Monday, June 18, 2012

Won't Miss #460 - contracts not being followed

In America, where people do what is required by law rather than what is reasonable or best, we have a culture in which contracts are specific and followed to the letter. This provides a sense of comfort since it stops people from being taken advantage of, especially in the workplace and in business transactions. In Japan, contracts are not seen as concrete. They are seen as the beginning of a process and often the terms that are spelled out in them are disregarded when they become inconvenient for the more powerful entity signing the document. Many English teachers who are hired abroad sign contracts stating working hours, duties, and conditions and upon arriving in Japan discover that they are expected to work overtime, perform mundane cleaning duties, or work on days not specified in the contract they signed. The Japanese themselves take it for granted that employees will do whatever is asked no matter how outside of the original terms of employment such requests are. Unfortunately, the contract flakiness doesn't only apply to employees. It can also apply to purchases, services, or renting an apartment. Though it happens less often when one is a customer, it did happen to me in regards to cable services.

I realize that this is a cultural difference and my objection to this is completely ethnocentric, but I will not miss being taken advantage of or being treated like a huge problem if I refuse to let it be done to me because employee contracts aren't worth the paper they're printed on in many cases.