Office Culture for Expats - What am I walking into?

I’m a westerner and recently moved back to Taiwan after years away and gotten used to the work environment in the states. The office I’m walking into has recently gone through restructuring/layoffs. I will be the only one with an office, and I’m used to working 8 to 5 and working at home in the evenings if I need to. Most people here arrive at 9-9:30 and don’t leave until 7 or 8, or even later. I refuse to do that as I have family and spend time with them in the evenings.

Am I walking into a wall of resentment? Can I maintain my work life balance without others thinking I’m getting special treatment? To be clear, I’m not accountable to anybody in that office. But I want to be aware of the environment since I still have to work with these people.

Sorry, do you mean you’ve moved back here, or back to the States?

Yes back here as in Taiwan.

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You seem to be on the internet a lot during work hours, so I’d say you’re fitting in fine.


Next question :slight_smile: What do you mean by “I will be the only one with an office”? Everyone else is in an open plan situation?

I’m in quarantine. And my “work hours” depend more on New York than they do Taipei…so calls at 9pm here are the norm. It’s Thanksgiving in the states too so quiet week.

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Yes everyone else is in cubicles with low walls, noisy.

Foreigners might get perks that locals can’t have or won’t dare to ask for. Don’t overuse them as this might create some resentment indeed. Just keep things quiet and don’t talk about it.
This is the Taiwanese way.


My experience was that people basically understand that some of the unwritten rules may not apply to foreigners. Some people won’t like that. By taking advantage of such perks, you have to expect that that is part of the bargain. Usually you may not even really be aware of it, unless there is a toxic culture there or you start forging deeper relationships with people than the usual work type thing.

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The work culture is particularly toxic right now with layoffs and the feeling that more are coming so wanted to be sensitive to that. But I’m not going to stay late for the sake of staying late.

I guess just keep my head down and don’t mention it.

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Yep. You’re not (I wouldn’t!) so you basically have to accept that you are not going to be one of the boys.

Does it matter? I don’t think many people would care when you leave. They might gossip but that’s about it. It’s not like they pose any threat to you. If you have your own office chances are you are higher up in the ladder than they would be.

I’d like to think relationships matter in getting stuff done so it does matter to me somewhat. I still need these people do to things for me. But I’m not dealing with Carol barking in Taiwanese on speaker phone so I need that office.

Is there a way I can break the ice? Bring gifts or something? Take people to lunch?

I also have a team that I previously managed from abroad, but now I’m local need to consider them as well. I know I should probably do a weiya, but is there anything else? I think red envelopes are part of their salary. This all new to me.

9-ish to 730-ish is quite common. There will be some people that resent you leaving earlier even if you do start earlier, because they would not leave early even if they did come in early. Got to hang around even if not productive. It’s the game.

If management is happy, then try to get them or someone to make if officially or known in public that this is your official work time.

Management may not want to make a statement because then others may want a modified schedule.

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In my place a round of free drinks is the way to go.
Choose a drink shop. Collect their preference by showing them the menu. Let the place deliver around lunchtime. Plus points if that day is hot.

More rare is someone ordering a round of pizza for lunch, usually upper management does that.

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If you are a team leader/manager, ask your superior if you can take them out on team building excursions. Also, red envelopes, remembering their birthdays, etc, will help you to be established as a good manager in their minds. Of course, no amount of red envelopes will grant you good standing if you are the type of manager to berate and scream at them. I’m not saying you are, btw.

If it is an international company (with offices or customers overseas) and you have to have meetings overnight or work during the night, I think nobody would say anything. If your co-workers see that you work very hard, nobody will bother with your time schedule.

Every time one of these office threads comes up, someone mentions sucking up to other employees, by way of buying some token gift, or running some errand. Does this really work? In my book people either respect your or not, a 60NT bubble tea isn’t going to change anything.

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Some coworkers you will never interact with directly. Small gesture goes a long way.

Getting some Guanxi with small gifts and favors is embedded in the culture. You can ignore it and might get a pass as foreigner.
But it really depends on the office culture. It can vary by a lot.
Changing jobs frequently and this doesn’t matter, but if you want to work there for many years it is worth the effort.

Other thing is to bring small things/snacks from your holidays.

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Sucking up with gifts is just be another thing they can complain about. It’s too obvious.

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