Work culture

The work culture at my company’s JiangXi plant is unlike anything in the US. The plant is located about 50 km from Nanchang, in a small town called YangJiaLing. Because of its small size, not many people recognize this town’s name, so normally this location is referred to by the county name only. The area is an industrial park, with several chemical plants in the vicinity – like the rows of refineries in Houston or Louisiana. The main difference, however, can be seen in the employees’ work – life situation.
The vast majority of the employees here have apartments very near to the industrial park, and they live in these apartments during the week, away from their families in Nanchang. On Sunday, they take the train from Nanchang back to their “work – apartment”. My assumption is that many cannot afford to travel between Nanchang and work every day, and perhaps this is the expectation of them during the week – to be close to the plant during the week.

The exception to this is the plant’s upper management – about 5 people from this site are provided transportation to and from Nanchang on a daily basis. I was part of the daily convoy this week, as is customary for those visiting the plant and staying at the hotel in Nanchang. However, I did learn that although these men are provided this luxury, their families do not live in Nanchang. Only one of them has his family in Nanchang. The others all live in Shanghai, all for various reasons, but probably because Nanchang isn’t quite the big and glamorous city that Shanghai is. It is probably like living in NYC vs. Elizabeth, NJ. Or for me, Boston vs. Houston (I would much prefer Boston!).
So it seems that regardless of one’s position in the company, there are enormous tradeoffs when it comes to quality of life and family. As I talked with one of the managers here about his family in Shanghai – his wife and 6 year old daughter - I could tell that he missed them terribly. And so I can see that the managers at this facility really aren’t going to stay long term – many will try to go back to the plant in Shanghai or transfer to a more desirable location.
I know that there are similar situations in the US where the family unit is disrupted, but it so common here – just a part of everyday life. I guess I am so very fortunate to have a different situation where I can work and be fulfilled that way, yet still have the experiences with my growing children.

It’s now 3pm on Friday afternoon and most of the engineers and managers have left for the weekend – the engineers leave at 2:30 to catch the bus that takes them to the train depot. The plant manager left at noon to fly to his family in Shanghai. And so it is just me again, waiting another hour to catch my ride to the airport. Later…………

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