Saturday, September 17, 2011

R-Rated Icebreakers At Work

Most of people, including myself, would have painted a rather conservative portrait for a Chinese. Then, unfortunately, we are probably all wrong. 

In the US, icebreakers, as the names suggests, are often designed to "break the ice" at an event or meeting, to help the meeting attendees get to know each other.  For example, when Don, my previous boss, held his meetings, he usually used icebreakers like “What’s you last vacation destination?” “Tell us something we don’t know about you.”

Compared to the icebreakers used among the co-workers in Tencent, these questions are nothing but lame. 

Ross, my current boss and a bunch of us went out for a drink after work one day.  A game, similar to “the unfortunate kid “ in the US, was promptly selected as a icebreaker for the team.  Basically, each player takes turns to name one thing he or she has never done before.  If any one of the rest of the player has done it before, they need to take a sip of their drink as a publishment. 

If you think this is a friendly game for co-workers to get to know each other, especially the new comers, you are just way too naïve.  The game is pretty much a trap for the new comers, as every single question will probably make you embarrassed, wishing to have a side door to escape. 

The first one said, “I have never had sex with people from other countries.” So, I raised my hand and took a sip of my drink, and mentally getting prepared to sip through the first round of questions and calling it a quit as soon as I could.

When it’s my boss’ turn, he said,” I never wear a bra with size bigger than B”.  So, I raised my hand again and took a sip of my drink.

To our most astonishment, a guy also raised his hand and took a sip of his drink. 

I am not sure whether my years-of-living-in-the US has outdated me of the current Chinese culture, or being this crazy and nuts is the thing with the SNS companies. 

They told me that if I think Tencent is bad, then Alibaba is worse, as one of their common icebreakers is “Where did you do it the first time and what position?!”

Another speechless moment of working in China…

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Practice the Ancient Chinese Wisdom at Work

One of the most quoted Chinese wisdom is “being peaceful”.  It’s a stage when one is peaceful in the heart, peaceful in one’s language, peaceful in one’s actions. 

The bottom line of that wisdom is that you need to be patient in China.  And, if you work in Tencent, you need to be extremely patient. 

Why?  Because almost everywhere you go, everything you do, you need to wait in line.  So, we get plenty of opportunities to practice the Chinese wisdom at work.

In the morning, we wait in line to  get onto the elevator.  

During the lunch break, we wait in line to go to the café;then we wait in line to get food; as the last step, we wait in line to take the elevator again to go back to the office

During the dinnertime, repeat the above proces.

At night, mostly around 11:00pm, we wait in line to catch a taxi to go back home. Yes, I am not kidding.  Every night, there is a line of taxi waiting outside of the office building to take people home.  Very organized with security people outside guiding the traffic. 

Now, I can pretty much predict, after working in Tencent for 2 years, I would either become a saint, or become completely crazy. 

We will find out…

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Poisonous Gas Mask in the Office?!

On the 4th day of work, we moved into this well-designed and nicely decorated office. In addition to the state-of-the-art facility, gourmet coffee and teas, green plants are all over the office, on everybody’s desk, along the aisles, in the meeting rooms and break rooms.

Everyday, the facility people will come to take care of all those plants for us!

How wonderful! A huge bonus of cheap labor cost in China. I cannot help thinking. No way my friends in the US get this type of treatment in the office.

While we are setting up our desks, the facility people came by and gave each one of us a pouch, similar to the 1 lb brown-sugar bag we get from the grocery stores in the US, except the bag is wrapped in some colorful plastic. (See the picture on the left)

YiTing put hers behind her monitor. Noticing that I did not know what to do with mine, she took mine from me and put it behind my monitor too.

“What is this? What is this for?”

“Oh, the office is just finished with the construction and decoration. The building materials in China often contain some poisonous chemicals called formaldehyde, due to the poor quality control. So, we have the pouch and all the green plants in the office to help absorb the poison ejected from the building materials”

“What the ….?!?!?!”“Is this another joke of the day?!

I did notice that a few people walking around in the office wearing a mask.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ocean-Front Apartment in China

Although it's quite expensive to buy a house and ridiculous to buy a car with at least 100% for import tax in China, the overall living expense here is quite cheap compared to what one usually pays for in the US.

I moved in this very nice 4-bed-2bath-apartment with ocean view in a high-rise community in ShenZhen. Although it is from one of the nicest and the most expensive community here, the monthly rent is about 7500RMB (less than USD 1200). And I converted an entire room to a closet for my clothes and shoes. A quite luxurious lifestyle. :)

P.S. The average monthly income in ShenZhen is less than RMB6000.

The grass-land in the community, at the end of which is the bay and the bridge to cross over to HongKong. It's quite a view to watch the colorful lights at the HongKong bay at night, especially over a glass of nice wine.

Free Falls from the 32rd to the 20th Floor in the Elevator

Still the 1st day at work, and the adventure continued.

I needed to get my badge. Gary offered to take me down to the HR office at the 7th floor, and we took the elevator. While descending from the 32rd floor in the elevator, Gary told me that once he had a free fall from the 32rd to the 20th floor in the elevator.

“My God! Are you kidding me!!!!” Imagine a bomb just dropped in my head. For a few seconds, I could not hear anything but feel my own legs shaking.

“No. If you asked around, many of our co-workers would share their similar experiences with you. Some more than once.” Still smiling at me, he responded with the most calm voice

“Did you sue the company?” I asked.

“No. Things like this happen all the time in China. Why would anybody ever make a big fuss about it? And, generally it is safe to take elevators. There is a small device installed in the elevator that can sense the speed and stop the elevator when the speed is too high.“

Speechless, I was still in shock.

“You know, it’s really not a big deal. And, it’s kind of fun, like taking a roller-coaster ride.”

Still speechless, still recovering from the shock.

I was shocked by what Gary said. But, I was even more shocked by how he said it. He said it in a way as if he were telling me a story, not a life-threatening accident.

Noticing I am literally freaking out at this conversation, Gary tried to calm me down by telling me more horror stories about mal-functioning elevators at the train station, food poisoning,… He thought listening to more horror stories in China will help build up my resistance.

I interrupted, “ Gary, please, give me a break. One horror story a day”

Why the Office is So Dark During the Regular Business Hour?

Back from lunch the first day.

Out of the elevator, I stepped into this huge office space, and yet dark and quiet.

What’s going on?
Out of the electricity? No, not possible, I can see lights from a few monitors.
Out for some important meeting? No, my boss was with me at lunch.

Confused, I continued walking towards my desk…

A few steps into the aisle, I almost stumbled into a camping bed with a kid taking a nap holding a stuffed animal.

Most Chinese people have a habit of taking a nap after lunch. Therefore, Tencent has a freaking two-and-a-half-hour lunch-break everyday so that those kids can take out their camping beds and stuffed animals to take a nap.

Now, it makes sense to see those camping-beds and folding-chairs laying around the corners of the office.

P.S. The average age of the employees in Tencent is freaking 23!!! A bunch of kids running around and having stuffed animals everywhere. The logo animal of Tencent is a fat Penguin. So, we have stuffed penguins everywhere in the office.

Living in the Dream

Today is my first day at work. Dressed in sleek-black I am trying my best to remain calm. Although this is not my first job, not even the first time to change job, today is the first time I wok in China. Little did I know all the funs and adventures followed afterwards.

My boss took me and a few other directors out for a nice lunch. Sitting in his brand-new BMW 5-series and listening to their conversations about eat-outs at the expensive restaurants and overseas vacationing tours, I cannot help wondering that people in China, at least those in Tencent, are living quite a dream life.