December 4th, 2007


(no subject)

In short, I'm alone and underqualified at a research institution halfway across the globe, with very little experience and already the dislike of my coworkers. I could be more hysterical at this point but I'm hysterical'd out at the moment.

So to summarize again, I'm a Canadian who through some awful fluke managed to land a job in a Japanese sleep lab. The country's great, don't get me wrong, and free fish is a bonus, but I told myself at the beginning that I was here for work and work was what I was going to be doing. But the work environment is so crazily different that even despite my best efforts at doing what I think is right, I come across as doing all the wrong things. Fuck not being able to read the menus at a restaurant - I've gotten more culture shock at work than... a whole fucking whack of culture shock. I can't think of an effective simile.

The quality of my work is only one aspect of it - I'm vastly inexperienced compared to the rest of the people here (freshly-graduated with a Bachelorate, surrounded by postdocs). Okay, so that really sucks, and was a huge source of stress at the beginning because I hated the idea of bothering all these busy people to teach me, but I have to learn at some point, and my expertise will gradually get better as time passes. Fine and well.

Just when I think things are on the up-and-up, one of my foreign coworkers comes and tells me about how all my Japanese coworkers are sneering about me behind my back in the lab building. Namely the complaints are:

1. I have no tact, apparently.

2. My clothes aren't conservative enough (one tech actually got fired because they disliked how he dressed)

3. I make myself look like I know everything (my main source of stress up until now was the fact that I didn't know ANYTHING)

4. When I go "okay, yes, I see, mm-hm" when somebody's teaching me it gives the impression that I'm insulting the teacher

5. I intimidate everybody (when the very thought of talking to people makes me want to crawl into a hole and die?!)

6. I have trouble controlling myself.

And lastly (and most fabulous):

7. They hate people who cry. (which I just happened to do today out of sheer despair and futility, awesome).

I mean fine, Japan, conservative, okay, I so should've seen this coming. I can look at this list and see how it could be offensive to people. Even though it's my personality (which for the most part is okay back home), I understand that it's a foreign country and I have to conform to its standards. But this is going to be so much more difficult than I thought it would be. Especially since I'm not trying to make a good first impression anymore - I'm trying to negate an awful two months worth of bad impressions that I wasn't even aware of.

And yet, my foreign coworkers are still telling me to stick with it, whether out of concern or a weird sense of duty I don't know, and I don't think I'd be able to forgive myself if I chickened out and left before the end of my one-year work term. Now every day, on top of planning and doing experiments, I have to keep these criticisms in mind and do my best to NOT do them, while also fending off the negativity that comes with, oh I don't know, not knowing anything and having your coworkers hate you for dressing funny.

Culture shock SUCKS.