I got the idea for this blog when I heard the James Blunt's song 'You're Beautiful' blaring across the office for the third time that morning. You see, a few of the staff where I work have this habit of leaving their phones on their desk when they go out of the staffroom. As a result, we regularly have Kei$ha, Westlife and some Asian pop artist I've probably never heard of playing regularly each day.
As annoying as this is, it was even worse in a another centre I was in when covering classes. One of the bosses there, an English guy, had the Tom Jones song 'Sex Bomb' as his ringtone. Being a boss, he got maybe 20 calls each day but he was rarely there to answer any of them. It was not only an inappropriate choice with a lot of female staff there, but became very irritating. I knew at least one worker there who hated that song and it was easy to see why.
The most common type of office noise is talking - well, shouting. Now, I have the greatest respect for our local staff who are very nice, hard working people and without whom, I couldn’t do my job properly. That said, I just don't understand why they shout to each other from less than three feet away. They could be discussing the weather or accusing each other of murder, it all sounds the same to me. Thursday is the day they all come together for the weekly meeting. They arrive at around 12.30 and have lunch together, talking quickly, their voices getting louder and more excited until (more often than not) I turn to them and ask them politely to please keep it down to a shouting match.
The open desk policy deserves a mention as well. This was pioneered by Google who basically replaced offices and cubicles with long tables, which gives the feeling of eating out at lunchtime rather than producing work. I don't know why they thought this was a good idea because frankly speaking, it sucks. No matter how careful you are with organising your stuff, it often spills over onto the next person's desk. You hear every sniff, cough and sneeze from workmates nearby and some use it as an open invitation to tap you on the shoulder and have a quick chat, even in really busy times.
This is common, everyday noise but sometimes there are outside influences which makes it hard to focus. A few years ago, a mobile store would set up a small stage right outside our office roughly once a month for about a year. All day Saturday and Sunday, some guy would shout into a microphone about special offers and handing out free products. I would peek down now and again and see this guy jumpiing around the stage while a big crowd of people stretched out their hands like refugees awaiting food handouts. There was also the time of the anti-Japan protests at the height of the Daioyu Islands dispute. The march took place on the weekend, our busiest time and was so loud, I could barely hear myself speak in class. It was also difficult stopping the students rushing to the window and checking out the action.
It's not all negative, though. There's a piano school right next to us and sometimes when the staff there get bored, they'll play these beautiful pieces on the demo model. We could be sitting there during a tedious meeting and all of a sudden this nice classical music wafts through, lifting the mood of everyone in the room. There's an African-American teacher in my office who happens to be a trained opera singer. One day she was walking past the school, heard one of the staff there playing her favourite opera piece and performed a duet with her. So for about 30 minutes we enjoyed this beautiful live opera performance while working.
Sometimes when the ringtones and constant chatter become too unbearable and If I really need to concentrate or plan something important, I often find myself retreating into a quiet classroom or one of the closed-off consulting rooms to get some work done. If only that nice piano music could reach me down there, that would be perfect.
Adam has lived in Guangzhou, China since 2008 and is working in a Senior position with a major English training company.
Contact Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Keywords: office ringtones noise China noise pollution
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I hate noise. And I love love love my German Wax Ohropax. Try them, I promise you will be floating on a peaceful cloud of silence. (those are blocking noise better than the foam plugs, and they are much friendlier to the skin. I just divide one Wax piece into two equal pieces, one can be used 3-6 times) http://www.amazon.com/Ohropax-Reusable-cotton-Plugs-Carrying/dp/B00S58SRZO/
Feb 05, 2016 04:57 Report Abuse
I always have to smile to myself when I see and hear westerners getting all bent out of shape because they do not like Chinese culture. TIC people. If you do not like it here, find a door and don't let it smack you on the way out. Plain and simple. The way westerners whine about one thing after another because China does not cater to their cultural wants and needs is almost comical...if it weren't so sad. Sure, I get my western feeling bent out of shape too. But, I remember that I am the guest. I am not forced to stay here. So, it is I who must try to understand and accept. Not them. We live in a country that is like night and day in cultural differences. We either deal with it, complain to anyone willing to tolerate our rants, or we leave.
Jan 29, 2016 13:31 Report Abuse
Im not a guest. I have been here 10 years....married with kids...fuck that guest bs. There is something called manners and commen courtesy known all over the world. Even in Korea and Japan. Why cant the Chinese just cater to that? They follow everything else
Jan 29, 2016 15:00 Report Abuse
Foreigners need to understand that the world is a crowded place but Chinese have been used to this for a lot longer, therefore have evolved to adapt to the conditions so the noises don't bother them. Don't come here thinking it's going I be like home or it should be like home or people should act like they do at home. You are a guest here. Have respect and you will be most welcome.
Jan 27, 2016 12:24 Report Abuse
The longer stay here the more I am convinced that some/most Chinese don't have a voice filters. We all know that guy who supplies us with a free clearing the throat alarm clock at 5am. We all know the two old dears that stand next to each other on the stairwell and have a protracted discussion at great length. Also, somewhat ironically, I can't recall any Chinese whispering to each other. As for the traffic noise...
Jan 27, 2016 11:24 Report Abuse