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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The 'Danwei'

This never crossed my mind, rather the notion never has, because I've never worked in a Chinese environment. Now this piques my interest, the idea of an all-encompassing, take care of you to the max 'job', except that here, it's a lot more than a job. Love this article. Great read!


Lifestyle in China - Danwei or My Way?
19th July 2007
Radio86 - All About China

Anthropologists define culture using basic factors: language, food and behavior. But in China these three criteria certainly confuse foreigners. First, the complex Chinese language presents a formidable barrier to cross-cultural communication. Second, the vast array of Chinese foodstuff--Chinese eat everything, literally from head to toe--startles Western eyes and palates. But third and most significantly, basic Chinese behavioral patterns conflict with Western norms. The most blatant difference revolves around the Chinese predilection for group dynamics within the work environment.

Westerners, particularly Americans, remain notoriously proud of their status as independent, private individuals voluntarily performing inside a system. Employees make autonomous decisions on the job, cherish their freedom and even demand personal accolades and/or bonuses when work is done well. The Chinese, in contrast, prefer to allow the employer to passively control them, even in private matters regarding their personal lives.

In 2004, when I arrived in China, my Chinese work unit, or danwei, enveloped me completely, just as Jonah was swallowed into the whale's mouth. The Chinese regard employment as much more than a job, a paycheck and a few weeks' vacation every year. Rather, it is a small interconnected world. A danwei often takes care of every worker's needs, from offering maternity hospitals to arranging cremation services. China Oil, my danwei, offered me not only a teaching job, but also a free bicycle, a free apartment, free medical insurance and free entertainment ranging from opera nights to riding ponies in the nearby mountains. They had previously constructed a miniature city for the workers, complete with apartment houses, shops, restaurants, a luxury hotel, theaters, gyms and tennis courts, an Olympic pool, several parks and a fully equipped hospital.

"We are fortunate to serve in this danwei," said Mr. Yang, a colleague. "They provide everything. I never leave the base to go anywhere because it is so convenient."...

Click here for full article.