It has been a month since I started my fieldwork in early October. So far my life in Myanmar had been great! Other than fieldwork, I’ve had much fun travelling around town and meeting new people. Even though I’m starting to get used to the environment, I still find the new cultural experiences to be really exciting.
In my fieldwork, I have been observing the daily operation and ways of communication within the factory. Attending the meetings gave me a clearer idea of the workplace dynamic, but it was through chatting with the Chinese managers and Burmese staff that I learnt many interesting things. At first glance, there are quite a lot of stereotypes. The Chinese managers think the Burmese are kind, polite, ‘obedient’ and detail-oriented, yet too lazy , overly religious, and ruthless when it comes to protecting their own pecuniary interest. The Burmese staff on the other hand, think the Chinese are diligent, helpful, responsible and serious about work, yet too demanding, money-oriented, show insufficient respect for local culture, and not humanistic enough when it comes to managing staff and running their businesses.
I gathered some stories about disputes at the workplace. Despite the ‘obedient’ assumption of the Burmese people, there have been cases of direct complaint to the labour department about working overtime, disagreement about work and bonus arrangements, frictions about workers being late for work due to lengthy ‘buddha-worshipping’ time, as well as some minor sense of dissatisfaction regarding management style. It is interesting to observe the various ways in handling problems, and the legal culture of the Chinese and the Burmese as revealed in the way factory rules are enforced and complied with.
Since I have been teaching English in the factory, I have had ample of opporunities to develop relationships with the factory members. There are six Burmese Chinese interpreters in the factory, and although I did not get to talk to them in great detail, I think they play a big role as the bridge between the Chinese managers and the Burmese workers, and they not only act as just translators, but also assistant managers and mediators. As I commence formal interviews in a few weeks’ time, they should provide a lot of insight into the intercultural dynamics.
I’m look forward to the next stage of my fieldwork!