Monday, July 24, 2006

Added details

The conversation is a bit faded but here's a snapshot of a few conversational moments with Midwest the other evening... . Obviously, I can't remember exact words, but this should be pretty close.

P: So did you ask to work in Europe?

M: [shaking his head] No, not at all. I would have preferred go to Asia - Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan maybe. The company didn't have big production facilities there to justify sending anyone. But if you're company offers, why not. Does your company send people overseas?

P: No, our company doesn't currently sell outside the U.S. Our parent company does have programs for working abroad. It's something I wish I did when I was younger. Now... it's not a good time to go.

M: Yeah, I can understand. I was lucky I went when I was... around 28, no 30. Yeah. Of course, it's easy when you've got a company paying for everything. They gave me a credit card, and I never had to think about it.

M: So you've always lived up here?

P: No, I grew up in SoCal. I came up here for college and decided to stay.

M: So you've never left the area since?

P: Well, I did move down for two years of grad school, but I visited here every other month.

M: Where did you go to school?

P: AntHill.

M: AntHill... blah, blah, blah, those are all places I've heard of but never knew exactly where they were. I've heard that BabyBlueU is almost 50% Asian.

P: I think it is already over 50%. Most of the CA universities are more than half Asian. If you group all non-whites as one group, virtually all the schools will have white as the minority.

M: Wow... that's amazing. You know being here, I notice there are a lot of Asians.

P: Yes, it's nice. After you're here for awhile, you begin to think it's normal. Then when you travel elsewhere, you realize that it's not.

M: When I lived in DT, I hardly saw any other Asians. It was a rare thing. Now, they're everywhere, and I feel like I'm just another person. It's so different. People even segment themselves by neighborhoods. If you're Taiwanese, you live around here. North of the airport, it's mostly Cantonese.

P: Since you were in Europe for three years, were you able to become proficient at a second language?

M: [smile with embarrassment] You know, I must admit, I didn't. I should have with the intensive languages courses and private tutoring that my company had me take. It would have been nice, but I never needed to speak much besides English.

P: Everyone spoke English at the office?

M: Yeah. And if I needed something translated I'd just ask my secretary to do it for me.

P: What about when you went out?

M: Naw, most people knew English. If I needed to know a few phrases in French, Italian, or German, I'd give them to my secretary and ask her to translate them for me.

M: Italy is great. I spent a lot of time in the northern cities, places like Milan and Verona. I should have gone down to Rome. Never go there in the summer.

P: Oh no, I went in May and September.

M: That's good. The other thing is that in August, nothing gets done. We couldn't schedule anything because everyone takes vacations. And when the Italians go on vacation, they're gone. It's the same for most of Europe.

P: But didn't you get 4 weeks of vacation like them?

M: Yeah, but I didn't usually take my vacation. I would use the time to go back to the states. You know, pick up supplies from home that I couldn't buy in Europe.

P: And I'm sure your parents were happy to see you.

M: Yeah, I saw the family. I've never done big vacation things. I probably should try take more vacation.

M: I saw cities in Europe usually because we had plants there. Have you been to Spain?

P: Yes, I visited Barcelona on one trip and Andalucia for another.

M: Andalucia? Where's that?

P: It's southern Spain - Seville, Cadiz, and Granada.

M: Oh, I haven't been down there. I've visited Madrid and Pamplona. Those guys were great to hang out with. They'd always take us(me) out. I'd always make sure to schedule meetings there on a Friday so that I could hang around.

P: So what do you think of your new company?

M: [shrug shoulders] It's okay. It's very different from my old company. I didn't expect them to be so laid back.

P: Was your old company very conservative? You know, suits every day.

M: No, we'd wear shirt and tie everyday. They finally gave in on casual Fridays. It was an automotive company so they had a certain culture. This company gives us half-day Fridays, weekly lunches, blah, blah, blah. They give out these perks as a retention thing. You know, why stay with this company when there are all those high-tech companies to work for.

P: I guess that would depend on the department you work in because I would think the marketers like working on consumer goods. It's very different from working on B-to-B products.

M: That's true. You make a good point. Still, it's weird. I mean, you'd think people would stay until they get their work done. I thought people would leave maybe 1pm or 2pm today. But as soon as it was noon - gone.

P: It varies at my company. I think people work as long as they need to. Besides, it is going to be a hot weekend, so maybe people wanted to get out early.

M: Maybe. I wanted to come to California. I guess I need to get used to it and learn to take enjoy it.

There was also a conversation later about visiting AT&T Park. I told him how fun it can be to see a game there, even if you're not into baseball. Midwest said that his department just learned that in a couple weeks they'll leave at noon to go watch a game. He seemed disturbed by the idea that they were going out during work hours for a baseball game.

Another conversation was about visiting his brother in Hong Kong. He arranged a meeting in Taiwan, even though it was not necessary, so that he could make the trip into a business expense. I guess everyone does these kinds of things on occasion, but I got tired of hearing it from him.

When it comes down to it, it's a difference in lifestyles. I've been in California most of my life. I am accustomed to the slower, casual pace of things. Clearly, he's not.

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