Gaijin Engineer in Tokyo
Article 26 of March about immigration to Chile sparked interest in me regarding emigration to "exotic" countries. In the comments to her, someone advised Gaijin Engineer in Tokyo , which opened a curious insider on the life of a foreigner in Japan. I sometimes view this country as a destination for migration, and judging by the comments, people are interested, so I decided to translate this article. (Bad translation of bad English) Good English (how would I write in the US)
Gaijin Engineer in Tokyo ".
The gaijin engineer in Tokyo is
The work of a software developer in Tokyo being a foreigner has its pros and cons. If you work for the same foreigners, then most likely, you are not threatened. However, if you work in a real Japanese company, you will find a lot of shocking, funny, and definitely frustrating moments.
Here I will go through my own observations, so keep in mind that the above may not be objective. I'm sure that someone faced situations better or worse than I described here. Let this story serve as food for the mind considering the work of the developer in the Tokyo company, or the voice of reason for those whose reason is too clouded by the idealistic pictures of life abroad.
当 記事 を 読 ん で い た だ き, あ り が と う ご ざ い ま す!
想像 以上 に 日本 の 人 に 共 感 い た だ い た の で, 現在 和 訳 中 で す.
ま た よ ろ し く お 願 い し ま す!
Google Translate -> English:
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for reading this article!
Since the Japanese liked me even more than I thought, this article is now being translated into Japanese.
I moved to Japan to work in a start-up, whose headquarters were in Tokyo. I knew the basic Japanese even before moving, so the idea itself did not seem to me to be some kind of insane. The adventure, planned as a short-term contract, turned into a five-year epic in the country of ascending skyscrapers. The story of how I received the first job and the subsequent ones and how I moved did not fit into the framework of this post. Someday I may write about it, but now I will focus on my experience working in Japan.
I see the need to preface my biography with the following: I absolutely
I do not regret
about the time spent in Japan in general, and with my colleagues in particular. I believe that Japanese culture, like many cultures, fascinates with its intricacy. The reason that I write about this is obvious is simple: everything that you read, can form a negative opinion, but do not rush into conclusions. All that is written below is my personal observations. I believe that one can truly appreciate a culture only by fully perceiving the reality in which it exists. This reality has its shortcomings and interaction with it is not always pleasant, but they are the very highlight of the culture. Do not take what is written as the ultimate truth, but do not take too much of abstraction. Working in Japan can be a great adventure, but be prepared for the complexities and nuances.
I also apologize for my terrible Japanese and no less terrible translations into English, but I hope that at least one can understand them.
Most of this post is not about working out and not about work at all, but since I worked as a programmer, I'll write from my bell tower. About work you can write so much that I do not even know where to start (but I'm open to suggestions if anyone is interested).
Okay, alien, now we are ready to work in Tokyo.
You're not from here
You're a stranger. You were to them even before arrival, and they will remain in Japan. And even for the Japanese outside of Japan, you will be a stranger. This moment will not be smoothed out and will be the main one in many situations further. Do not forget that you are not from here, because they will not forget.
You just got a job in a Japanese company. You will have to tinker with the development, language and a number of cultural differences. What a delight! What adventures await in the future!
non-developers can skip this chapter.
If you are in a normal company, you are waiting for the same tools as at home. Cpntinuous integration, a variety of development environments, and enterprise software such as Java. This is where the fun begins.
UTF-8 vs Shift JIS and EUC-JP
Doctors have already stopped about Unicode, right? Haha!
Keep up with religious reverence for Excel There is one of two popular encodings for Japanese: Shift JIS for Windows and EUC-JP for Mac. The logic here is not so unclear: most people Excel is configured to work with Shift JIS, so when you give them a Unicode, they get of the . Of course, you can simply reconfigure Excel to work with UTF-? but what to do with legacy? English-speaking such a problem is unfamiliar. So, the dispute about the chicken and the egg continues to this day.
The fatal flaw is
Despite the fact that many companies use Google services to work together, is also popular here. Desknets and Garoon - home-grown solutions in the form of a scheduler and other administrative operations. They often contain up to laughter horrible bugs, like the inability to add a person to a rally after his creation in Garoon (workaround: to incite a rally, add a person, save, delete an old rally). I hope this is fixed in new versions. You will also find that local companies often use local applications like ChatWork Instead of the usual slack (although the Slack community in Japan is very large). In this there is nothing unusual, and the reason, most likely, in cheapness (if you ignore the total cost of ownership) and greater confidence in local brands, well, or genuine love for the product. Although, I think this is more about the dominance of American software abroad than about Japan.
In the west, of course, they read paper books, but usually only very valuable and with great potential for re-reading. Lovers of paper books in Japan are unusually many, and at work you often come across people who buy magazines and books for any occasion (like books on how to correctly use the messenger.) LINE Of course, having a reference at hand is very convenient, but this anachronism seems to me amusing. Also, do not be surprised at the impressive number of people reading paper newspapers in public transport, but that's another story.
In the Valley people usually buy only well-known books to put them on the shelf and seem smart (this is also funny). It seems to me that this is also true for Japan, only books here are very specific.
Developers by vocation
You will often meet developers without degrees in Computer Science, which, in general, is not very unusual, even in the Valley, but you, too, will meet people who have not programmed at all before the device to the company. Most likely, this is the result of the Japanese education system, where the profession often has little to do with the future profession. Usually, one year before the end, you are frantically respond to vacancies and run around the city in a suit , trying to persuade the company to hire you. If you are lucky, you get to work, and if you need
lucky, go to the training before starting work. Sometimes this does not happen.
As a result, many specialists are self-taught (which is impressive!). But we all know that self-education often generates not the best practices: copy-paste instead of refactoring, funny names of variables, strong connectivity, etc. This is often reflected in the code that you will have to work with and the discussions that you will have to conduct, therefore hold on.
A typical situation is that the development companies survive due to the hard work of several excellent self-taught engineers. In Japan, many excellent developers, but many of them are bored with the local corporate culture and they leave. A minority that, albeit helping to do things better, remains a minority, outnumbered by the usual staff. If you meet such a developer, do not skimp on helping. Perhaps you will save his sanity.
Someday you will have a disagreement with your Japanese colleague. A large number of such cases will end with a simple "a, it must be just a cultural difference." (文化 の 違 い)
Cultural differences to me explained the following:
Lack of testing (or insufficient testing) before the release
Long and useless rallies
Anything irrational and without a clear logical explanation
Of course, so do
, and the best of colleagues will always try to maintain a logical conversation, but remember that you will definitely meet with such at least once.
Real cultural differences
It's good or bad, but the Japanese corporate community is often led by a herd instinct: fear of shame, fear of failure and the desire to avoid conflicts and save the world. This leads to some desperate situations.
Fear of decisions
Decisions are the first step to failure, and nobody wants to fail. But decisions must be made. How is this philosophical question resolved? Meetings. Endless rallies and emails, planning, preplanning, post-planning, documenting rallies and endless discussions about everything in the world. It is considered that if
participate in the decision-making process. all
, blame someone specific will not work. That's the whole solution.
Of course, this is
not the solution of
. Moreover, such solutions give rise to many new problems, but there is another "fucking" side of working in Japan.
If you do not speak about the problem, then the problem is solved. If it is not possible to achieve two mutually exclusive goals, ignore both. Or do not talk about them. When someone talks about them, repeat the memorized banalities:
す み ま せ ん (surimasen) - sorry
そ う で す ね (sōdesune) - you are right (but I will not do anything)
仕 方 な い で す (shikatanadesu) - nothing can be done (this is
さ あ (sā) - who knows? (I do not know, maybe no one knows?)
It definitely does not work!
Yes you are right.
Should not we do something?
Nothing canbe done.
But then it's easy to patch!
Who wrote this?
Someone from our team should talk to them.
Yes you are right.
Can I talk to them?
Yes, it is possible.
So, can I?
Let's say I went to talk with the team X. Dialogue can go like this:
Here's a set of patches to fix that bug.
Yeah, I see.
Can you give a review?
I'll watch later.
But these patches fix that bug. I did your work for you.
Ah, thank you. I'll watch later.
Okay tell me, what if something's wrong.
Well thank you.
As you probably guessed, no one does anything. About the patches, everyone forgot.
The original instinct is
If you ask the question being among the Japanese, the events will sometimes develop in this order:
All looked at
One person begins to try to say something
All with him on the sly agree
The necessity of keep the social harmony pervades society so much that it sometimes happens in friendly events, and at work - even more so. If this is generally acceptable on social issues, then it's better to find out one thing for one about work.
You will sometimes notice how the bosses or colleagues press others to dump more work on them. In Japan, this is known as power harassment . You, as a foreigner, most likely do not care, which will greatly affect your relationship with managers and colleagues. Instead of asking you to do something, they will go to colleagues, on whom to press the prose. I tried to stop the insolent, taking over part of the work, but sometimesThe inquiries were so absurd that I was forced to say no, even if I knew that it would still be on someone else. It's horrible. You can try to teach people to say "no", but it means fighting alone against one of the most serious problems of Japanese society.
I will do my best
Sometimes you trust someone to work and get back "I will do my best" (頑 張 り ま す). In practice, this means that even if a person finds work impossible, he will try to do it no matter what. On the one hand, it is fascinating, but on the other hand it goes against reality. If someone told you so, revise the timeline or the essence of the task to make it more realistic.
The culture of "doing everything possible" even to the detriment of health is one of the most serious problems of Japanese culture. On the one hand, some types of work are indeed performed "faster", at least in the short term, on the other, this is detrimental to physical and mental health. I have personally seen people who are working up to illnesses and coming to work even when they are sick. Once, a man was hospitalized as a result of side effects of stress, and then experienced difficulties with the return to the working society . People praise the Japanese love for work a lot, but sometimes it seems to me that the price of this is too high.
Some things here seemed to me amusing. Maybe they are not unique to Japan, but, in comparison with the Valley, were very unexpected.
Do you have a rally? Print slides, by typing copies per person. Do you have a meeting on design? Organize high-quality printing of mocamps for every person in the room. Then mark them with your hands, make changes on the computer and type again. Poor trees
This, however, not only for offices. Whatever you do, they will give you a piece of paper. I do not know where this love extends to print, but may have the feeling of something in his hand, something tangible in the world of software, where the fruits of all our labors are ephemeral, has this direct relationship. I am ready to accept any assumptions and discussions on this topic, for I am still at a loss.
Silence is gold
As a developer, I with all my heart hate open access for an abundance of distractions. But here I was pleasantly surprised by the silence with which most people worked. Of course, foreigners like me are sometimes very stunned by such silence, so I write about this separately. Of course, everything is not so rosy, if you have a sales or technical support team nearby, but, basically, people will not be discussing anything too harshly (except for the insensitive people who are anywhere in the world).
Haydzin and Gaykoku
This topic is already littered online and offline, but I still allow myself to remind you - you are a stranger. Did not you forget? Haydzin (外人) literally means "a person outside" and is a shortened form of "gaykokujin" (外国人) - "alien" from Japanese. I personally believe that most Japanese people use the word "gaijin" because it is shorter and sounds friendlier, and not from a particular malice. They will sometimes call you politely - "gaijin-san" (外人 さ ん) - a gentleman of a foreigner, addressing you in the third person.
You will often be called gaijin at work. And it is in the face. Of course, you really want to be insulted, but remember that most people do not consider this word offensive or unacceptable. Some people will try not to use it, so as not to offend you, but most do not care.
Gaykoku (外国) simply means "other country /countries," but people often use the word as if this country really is, and holds the whole world, but often under the "gaykoku" means the West or the United States only. Often you will hear the word "Kaigal" (海外), which means "abroad" and is used when talking about the whole world and "oubey" (欧米), which means only Europe and America (as exact!).
Sometimes you will hear this:
Is there an X in the gaikoku? (once I was asked if there was a drink in the nut)
How does the world react to X? ( ? the reactions of foreigners
often attract more attention than the event itself)
Japan is not like a gaikoku (an attempt to explain cultural differences something strange)
Sometimes you will hear something that sounds almost like racism. I sometimes say that in Japan there is "random racism." It's not that the Japanese try to offend you, they just rarely think that their words can offend a foreigner.
The team of foreigners
For foreigners in Japan, it is common to work in one group, or because they themselves are drawn to each other for security and mental reasoning, or because they are so easy to manage. In some companies, integration with Japanese teams is more, in others - less, but almost always foreigners will be concentrated in one place.
This, in fact, is not so shocking. A similar phenomenon is present in the United States, when foreigners work in tutu. It's funny: because foreigners are not inclined to "pull" themselves like most Japanese, they are perceived as "difficult to manage" (read: they are difficult to press). I think that this allows you to make a special contribution to Japanese society, but also in a particularly dangerous moment. Finally, you have the opportunity to modernize processes and improve the state of things, but at the same time, and the danger of destroying internal harmony so that the disaster will be inevitable. Use your position wisely and carefully calculate the consequences of your actions. Much more carefully than you did at home.
Foreign names are
In Japanese, the surname is put before the name. In an official speech, for example, at work, you will refer to a person named "Tanaka Taro" as "Tanaka-san" using the surname. Sometimes, after dating, and, in case your age is more or less the same, you can use "Taro-san".
You are a foreigner (have not you forgotten?), So you will be contacted by name and, most likely, by a shortened version of it. Sometimes your name is short enough to call it as it is. I was usually approached by Alex-san, since my name is very difficult in pronunciation (Americans, by the way, also found my name uneasy, so even in the US I was called Alex). It will constantly remind you of your "foreign", even if it did not reflect. Get used to it. I can assure you, the Japanese are also uncomfortable when strangers call them by name (a sign of intimacy, acquaintance or superiority).
The formal language is
skip this chapter if the language does not interest you from the word at all. It is quite long, but remember that this is the essence of my experience of staying in Japan.
The official Japanese language is not so complicated, but understanding how to turn to when to speak and so on slightly increases the threshold of entry. It turns out that extremely ritualized language of Japanese letters somehow moved into the world of the 3 r3r3750 emails. . Since you are a foreigner, the Japanese will forgive you for inaccuracies, however, if you write letters "incorrectly", some may not like it. This will enhance the perception of your "foreignness" and increase discomfort in talking to you.
Here's a letter that I could write to a colleague from another team, a little older than me, with whom I sometimes work, but not so often to afford too many liberties. I ask him to do something, which means I owe him a favor, so I must write in this style. But not too much, I'm not talking to a client or a stranger. Do you understand the meaning? Good.
(My bad Japanese)
田中 さ ん
お 疲 れ 様 で す.
ほ げ ほ げ チ ー ム の ア レ ッ ク ス で す.
先 日 お 話 し た 件 の 続 き で す が, ほ げ ほ げ チ ー ム の 調査 に よ り ま す と, git の マ ー ジ が 正常 に 実 行 出来 た 様 で す.
恐 縮 で す が, も う 一度 コ ー ド を pull し て 試 し て 頂 け な い で し ょ う か.
お 手 数 で す す が, 宜 し く お 願 い し ま す.
ア レ ッ ク ス
ほ げ ほ げ チ ー ム
Hello. This is Alex from the team "Abyrvalg".
Regarding the issue that we have recently discussed. The command "abyrvalg" considered the problem, and it seems that the fusion of the branches was successful.
I do not want to give you any inconvenience, but could you load the code base again?
I understand that it distracts you from work, but I ask you to cooperate.
The command "abyrvalg"
It seems that the measure of yesterday's discussions was normal. Try git pull one more time, please. Renounce, if anything breaks.
Have a nice day,
Yes, fucking. Get used to it. So you can write an entire article.
Working with Japanese developers, you will discover a few interesting things.
Borrowings and words from Japanese English
Obviously, they occur in the names of companies and products. In addition, there is a whole category of words, called ビ ジ ネ ス 用語 (business language). Some of the words out one-to-one are displayed in English (win-to-win situation), and the other you can and do not hear, but there will always be people screaming, "but it's from America!", As if you have to know all , which is borrowed from there. For example:
SNS (Social Network Service) - social network, yes
PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) - plan-do-check-act, "work"
KPT (Keep Problem Try) - this is not what I came up with, lol. Google, and most of the results will be in Japanese
Hearing - a rally where you will be the only speaker (no, it's not about the court, do not worry)
You can make giant lists, but this is a topic for another post. The bottom line is that you should prepare for learning new "English" words.
English words from European languages
When the Western world turns into one big family, people will certainly consider that everyone there speaks English. The Japanese are very puzzled when you do not understand the words they say. For example, "enquête" is a "poll" in French. It is used often.
Many words written in Chinese characters (
Many terms are taken from mathematics, which the Japanese have known for a long time. Therefore, the fact that most of the words came from Chinese, there is nothing strange. Here often used:
関 数 is the function
再 帰 的 関 数 is the recursive function of
変 数 is the variable
引 数 is the argument of
不 具 合 - bug
再 起動 - restart
Some words are taken from English:
メ ソ ッ ド - the method ("mesoddo")
バ グ - a bug ("bagu")
デ バ ッ グ - Debug ("debaggu")
And others - from "English":
パ ソ コ ン - PC ("pasokon", short for "paasonaru konpyuuta", ie personal computer)
ロ ー ル ア ウ ト - roll out (yes, roll out) - uninstall the new version of the program; not that it is used very often, but often in unfamiliar contexts, for example, in relation to the server software
Work in Japan is amazing, but full of nuances
Each country and culture is full of its subtle moments, pluses and minuses. I could write a whole laudatory post about life in Japan in general, but, as for the working atmosphere, purely for me, there are more problems than advantages, compared to the Valley, which in itself is a huge bubble with its cockroaches.
There are still a lot of things that you could write about, but then I will have to give up all hope that the size of the post will be at least somewhat sane. I hope that this record was, if not informative, at least funny.
Work and life in Japan in a Japanese company will be an unforgettable adventure, I guarantee it. And most likely, you will not regret the time spent, but I hope that this post will serve as a reminder to look at both at the entrance to a complex and incomprehensible working environment.
Well, that is, go ahead, have fun! Japan -
Experience from the lessons that will make you take this journey will broaden your view of the situation in companies at home and around the world.
(Bad translation of bad English)
Good English (how would I write in the US)
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