The Value of Lux­ury Goods

奢侈品价值几何

Special Focus - - Contents - He Feipeng 何飞鹏

Noth­ing Is Easy

A Ger­men col­league and I were re­spon­si­ble for re­mov­ing a sus­pended ceil­ing. Even though the Sty­ro­foam ceil­ing tiles were not heavy, we needed to raise our heads most of the time. My back hurt af­ter just sev­eral min­utes. More­over, the dust from the ceil­ing made it hard to breathe, even when I wore a mask.

We worked 11 hours from 6 pm to 5 am ev­ery day, in­clud­ing 15 min­utes of paid smoke breaks (the fore­man al­ways let us rest 30 min­utes) and a 30-minute un­paid meal break.

The job was a chal­lenge to me, es­pe­cially the first three and half hours from 6 to 9: 30 pm— it al­ways seemed to last for­ever. There was al­ways loads of works wait­ing for me, but my arm mus­cles were of­ten too sore to lift above my head and it seemed like a cen­tury be­fore the break time ar­rived.

Thirty min­utes of meal break was too short to en­joy. It passed so quickly that it felt like I just sat down, had a sip of wa­ter and a bite of bread, and went back to work. It fully demon­strated the the­ory of rel­a­tiv­ity.

It ap­peared that all my col­leagues were phys­i­cally stronger than me, es­pe­cially those two Ger­mans. They were so en­er­getic that they could hum songs while work­ing, while I felt com­pletely ex­hausted.

Af­ter the first shift, I dragged my feet slowly back to the hos­tel. It was 8 in the early morn­ing when I got back to my room. I hur­ried to eat some bread and drink a glass of milk, and then went to bed. I woke up at 3 pm and went to the mar­ket to buy food for sup­per and my mid­night meal. It was al­most 5 pm by the time I fin­ished sup­per and pre­pared my mid­night meal. So I had to leave again and start a new night of work at 6 pm.

It was ex­tremely tire­some the first week. I kept telling my­self, “Noth­ing is easy for adults.” I kept telling my­self that this is what it meant to cut my­self off from my fam­ily eco­nom­i­cally and shoul­der my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as an adult.

Con­flicts in In­ter­cul­tural Com­mu­ni­ca­tion

While cop­ing with work pres­sure, I also had prob­lems com­mu­ni­cat­ing with col­leagues from dif­fer­ent coun­tries. Cul­ture is a river and each of us is a fish swim­ming in it. We are not aware of where the river is, but we are bound to it. Even if I jumped into the Aus­tralian river, I main­tained my way of think­ing and life at­ti­tudes as a Chi­nese fish. There­fore, it was in­evitable for me to en­counter prob­lems and even con­flicts when liv­ing with “fish” from dif­fer­ent coun­tries in the eth­ni­cally di­verse so­ci­ety of Aus­tralia.

My Ger­man col­league Jack­son was stub­born and main­tained ab­so­lute fair­ness at work, but the Ital­ian fore­man liked to al­lo­cate work in a ca­sual way. For ex­am­ple, two work­ers were in a group. One was re­spon­si­ble of re­mov­ing floor slabs, and the other was re­spon­si­ble of putting the slabs into dump trucks. The work of dump­ing slabs was not so

tire­some, so Jack­son de­manded to trade jobs ev­ery 20 min­utes.

In my view, the work­load was pretty much the same. It was in­con­ve­nient to switch jobs ev­ery 20 min­utes be­cause they needed to climb up and down the scaf­folds again and again. As the other work­ers didn’t agree with Jack­son’s sug­ges­tion erther, they ar­gued and fi­nally agreed to fol­low the fore­man’s ar­range­ment.

In fact, it was hard to de­fine ab­so­lute fair­ness. For in­stance, Sherry, a blonde girl from New Zealand was an­other col­league of mine. She was only re­spon­si­ble of push­ing the but­ton on the el­e­va­tor, but got the same pay as the male work­ers who had to toil all day long.

I found that Aus­tralian peo­ple had de­vel­oped a unique way of re­solv­ing the con­flicts in the cross- cul­tural con­text. First off, there was zero tol­er­ance for any racial or re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion. No mat­ter who had con­flicts, no­body could dis­crim­i­nate based on the other’s na­tion­al­ity, eth­nic­ity, or re­li­gion; oth­er­wise, he or she would be fired. Sec­ond, the com­plaints chan­nel was very ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient. Any em­ployee could write to the rel­a­tive de­part­ment and com­plain about any un­fair treat­ment or dis­crim­i­na­tion. Once ver­i­fied, the com­pany would def­i­nitely rec­tify the prob­lem and give a rea­son­able so­lu­tion to the com­plainant. Th­ese prin­ci­ples guar­an­teed that work­ers with dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties and cul­tural back­grounds could work to­gether har­mo­niously.

I got my first pay­ment at the end of the first week. They trans­ferred 1500 Aus­tralian dol­lars to my bank ac­count and I got 1200 af­ter pay­ing tax, which was equiv­a­lent to the monthly salary of a white col­lar in China.

When the first check came in, I was down to my last 100 Aus­tralian dol­lars. I had mixed feel­ings when get­ting my first pay­ment, but I knew I had suc­ceeded in sur­viv­ing this new life in Aus­tralia.

( From Cheng­duE­co­nomic

Daily , Oc­to­ber 6, 2018. Trans­la­tion: Li Li)

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