Wednesday, October 22, 2014

On learning where my car comes from UPDATED

I'm maybe halfway (or one NJ Transit round-trip) through The Accidental Office Lady, Laura Kriska's account of being an American woman who, through a complicated series of events, ends up pouring tea for Japanese Honda executives. I've (still) never seen Mad Men, but I assume it's something like that, only the 1980s, and there's some Japanese version of Jon Hamm who has yet to appear in the book, or who appears only in my as-yet-to-be-written fan fiction version.

But back to the book that does exist: So far, so fascinating. My one observation would be that much of what strikes Kriska as particular to Japanese corporate culture seems like it could very well come from her being at what is essentially her first post-college job. Work is not like school - just ask Doctor Cleveland. The shock of going from an environment where someone with an Ivy League PhD (and that will be the case at any college these days) cares what you think about complicated intellectual ideas to doing whatever a boss deems useful (and whatever that is, it probably won't be hearing what you think about Aristotle... unless you go to grad school, which - as per Doctor Cleveland's post - only delays the inevitable) is famously jarring even for those who don't move to Japan. How much of what she describes comes from being an individualistic American, and how much is just recent-college-grad blues? How much is culture clash and how much just office politics?

Whatever the case, nothing so far has been described that hasn't made me wish I could go back in time and make whichever life choices might have led to being sent to work in corporate Tokyo after college (but not too much after - 25 sounds like the limit; as a married 31-year-old, I'm thinking this ship has sailed). I could stand to know how to make proper tea, and I suspect that the much-complained-about polyester office-lady uniforms of the 1980s were far more chic than anything I've ever owned.


Guess I'd actually almost finished the book yesterday. In any case, finished it now. How interesting it would be for people who don't half-wish that they too had moved to Japan to work for a car company after college, I couldn't say. But I enjoyed it.

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