Office Craziness in China (PART 1)
I could just leave all I have experienced to myself. I hate to gossip. However, I decide to write this out because the past 3 months was so shocking. Maybe someday, someone who’s smarter than I am, could do a better analyze to this. I am no expert in writing nor English language, but I still hope the following blogs I posted on here is going to give you a glimpse of understanding of China and Chinese office culture, and hopefully, from a difference perspective that you have ever experienced.
(All you are going to read are real stories, I will hide the company name and people’s real name for privacy issues).
It was a small online branch of famous a large global English online edu company. The company’s headquarter in China is in Beijing. So was the branch. It did not make much profit, they later moved it to Shanghai, the city I was in. On that day of interview, I went and to my surprise Andy was the interviewer. Andy was my manager in the previous company, I got the job without an interview. My role was in charge of content development and research for the company. The payment of mine was probably the highest I know among the people in that company, and I got normal working hours, (9-6, workdays only).
It was a new branch and we didn’t have many people working in here, the 2 seats on my right hand-side were both empty.
One day, a young graduate came and sat in the seat next to me. Her role was a TA. Her name’s Sarah. Born in 1993, graduated from a university people hardly heard of. She has long hair but her face was quite Aesthetic challenging. She dressed like a countryside girl. And yes, she’s the cover picture of this blog. For the following couple of days, we didn’t talk, she was using Andy’s PC as the resources in the company was limited.
On the hindsight, I now know what she really was. But at that time I thought she was nothing but an innocent plain-looking countryside girl.
In the first couple of days, everything was fine. Then one day, she asked me, ‘do you think Andy’s gonna give me the password of his online cloud drive? I saw he has so many useful documents in it while I was using his PC and I want all of them.’ I thought she was a bit crazy. Why on earth do you think the manager’s gonna give you the password of his drive after he knows you stalked his PC of all the industry secrets? I was sophisticated enough to not to directly throw that in her face, I told her she could try anyway, but he might have something that he’s not willing to share in that drive.
The other day, she told me her salary. It was low, really low. One could hardly make ends meet with that salary, and then she asked how much was my pay. My payment was perhaps few times higher, but I told her it was not much. Then she started to guess my salary, it made me uncomfortable. Eventually, she told me her first secret----she’s going to find a PT job. I thought it was good for her though against the company rules. Anyways, what really surprised me was, the next day, she got a personal tutor teaching IELTS oral English for 150/h. The rate listed on the website with her background was only 100 pr hour. And she has no idea what IELTS was. So I quickly give her a 10 minutes’ background introduction and she thanked me for it and thought she was ready. Meanwhile, she got another PT job as a TA for a foreign teacher, the rate was also 150 per hour. I found her extremely productive.
She came back from her weekend jobs with a bag full of books. ‘I got them from my student. I told him I will read the books for him and extract the key-points out, now I don’t need to buy books. How smart I am.’ she said. I was a bit impressed, so I also lend a book from her.
The next day, she asked me how much I spent on my monthly phone bills. I told her 46 per month, which is actually really little money. ‘That’s TOO much!’ she said. She then showed me a secret smile and told me her monthly bill was only 7. I was surprised how she made it. The she showed me some really complicated math she did of how each payment goes with how much data she spent and how much date equals how many minutes of call, how many texts and stuff. She then showed me a qq group where someone gave her a secret link to a taobao shop where she could get a data package. The all she needed to do is to do the math and transfer the data to the phone. There are only 3 times that she could transfer the data each month, so she must make sure she neither waste the data, nor not to get enough. Otherwise it means more for the bills. I spent my whole afternoon digested how that works. It does sound like a brilliant idea, but I hate math and I knew I’d end up with hundreds of monthly phone bills, so I thanked her for the advice.
Until then, I found her extremely driven, impressive and smart. Then things started to go down the hills.
I had a headphone, a good one, a gift from a second-rich student. I put it in my drawer which was between me and Sarah. Early the next day, Sarah told me she was using it and wasn’t sure why, she just broke it. I was a bit on my nerves, why did she think it was ok to take my things without permission? Then she apologized and she promised she’ll take it to a shop to get it inspected to see if it can be fixed. The she said if I buy a new one, she’ll give me a portion of the money. Later, she bought a headphone for herself. ‘it’s 600 rmb’ she said, and she told me it was too much for her, but she was happy to share it with me, and just me. When the headphone finally arrived, I never got to touch it. She took it with her everywhere and it was always either on her neck or on her head. Eventually I bought a headphone and she offered me a 10 rmb meal. I forgave her as I did not want to bother with those little things, she somehow got the hobby of opening my drawer whenever she liked, took anything in there, tissue, snacks and everything as if they were hers. It made me very unhappy, there were no important things in the drawer, but it was only the beginning.
One day after the lunch break, she asked me, how much I usually spent on lunch. And it was really not much. She thought it was too much and she told me she only spent 5 rmb for lunch. Remember it’s the most expensive city in China, 5 rmb does sound a bit too good to be true, then she said they were really good food. Now I hate my curiosity, but I asked her at that time. She told me it was the cafeteria in X Uni. The student price was surely low. The she told me she’s going to get a card for the cafeteria as they accept card only. I thought she was just saying it, I told her if she ever get the card, take me with her for lunch, but she really was not. That afternoon, she found an agent. The agent offered 2 options of 2 different types of cards. One’s for visitors, for each 100 rmb top up, you get to use 70. The other one is a staff card, for each 100, you get to use 95, but there’s 50 rmb deposit and 80 rmb rent each month. She did the calculation, and showed me. It was too complicated for my math ability. The she took option 2. She then quickly formed a group of 4 to go for lunch together and each of us will have to pay her what we spent on the food using the rate of 95%, then share the rent. We thought it was fair, well, at least at that time.
Until one day, she asked us to give her a little bit more. Meanwhile, one of us, Carrie, found a student card for sale on a secondhand market. The card was 60 rmb and there’s no discount for top up. So Carrie asked Sarah if she should get it. Sarah said ‘why? You already have me!’ So Carrie lost that chance and later, she regretted it.
My colleague Jane also had a card for the uni cafeteria, no extra fees needed. She was happy to share the card. Then we realized it was very hard for us to not to use Sarah’s card even though no one wants to pay for the extra rent. Eventually, I spoke up, I told her to sell the card and so we could use Jane’s card together. Sarah agreed.
I thought it would be hard work for her to sell the card. To my surprise, the next day, she showed me her wechat new friends request, there were about 15 people adding her wanting to buy the card. I told her it was great, just sell it. Then she grinned and shook her head. ‘No’ she said,’‘Don’t you see it? This is an opportunity’. Then she told me the following shocking stuff, ‘I am planning to contact the agent who sole me the card, they charged me 50 deposit and 80 monthly rent, i could recommend those people to him, they could pay 60 deposit and 90 monthly rent, and for every 10 clients I recommended, I get a free card.’ It was a brilliant idea and the agent agreed. ‘We’ll soon each have our own card?’ I asked. Sarah told me to go and get the clients. But I could not be used. All those people didn’t buy from her. Eventually, the plan’s failed, but I realized from every little aspects that how smart Sarah was.
But of course, if one has the mind to make money, she’s not going to care where the money’s from. I should have realized it long ago, soon it came to me.
One day, I was planning to move. Sarah yes, as you might have guessed, came to offer some ‘help’ as usual. Before this, Sarah once mentioned she bought tissues online as her roommates’ company will reimburse him. Anyways, I said I probably need an extra box and she said she had one just the right size for me, the one for tissues, large and firm. I asked if I could borrow it, she said, ‘no borrowing, I’ll gift it to you, just pay for the taxi fee, 20 rmb.’ What???!! 20 rmb for a paper box?! Of course I did not agree. I told her the garbage collector told me the box is 3 each and 20 is a bit much.
After that, she offered some more ‘help’. She told me hiring a moving company for moving is a bit too expensive, it’ll be at least for 700 rmb a day. And she said I should rent a car for just 100 and get a driver. I thought it was a good idea, then she said she could drive, but her skills suck and if I like, she could do it for me, though she might bump the car somewhere. I refused her. Then she said she wanted to practice cars and there are car practicing companies and she could get a coach to train her. I asked if those cars could be used for moving. She said they might, but she must get to know those coaches first. So she told me I could pay for the tuition fees. I refused again.
I forgot to mention, earlier, before I found my new apartment, one day, Sarah told me about her foreign ex that she ditched. She told me she ditched him even though he came back to China and immediately went to meet her, he really liked her, but she told him her Chinese boyfriend was rich, has an apartment and a car here and lots of money in the bank. The poor guy told her she was very material. She made that story about her boyfriend up. She told me to never date a guy who’s not rich. And she then told me about the manager that she’s living with.
When she first arrived at Shanghai, she aimed to find an apartment at the price 1500 per month. She looked everywhere and couldn’t find anything like that. Then she walked into L agency and still found nothing. While she was about to leave, the manager who was taking a nap on his desk suddenly jumped up and said, ‘wait, I have an apartment that I no longer want to live in, 1500 per month, are you interested?’ Sarah thought it was not a good deal as it did not have a kitchen. She refused him, rudely. The manager then offered to let her live with him in his new place, each pay 1800 for a room. She said she could not afford 3 months rent paid up front. So the manager paid the money for her. And later, after she moved in, the manager told her she looked like the wife type. He then knelt down and proposed her, she refused him. He then gifted her his salary card, Sarah said she must thought about it, but she took his money anyway. She told me he has no cars nor flat in Shanghai and he’s 7 years older than her. Plus, he’s not well educated. But he makes 30000 per month, so she might still consider him. She still claims to be single. He called a taxi to send to work every day. When I first heard about the story, I couldn’t believe it. Why on earth would a manager do that? Remember in the beginning of this blog I told you she’s aesthetic challenged? And that she looks like a countryside woman? But now I totally believe it. If you hear the rest of the story.
In the next part, I will tell you how she ruined another TA by using the dark methods and how she successfully avoid any risks in the dangerous environment when the bosses where having fights. You’ll have to see it to believe it. I leave the space for comments and thoughts to you. Meanwhile, the situation here isn’t very optimistic, I might have to be the witness on the court. And I might be sent into the jail. Hopefully, I’m able to finish my blog and be OK. It’s an extremely complicated situation, that’s why I think I am blogging about it.
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