Sunday, April 1, 2007

The First of April... Hello Juniors!

As my new friend J recently sagely said, in Japan March is a time for goodbyes and April is a time for hello's. This is because school graduation ceremonies take place in March and most employees join their companies the following month.

J is undergoing this process now. She completed college in January, then spent a month touring Europe from Serbia to Paris. But on Saturday, she had her first job training. Her actual career begins the following Monday.

Many of our students are taking off for Canada or new jobs now, too. A very transitional period for us all.

This morning, I had to run some errands downtown. I took the #9 bus and at many bus stops there were groups of freshly-minted salarypeople. Men and women in smart black suits. From high schools to banks and DoCoMo outlets, from fast food restaurants to maid cafes, Japan is a country that loves the uniform. These black suits, either the male trousered variety or the female skirted one, are another permutation of that.

Another concept found in Japanese work culture is the junior-senior relationship. It's a common belief that Japan is a hierarchical society. Age and rank play an important role in social and business interactions. Explaining all of that would be a post in itself.

But when you join a company, you're on a ladder. Above you are your seniors. Even when speaking in English, people here will frequently refer to "my senior" or "my junior." It's a sort of mentor relationship, I think.

All I'm sure of is, if your senior is an asshole, you're screwed. T's senior seems to have a lot of personal problems to go with a prickly personality and hardly a day goes by that T doesn't email me about stomach aches and stress from how this woman treats her. Fortunately for T, her senior is quitting in July and T will become the office senior. She already has a junior, another young woman of her own age who recently joined the office staff.

Like T, she's tall and very young. T has the ability to connect with almost anyone; she's definitely not shy. So they're well on their way to establishing a mutually enjoyable relationship at the office. Which is great because another aspect of Japanese working life is the after-hours drinking party.

It's not optional. It's a requirement.

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