Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contract Administrator of the American capital bank
(She’s been in US since ’91)
Hiroko Nagaoka is a really calm woman and she speaks very softly. In that sense, she doesn’t look like a person who are living in the US. But she’s been in the US for a long time and she has much experience working at American companies.
A woman who has virtues of both Japanese and American people tells us about the differences in the working environment in America and Japan.
“If you couldn’t finish, do it tomorrow.”
I’ve been working at a bank for five years. American companies were totally different from Japanese ones. I fee flexibility and freedom here. When I was in Japan, I was always assisting managers like a secretary. But in an American company, I was at the entry level at my first company in US.
One day, I worked a little bit late, until 5:30PM and asked for my overtime. My manager asked me why I worked late. I said, “Because I still have things I have to get done in one day.” She said, “If you couldn’t finish, do it tomorrow.”
It’s totally different from a Japanese company. If I was in Japan, it was probably approved as an overtime automatically but I had to finish instead. That was in my mind so I didn’t know I had to get approval from a manager to work overtime here in the US.
They don’t treat me like a child.
Especially now, at a bank, they don’t watch what I do. It means if I have some problem, I go to manager to ask for some help. Otherwise they let us work whatever.
If you don’t get things done, they ask why. But if I don’t think I can get it done by the due date, I ask help beforehands. The manager usually doesn’t ask me to tell her what I did.
Bosses don’t treat their associates like children. But if we have any issues or problems, we go to see them, we seek guidance and assistance together.
I think I became more independent and I speak up more than I used to be. So if there’s something I don’t like, I would say that.
Freedom & flexibility.
My favorite things in the US are freedom and flexibility. I don’t think American people gossip about others as much as Japanese do. I mean people don’t care about people too much. Even if you’re very unique or you stick out among people here, other people don’t say anything about you.
On the other hand, people are loose in my impression. Especially customer service in America is bad. Everywhere you go, you have to wait.
My fiance and I were at the grocery store last night. Nobody was waiting. When the clerk received money from my fiance, his boss came to him and started talking about something instead of giving us change. So we had to wait until he finished talking. If you’re in Japan, customer service people always say, “I’m sorry” if something happens. But here, customer service people might think, “It’s not my fault”.
I’ll be here.
Sometimes I miss home. I don’t get homesick so often but sometimes I want to see my family and friends.
Also I miss food. Especially in California, even if they say they have Japanese restaurants, most of them are not owned by Japanese. It’s not a problem but they tend to serve other Asian food as Japanese food, such as kimchee. Also I find sushi made from soggy rice. That’s why I miss Japanese food in Japan.
But I will stay here for a long time. First of all, I have to work to live and support myself. If I go back to Japan, can I get a job? Maybe, but they still have gender and age discrimination.
Second of all, California has great weather. And it’s easy to go back to Japan to visit. It takes only 11 hours by non-stop flight. It’s convenient.
What is Los Angeles to you?
It’s my home!