Sleep Time or Work Time?
It’s about three o’clock in the middle of the night. I just started writing this. Yes, seriously. And my wife hates that. I know what you’re going to say, ‘well obviously, DanDan, most wives would hate that’!
Well, you probably have a point, and actually this might not have much to do with cultural differences, but hear me out first!
Kokoro will definitely agree with me when I say that working in a Japanese office for several years has affected her outlook on working hours and ‘normal’ working times.
Oh, speaking of which, she just texted me some angry sticker, asking me to come to bed – so cute.
Well, you see, I’ve been a student for a good chunk of my life and I still am since I’m working on my PhD; so, as you can imagine, I’ve had a pretty hectic schedule for the last couple of years.
Ever since I was 14 or so, I started staying up late, mostly playing video games since many of my friends lived across the world, which made it kind of hard to coordinate through all the different time zones.
Fast forward a few years, I start my university adventure and what do you know, old habits die hard, I guess. I keep playing games, write all of my assignments in the middle of the night and, as you’d expect, most of my friends would do the same until we all graduated – most of them got jobs, a few stayed to get an MA, then finished and got jobs too, and then here I am, all by myself PhDing in the middle of the night.
It’s not that I can’t work in the middle of the day, I do most times actually, but when it comes to writing, I prefer the peaceful silence of the night to gather my thoughts. So that explains why I’m writing this, and possibly most other posts, at this time.
But enough about me, Kokoro is the complete opposite, with her old office schedule very much an integral part of her personality. There are days where I’d take a couple of hours before I start my research and I’d often get shot down with something along the lines of ‘aren’t you working today?’, or even more common ‘it’s working hours now, don’t you have to work?’
Working hours? Well I’ve had my fair share of jobs and responsibilities, but when it comes to my research, I’m pretty much free to shape my schedule in whatever way works best for me. That means if I want to work from 2pm to 8pm or 11pm to 7am, it’s all the same at the end of the day.
I’ve tried explaining her this concept a few times, thinking that since she now works as a freelancer, she would understand the flexibility of it all, but no dice. Even though HER OWN schedule is flexible, she is still very much a strong believer in the ‘must wake up and go to work ‘till I drop’ mentality.
And honestly, I admire that. Sure, overworking is not ideal (to say the least), but she is my role model when it comes to professional attitude and etiquette.
I’ve done my best to change my schedule, because of course I want her to be happy and I want us to spend as much time as possible together and most days I manage fairly decently.
And then come the writing days. I’d heat up a pot of coffee around midnight, sit down, and get to work until the wee hours of the morning when Kokoro would wake up to start her own work.
I mean it works out in the end, by the time I’m awake, she’s done with her tasks and we can enjoy some time together! But, of course she still worries and scolds me. And when her mom calls…well she will most likely make the same disapproving comments – though to be fair she is mostly concerned about my ‘unhealthy’ sleeping hours than anything else.
As I said, first post was not so much about cultural differences, but both Kokoro and I can admit that there are some subtle ones playing out here and she is not alone to think like that.
I know that most of her Japanese friends and coworkers think along the same lines as her, and hey, maybe one day I will too.
How about you guys? Do you see this more as personal preferences/differences or is this rooted in some deeper cultural discussion? Have you ever been yourself in this kind of situation, or maybe do you know someone who has? Feel free to tweet us with any comments and we’ll get back to you guys asap!