The Value of Luxury Goods
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)