

I've had two interviews in the last week, which are very stressful. Actually the interviews aren't that bad, it's the day before that's bad, since my boss is visibly nervous for me and makes me practice what I'm going to say about a million times. I can understand his concern, since I'm not a native speaker, but it doesn't help my nerves any when he makes me recite everything in front of everyone in the room!!
Ah well. So far they haven't gone too badly, and at least I'm not that stressed. After all, I'm employed and am being paid to do this, which is nicer than before! But sometimes I think the interview could have gone better. For instance, take today's interview.

Interviewer: "So I see you have some experience with online applications. Do you think you could write technical specification documents for them?"
Me:"Well, I have a bit of experience in technical documents, I developed an e-learning system with a six person team, we had to write use cases and draw UML diagrams" <== (this was part of my prepared speech)
Interviewer: "ah. but you have no experience writing up spec sheets, I see. That would be a main part of your job here."
Me: "that's true, but... (pause, gears grinding while trying to think of something good in japanese)"um... I am a very fast learner?"
My boss: "yes! see! she's only 23, and has lived here only half a year, but she's already at this level!"
interviewer: ".....Hm."
My boss: "Did I mention she has a brown belt in judo?"
everyone: "Ha ha ha........ (big anime sweatdrop)"

Another funny thing happened. I got my insurance card, which is good beause Takeshi ordered me not to get hit by a car or get a bad fever before getting it, so now I can get ill with a clear conscience. Anyways, my co-worker (maybe I should say 'senpai' because he's definitely higher on the totem pole) brought me my card, and started making his way back to his seat. I studied it for a few seconds, and made a small chortling noise. "*srk* Wha?..." "Is something the matter?" "Um.... um... my card, it says 'male' on it." Suddenly suspicious, I whipped out my retirement pension workbook that had been given to me earlier. Also male. My sempai didn't believe me until he saw it. Apparently there was a small mixup in the HR office... but I am definitely female! So what if I'm a programmer.. and do judo.. and am not a fan of fasion magazines or makeup... wait, I am a girl, right? *sniff* Of course this was the source of no end of merriment for Takeshi, who declared "I have such a cute little husband!" haha, laugh it up. Chump. ^^
For the record I would like to thank to my sempai, who is shy about speaking english but has very good pronunciation and speaks it much better than the boss. (He was the one who suggested changing "online children's study game" to "e-learning system", which sounds infinitely cooler!)

In other news, on a completely different topic, the bug trees survived the meeting! I walked past and they are still up. I asked a girl out walking her dog about their welfare, and she said the trees have been spared...for now. *cue sinister music*
Wedding planning is coming along! For news, check the wedding blog (shinkaiwedding.blogspot.com).

That's enough blogging for now. 'till next time!
(your definitely female friend)


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