Sunday, August 3, 2008

In corporate vacation season no one can hear you cry...

Working for a European company in Japan has its pros and cons. Since I'm a local employee and not on any corporate expat program, the conditions under which I have joined are the same as for any of my Japanese colleagues. Since I'm not here on a temporary or time specific basis that's completely fair enough.

However, there is a specific time when I really wished that I was here on the same conditions as my European colleagues, namely the summer vacation season... From my current perspective, with a very small number of vacation days during one year it's almost obscene with the vacation that most people in the head office take. The standard Japanese vacation is that most salarymen taken one week of vacation during August and call that "summer vacation" and that is it. On occasion I can get an automated reply on a mail sent to a European colleague stating "thanks for your e-mail, I will reply when I get back to the office from my vacation in 5 weeks"...

Recently something urgent came up, so I tried to get in touch with someone in marketing in the head office. After a number of futile phone calls met with automated messages I resorted to call the operator of the company to see if I could get hold of anyone. It went basically something like this:

Mr. Salaryman: Hi, this is me calling from Japan, do you know if Mr. X is in now?
Operator: Hi, let me check... ... ...(few seconds of silence) No, he's on vacation.
Mr. Salaryman: I see, well, is Ms. Y in then maybe?
Operator: (immediately) No, she's on summer vacation.
Mr. Salaryman: Well, is there anyone in marketing there now?
Operator: (few seconds silence) No, they're all on vacation....
Mr. Salaryman: Ok, do you know if Mr. Z is in then?
Operator: I haven't seen him in weeks, but he's not listed being on vacation, let me connect you

I couldn't get through to Mr. Z, so I left a message in the hope that he wasn't on vacation but just not available when I tried to call. A few hours later I get a SMS stating "I'll get back to you in 2 weeks when I'm back from vacation"...

It's at times like this I'm wondering what the hell I'm doing here in Japan during the swelting summer heat...

6 comments:

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Tornadoes28 said...

If Europe wants to remain competitive globally, they need to cutout the excessive vacations and short work weeks.

Anonymous said...

Europe seems to be doing quite well, compared to the economic situation in the U.S. and Japan... Perhaps the excessive vacations and short work week should be spread to those problematic regions.

Mr. Salaryman said...

Yeah, I actually do agree with Mr. Anonymous here Tornadoe.

Japan actually has a bunch of stupid holidays but a very limited number of free vacation days which results in crowding and extremely expensive flight tickets during the holidays...

The actual number of days free during a year isn't that much different...

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Anonymous said...

What the heck? Did someone just leave you spam in the form of a comment?! I'd be furious if I were you...

At least it sounds like the receptionist is in the same boat as you- can't take a vacation when the bosses are vacation, I suppose.

Also, it's "sweltering", not "swelting". I know you're very busy, trilingual, and don't have time to spellcheck your posts but I just wanted to let you know... just in case you care.

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