Wednesday, September 22, 2010

day 5_Hong Bao

By my 5th day in Taipei, 2nd day at work, I am starting to feel more comfortable. I stop at a small shop to get toast & tea for a quick breakfast. I arrive at work on time instead of strangely early, and dive into the pile of tasks expectantly waiting for me at my desk. Even though, it is clear that my new employers haven't yet tested my true working abilities, they've assigned me some easy to moderate assignments - and I am happy to be busy, not bored.

Today is special because its the day before the Moon Festival holiday. This is one of the 3 most celebrated Taiwanese holidays... so everyone is chatty and cheerful and ready for thier day off on Wednesday! From what I understand, this holiday celebrates the full moon, the harvest season, and the significance of family & friends. As a special treat, we all travel to a nearby restaurant for a company sponsored holiday lunch. The restaurant is a well-known traditional Sichuan restaurant that happens to be owned by a local celebrity - very popular. The food is served as we might say in the US 'family style' - where many plates are placed on a lazy susan (spinning portion at the center of the table top) and rotated around so that everyone may take small portions of each entree. I think the menu we ordered cost around $5500 (+/- $175 US) and it consisted of 14+ entrees [but of course I'm guessing here, since everything was ordered in Chinese...], that were more than enough to feed all 12 of the employees seated at my lunch table. The whole group filled 3 tables in all. It was quite jovial, a really welcome social time I would say... but it was also the first time that I truly felt inhibited by the language barrier.

Even though each of the employees at my table spoke some or a considerate amount of English, that did not mean that the lunchtime conversation would all be spoken in English just for my benefit, so I primarily sat and watched and listened... I was surprised to realize how many Chinese words I recognize [mostly from my previous time in Taipei], and how much I was able to follow based on body language and people's reactions... but I was still the odd man out. For sure. Must learn some Chinese conversational phrases.....

When we got back to the office, my immediate supervisor explained to me that in preparation for printing my business cards, it would be most appropriate to establish my Chinese name. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the international business card, it is typically printed on one side in the local language [in my case, Chinese only] and the reverse side of the card is most often printed in English. That being said, my Chinese name may or may not be an exact translation of my name in English... so the admininstrative personnel and my supervisor went to town chit-chatting all afternoon about what could my Chinese name possibly be! :) Often, when an exact translation is used, the Chinese version ends up sounding like something else... for example, your name might mean "bitten by a dog"... so they try to take some combination of your real name, and a modified/customized version... to end up with a positive sounding translation that also doesn't turn you into a piece of fruit or a dog-bitten girl... The office was obviously having quite a bit of fun tossing out possible ideas, working with both my maiden and married names as well as my middle name, full name, and nickname - Lizzie.

I honestly don't think they came to a final conclusion, but I can't wait to hear what it is... Will keep you posted!

Near the end of the day, our boss came around personally to each employee's desk (there are probably near 40 employees) to deliver to us our "Hong Bao"s (pronounced 'hone-g' 'bow', as in take a bow...) red envelopes. These red envelopes in an office environment represent bonuses to celebrate the holiday [I imagine at home they may contain money or letters/cards...] but it was all quite lovely - each person receiving thier special envelope, and our office photographer taking pictures to commemorate the event... even me! On my second day of work, I was given a modest Hong Bao too! :)

No comments:

Post a Comment