Cultural Differences Don’t Explain This

I went last Monday to a job interview that I didn’t really want to go to — I had clicked mindlessly, last week, “Quick Apply” to a few job ads on JobsDB, and bingo, I got two answers. Real desperate people I bet! I am in a waiting pattern, a bit like an airplane waiting to land on a busy airport, as I have a job lined up, but it’s taking longer than I (and the boss) thought it’d take. So in between I sell wine on my own, and click on job ads. One of the reasons I apply to jobs I don’t really want is that I get to meet potential customers. It wouldn’t be the first time that I walk into an interview room, and come out not with an employment contract but a trade…

So. Last Saturday I get a phone call a little after 2pm. That alone should have been a warning sign. The funny thing is that I had the phone number in my address book — a wine company I met a few years ago but never did any real business with. English a bit weird, but we manage to understand each other. Or let’s just say that I manage to understand the woman — if not her name or her company’s name (it’s alright, I have it in the address book!), at least the fact that she has received my job application. Right. Which job, which company, no idea… It’s alright, I’ll play along for the moment.

It’s Saturday and she wants to meet me on Monday at 3pm. Oh well, sure, why not? You’re in a hurry apparently, that’ll be 10,000 HK$ more per month then. Me? Venal? Surely you jest! An hour later I get an email, very detailed, on where and when to come, and what to bring. Seriously? A photo? Like you would recognize a whitey? Silly fucken wabit. So let’s look at the address. Woooooah! Wait a minute. Is that even in Hong Kong? Nooooo! Really? There’s even an MTR going there? But. But. But. I can see Shenzhen’s harbor from there, when weather and lack of pollution permit, that’s 3 days a year but still! Hmph. Google Maps at the rescue. Input address. Click click. Street view. I see… There’s exactly fuck-all over there. Factory buildings. Crappy government-funded housing estates. And. That’s. It. Not even a coffee shop in that street. Which dead-ends against a freeway. And the building I’m supposed to go to is…. at the end of course. I have nothing against visiting remote areas of Hong Kong, but this… this… this is not HK Tourism Board approved!


Quite a few wine companies in HK are in the boonies. They came up with the oh-so-brilliant idea that since they had to store lots of wines, they might as well buy/rent a warehouse and put their offices in it. Some are actually slightly more visitor-friendly, and separate the warehouse from the office, which is usually in a more accessible area (TST, Sheung Wan, Wanchai, even Central). I have been in way too many of those “factory buildings”, taking truck-sized elevators to dusty corridors and rooms full of clanking noises from actual factories nearby. The largest stock of fine wines I’ve seen is in such a crappy, old building, far from everything, and there’s something like 700,000 bottles in there. The offices are Chinese tasteless posh, and they even have a dining room and karaoke. Go figure.

The Interview

So. I arrive exactly, despite not knowing the area at all, at exactly 2.59pm. Very proud of myself, and way overdressed for the place (I had to wait until I got back to Central until I saw someone else wearing cuff links and a necktie). I ring the bell. The place inside looks much better than the crappy dirty building. A little sofa at the entrance. A wine cellar that houses fine wines. Typical. A woman arrives, a harried look on her face. She opens the door but stands there, preventing me to enter. She asks me whether I’m me. Yes I am. Then she says something about time overrun and that I have to go back down, get a drink and wait for her to call me. In the heat (30° C last Monday), the dust, and the utter lack of amenities. She mentions half an hour or so. I smile blandly, turn around and go back toward the elevator, already texting friends about that fuck-up. The woman was so out of her mind that she didn’t notice I didn’t say anything.

Back to the ground floor, I check around that indeed there’s not even a bench in the lobby where I could park my ass in the relative comfort of the air-conditioning, then head back to the MTR — a good 15 minutes walk. While walking, I send her an email, noting that obviously she’s too busy and I have other things to do. Maybe next time. I head back to Central. Around 40 minutes later, I get a series of phone calls from that woman. Apparently she is looking for me. By then I’m so mad that I vote against picking up the phone and say things I might regret, even if they’re justified. Since I’ve sent her an email, she’ll get around at some point to reading it. Finally she sends me an email, complaining that she’s been looking for me for half an hour, and I have to “revert ASAP” — whatever that means.

I don’t know what was the problem, maybe they had a good reason, but a company that doesn’t even offer me a seat and a glass of water when their company is in a remote place without any amenities — well, as a candidate I wasn’t impressed, and I bet as an employee I’d have been even less impressed. Let’s just say I made it as painless and quick for everybody involved…

So, back to square one.


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