Singapore Adventure

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Working Life
by jima

As Venitha starts up her new/old job, I've been thinking about my work environment here in Singapore and the differences from life a la Dilbert in the US. Of note:

  • Low cube walls. Rows of cubicles are separated by half-height walls, leaving you with no privacy, as you can see over them even while sitting down. I really like the ability to check quickly whether or not a co-worker is at his or her desk, and since I usually work with headphones on, I'm not bothered by the higher noise level. People tend to speak more softly in this environment, though some of my co-workers have a propensity to do conference calls at their desks on speakerphone.

  • No good coffee. Nescafé machines produce several varieties of brownish liquid, but it would be remarkably generous to call this coffee. The upside is that I've given up my daily coffee and replaced it with the less addictive hot Milo. Venitha says they have this same machine at her work, but there are enough ants in its vicinity that she's steered clear; read Fast Food Nation, anyone?

  • Languages. My workgroup of fourteen is our own little version of the UN. Represented are India, Indonesia, the US, China, Malaysia, and, of course, Singapore. While all of my co-workers speak excellent English, the speed and grace with which they shift from one language to another humbles me daily. Multiple languages are always flowing around me, and it's not unusual for me to hear, all at once, Lu Wei and Gu Yun conversing in Mandarin, Chuan Wai speaking English on a phone conference, and Don chatting in Indonesian with his wife on the phone. I'm happy now to be adding to the language cacophony by practicing my horrible, broken German on my friend Olli, a German who just joined us from Ft Collins.

  • Cool carpeting. I suspect HP in Singapore is different from many companies here in that it even has carpeting, but these are your standard commercial carpet squares that are popular in the US. So how did they get the purple blotches to run not quite parallel to the white blotches? Something is just wrong with this hallway. Maybe not enough coffee.

  • Treats. Just like in the US, the office here has a sporadic supply of treats that show up. Unlike in the US, though, these are generally things I've never seen before, so I always have to take my chances and try them. The biggest winner so far was a cake from , a fluffy angel food cake with tube-like holes in it. Yummy! At the other extreme was some gelatinous green stuff. I haven't yet had to spit anything out, but I dislike the treats as often as I like them.

  • Break room. Break rooms on each floor provide small kitchens, booths with tables, a couch and TV, and, in ours, a dart board and foosball table. All are used quite frequently!

All in all, I've found the office environment to be just similar enough to lull me into complacency, and I'm as settled in and at home here now as I was in Ft Collins.