Working in China is a unique experience. It’s something I think everyone should go through for at least a year, just to see how different the mindset here is from other parts of the world. Take, for example, what happened two weeks ago, when my school conducted its annual fall apartment checks.
The new employees here are always baffled by the apartment checks. Heck, I was baffled too when I fist started. As soon as the school sent out the staff-wide email about the checks, one of the new teachers, a nice guy named Jesse, came to ask me about it.
“Bill,” he said, “can you explain the email we just got?”
“Well, on Monday the school is going to check your apartment.”
“Yes. But what does that mean?”
“That means that while you’re at work on Monday, your boss is going to go into your apartment and see if it’s clean.”
Jesse needed a second for this idea to settle.
“Why are they doing that?”
This was a question I could not answer. I really don’t know why my boss would care to go into my home and inspect it for cleanliness. You would think the boss would have better things to do. Or that she would see how people not originally from China would be more than a little uncomfortable with the whole thing.
“What if they don’t think my apartment is clean?” Jesse asked.
Again, I wasn’t sure how to answer. All of the foreign teachers here at my school are housed in the same place, a big ugly apartment building on the far end of the campus. And every year, our boss comes into our apartments periodically to see if anyone has disgraced the school with sloppiness. If behind these ubiquitous brown doors, there are scenes of chaos and havoc, settings reminiscent of the TV show Hoarders.
“Don’t worry about it,” I told Jesse. “It’s just what they do here. They want to look in your room.”
“But I don’t want them to look in my room. What right do they have to look in my room?”
“None. But they’re going to do it anyways. So just throw out the trash in the morning and try to pretend it isn’t happening.”
The day after the apartment checks, the school sent out another staff-wide email. This one was from the boss, and it congratulated us on our general neatness. It also said that one particular teacher, who went unnamed, had an unacceptably messy apartment and was being spoken to privately.
“I wonder who they busted,” Jesse thought out loud.
In a way, I wished it was me. Just so I could tell them that they’d made the mistake of employing a filthy bastard who was proud of being a filthy bastard, and that it would be appreciated if the next time she entered my place, the boss would clean it up a little.