Features

Curbing my enthusiasm

I started a new job this week.

Is that applause and cheering I can hear? How kind. Thank you. Thank you so much.

It’s early days, for sure, but here I am being cautiously optimistic.

Naturally, making a good first impression (and having an incident-free first week) helps. So, I’ve been careful. I leave time in the morning to deal with any makeup disasters or train delays. My work wardrobe’s visibly that bit more ‘smart’ than ‘casual’. And I took a bag of Drumstick lollies in as a peace offering.

Turns out I don’t need to be trying quite that hard.

Twice – out of three days so far – I’ve rocked up at the office to find it locked. We’re talking around 8.40-45am here. I start at 9am. I didn’t consider turning up a little early to be unusual, until I had to stand awkwardly in a narrow corridor until a coworker arrived.

The second time, he jogged out of the elevator as soon as he spotted me standing there. I’ve never felt so guilty.

You might wonder why I found this so odd.

In general, Japanese companies have an inconvenient reputation for long working days. During my job search, I started scanning each listing for ‘number of compulsory overtime hours’. Only applied for those that had a figure under 45 hours. There weren’t many.

At my interview for this job, my boss told me we were aiming for zero overtime. None, zip, nada. Was I dreaming? I was so sceptical that I made him pinky promise with me. Seems he’s taken that to heart.

(Disclaimer: I do NOT advise anyone to try this tactic in their next job interview.)

Not only do I get here unfashionably early, I get mail at 6pm on the DOT ordering me to go home. Sure, I definitely wanted a decent work-life balance here, but what’s the rush? The office is warm and it’s cold out there. If I go home, it’s my heating bill.

At one point, I wondered if I’d left Japan by accident.

Luckily, I know what I need to do here is the same thing I’ve always done. Suck it up and stop sucking up. I pinky promise. But I might make a small exception for the Drumsticks.