China Works The Raw and Nitty Gritty

It is currently 12:21:17( now 22…23…oops wait 25…)AM, Friday August 21st here in the great city of Nanjing.  Since my last REAL update on things going on regarding the internship was a while back, I thought what better time to write a recap of recent events than now, right after work and before I am too tired and get too sluggish to remember what it is I want to express.

So here it goes:

A lot has changed, learned, revealed, discovered, and more since the first month.  The walls and the floors of the hotel have become quite familiar.  Often times throughout the day I have deja vu of the first few days after we arrived.  Everything was so stunning and amazing that I could almost describe such setting as breathtaking.

I can still remember how I felt during the first week: scared, nervous, anxious, excited, amazed, confused, and the list goes on.

SCARED because I was in a new an unfamiliar setting with faces I new to me.

NERVOUS because of my lack of experience regarding working in a professional environment where a normal day consists of wearing the uniform given, being spoken to in a way that is often times condescending, and looking to match a certain standard in order to keep our guests satisfied.

ANXIOUS because I am someone who usually gets pretty worked up over things that are of the unknown.  The unknown and uncertainty of any situation usually causes me to extra (yes extra) over-think, thus the anxiety levels were at an all time high.

EXCITED because, as much as I was nervous about familiarizing myself with both how front office operates and my co-workers there, I was quite looking forward to being part of something and getting to know everyone and everything.

AMAZED because in my humble opinion, Fairmont is much too classy brand to be associated with the likes of me.

CONFUSED because of how lost and directionless we were during the beginnings of our time here.  I still remember those days where days would go by and I would still not know what was going on during the hotel’s daily functions thus ultimately useless to my co-workers because of how less I knew about the hotel.

These are only some of what was going within during the beginning within my over-thinking self.  Now it’s been more than two months and I’d say I’m quite knee-deep into things and have made significant progress since my first days.  I am now more experienced with tasks such as answering the questions guests have and far more familiar with how to get daily tasks done and the people of Front Office.  I could go on a ramble for days about life now I won’t (you’re welcome).

SO here are just a couple of things I’ve learned since month one’s update:

#1 THE IMPORTANCE OF CO-WORKERS:

It’s often times quite hard for me to open myself up to someone.  It’s not that I am shy, it’s more of I’m scared of scaring people off because of how I actually am.  So naturally I was quite awkward and unwilling to open up myself.  As time went on and I got to know my colleagues, I discovered just how great individuals they were and just how fortunate I was/am to have them to work along side with.  When you get to know those you work with, not only do the hours and tasks just seem to wrap up quicker, but you become genuine friends.  Work then becomes more enjoyable and even fun.  It took awhile for me to get to know everyone but I’m glad I have been able to open myself up to everyone that I have.  I can’t imagine work without my Front Office friends, specially those of Front Desk and Guest Relations, and even Concierge (maybe), and honestly think that if it weren’t for them, I’d probably be dreading this internship and also be missing home more.

The small moments we’ve shared, both at the front and the back of the house, have been some of the best highlights of my days here.  These guys lift me up whenever I just can’t take all that comes with the despicable guests we often play host to and I could not be more grateful and blessed to have them around to provide me with their wisdom.  Words cannot expressed how much love I have for each that I’ve gotten to bond with.

One might think that since I’m asian, I just know all there needs to know about the culture here (so false).  Let me tell you right now, knowing about a culture is not the same as being a PART of it on a regular basis.  If you pay close enough attention to things, you can very easily see the difference between another person’s culture and your’s.  I’ve learned so much about the Chinese culture.  I know have been educated on what countless daily expressions mean and have also been able to educate them on what life is like back in the states.  We may not always be on the same page and may not always be in the best moods, but I can genuinely say that when things get hectic (which..THEY DO), I know my Front Office colleagues will always do their best to assist in whatever way they can.  I have appreciated the time and the memories I’ve been able to make with these co-workers-turned-friends of mine (both at and outside the working environment) and can only hope that somehow these relationships last after my departure.  Many of these friendships I’ve made have been with the nicest and kindest people I’ve ever met.  I now have the pleasure to consider some as my closest friends and already miss them.

#2 CHINA VS. THE WORLD:

Perhaps it is because I was raised differently(maybe…probably…)  but I have found that the guests here are by far the rudest bunch I have ever had the displeasure to encounter.  Maybe it’s just the westerner in me and my natural extinct to have high expectations but it just seems like there is a part of the Chinese population that was never taught the basic manners every human being should possess.  Everything from yelling at the Front Desk for things as petty as not getting the room’s card ready fast enough, to smoking in areas that have signs clearing saying it is prohibited in the Lobby, there are some jerks and douchebags that apparently think their all God or God’s gift(s) to mankind.  I guess that’s one of, if not the main deal breakers of China that I find simply intolerable and thus why I am uncertain if I’ll ever return once I leave.

Other guests from outside China seem to have far more class than those that were born and raised within the over-populated nation’s walls.  Now, that’s not to say ALL Chinese are like those I am describing and find despicable, I mean my co-workers are proof that it IS possible for manners to be within your typical Chinese person.  The worst part about these types of guests is how even after speaking to them in the most polite and friendly tone possible they will continue yelling at you, sometimes not making any sense from start to finish.  To call them uneducated individuals would be a bit too harsh, but calling them individuals with the ability to use their common sense would be equally too forgiving.

I have been asked a couple of times what are the differences I see between China and other places and besides the daily fear of being run over by the heartless drivers on the street, I have found a few aspects worth mentioning.  I have said that the only main difference that I’ve seen, regarding hotels, is that not only do the guests seem to be ruder and harsher but that the staff seem to be more afraid of guests here than elsewhere, least within the states.  The norm seems to be this: Even if we don’t have it, we have to somehow produce it for the guest.  It’s almost like guests here are Gods and we’re just constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop and their wrath to rain down.  It’s like we’re living in Mayan times; We the hotel are constantly sending our offerings to our Gods and hoping and praying that these Lords of ours will be pleased and spare us, even if it is for a few short seconds.  Although I’ve never worked at a hotel outside of China, I can definitely say that guests outside of China seem to be much more polite and reasonable than those I currently see and experience on a regular basis.  The Chinese also seem to be one of the most careless groups of people.  From the way many of them dress, to how they carry themselves in public areas, it is often quite hard to not look at some of the guests that walk in without disgust.  Again, not trying to generalize and say that all are like the ones I’ve seen, just saying that there are quite a few I’d like to school in terms of drilling in basic manners.

#3 AUTHORITATIVE ATTITUDES:

There is always more than one way to express what needs to be said.  Some people choose the harsher route to deliver news while others try to find a more respectable way to present matters.  I have discovered just how much of a difference changing the way you speak to someone can affect how the conversation will go.

There have been a couple of times at work where either I or a co-worker of mine have been frustrated with whatever was going on at the hotel that day.  Even though sometimes the attitudes used aren’t always the most pleasant to take, being able to hold your emotions and a well-crafted poker face is a skill that needs to be developed if you are to stay on good terms with your bosses.

It’s all about the attitude.  Sometimes when I talk to my fellow Front Office members, I catch myself in the middle of one of my more strict tones and demeaning attitudes.  Usually the first thing I do is re-evaluate myself and humbly remind myself (cause you can never remind yourself too much) two things:

#1:  If it were me, I wouldn’t want to be spoken to like this.

#2: I am no better than them and will have and probably will make the same mistakes they just did one day soon.

After these reminders, I notice that my overall perspective of where I stand in the situation really isn’t that much better or higher than those currently at fault.  I think that’s the dangers of hierarchies, there’s always going to be that risk of someone thinking their somehow better than everyone else just because of the job position they have is higher up on the chain of commands.  It’s a mindset that tends to be quite hard to get rid of in a work environment when so many different levels of egos are out and expose to those working.

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These were only some of the things I’ve learned about work life.  It has not been easy all the time, nor has it been all positivity since the beginning.  Everyday is a new day, which means everyday things are constantly different and changing in terms of the hotel’s daily operations.  While there have been countless times of wanting to give up and let the things of life eat away my soul, I still think that the good things that have come out of this internship (SO FAR) currently out way all the hell that has come my way.

Thanks for reading (Pat yourself on the back! what a trooper! woot!)

Til next Friday! 🙂 (yes, I’m trying to keep a schedule, please bear with me, #schedulingnoob)

-SL

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