seiko alarm clockOne thing that keeps baffling me after all the years in Asia are working hours. I’m not talking about those seemingly 12 hour days you have to spend in the office. Seemingly they are indeed, because often it is a question of “warm body on chair” rather than being productive throughout. A colleague of mine, for example, upon returning from lunch, would reach for the large pillow in his drawer, put it on the desk and then take a nap for an hour or so, all openly and undisturbed by anybody else in the office. Surely there is a huge peer pressure going on in such a case – you have to be there before your supervisor and cannot leave before she does. In Japan, there is even a fixed phrase that is employed when leaving before anyone else: Minna-san, osaki ni shitsurei shimasu, which essentially means that you are sorry to be so rude to leave early.

Anyway, these are big companies. But even small businesses seem to have interesting hours. For example, when I returned to Ebisu’s from Europe, one of the faucets in the bathroom was leaking badly. I informed the landlady and she called a plumber to come by and at least have a look at the problem. For a week nothing happened, except that we had to keep the front door unlocked so the plumber could enter at any time. Finally, when I left the house yesterday afternoon to go the library, there he was, rummaging around in the bathroom, fixing the faucet – on a Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm… Strange working hours indeed…

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