You see, on the end-of-year 360 round i got an anonymous feedback that i am not very approachable. I was surprised because i consider myself pretty easy-going and relaxed in the office, although admittedly i do have very high standards for quality and maybe that comes across as me being unapproachable. I dunno. I am also increasingly conscious of the fact that i am literally the only visible minority in an office of 100+ people, and i am the only person with visible tattoos, and i am definitely the tallest and probably the heaviest person too. Plus i speak a different language, and i am gender non-conforming, and and and... I may need to make more of an effort to reach out.
The problem is, my colleagues are not very interesting.
We went to a Thai restaurant in a fancy shopping mall where foreigners and well-to-do Chinese hang out. Everyone got very drunk. The gothy looking IT guy got up and played Come As You Are with the band. A few other folks sang karaoke. At 9:30pm the entire company turned into a pumpkin, except for a small group of us who decided to continue at some Irish pub round the corner.
Then they left and i went to another pub. Then i stood in the middle of the mall smoking cigarettes and talking to two young guys who i cannot remember anything about except that they gave me cigarettes. Then i went home and spent all of Saturday swearing i'd never drink again.
On these kinds of drunken nights, it doesn't feel worth having made the effort to go out. I feel like in my current office every conversation is the same. People talk about buying an apartment or buying a car or buying a mountain bike or buying a holiday. It's smalltalk about the most pedestrian shit you can imagine. I am sure that not everyone at work is that fucking boring, but i haven't had conversations go any other way.
The weird thing is i can go to an outdoor BBQ place and talk to people there about demolishing the urban villages to make gated communities for the rich, and they can nod and complain about the difficulties they face in that oblique way that you have to in China because it's an authoritarian state. When people find out i am single they implore me to find a wife or husband (depending on if they read me as male or female), because i guess when you are poor there is value in having a family to support you as you age. They are often baffled why i - or perhaps anyone - would choose to live in China. The working class always talk about their uncle or aunt or family friend who made it out to Europe or Canada. The conversations are limited, but they feel real.
At work those sorts of conversations don't go anywhere. It's like the middle class live in a completely different bubble. If you try to say anything political you get a weird blank look back, like you are speaking a language that they don't understand. It as if they honestly have no idea what it means to care about anything besides a bigger house, a better insurance policy, a more profitable investment plan, whatever. Like, they know the meaning of the words, but they have nothing of substance to contribute in return. It's so bizarre.
But, i suppose, they feel the same way when they try to talk to me about whatever restaurant or shopping mall they like that i would never even step foot inside because i find that kind of place so hideous. Maybe i come across as unapproachable because i am not a part of the weird Stepford life they are pursuing.
I mean, i had a conversation last week with one of our colleagues who is a minor office celebrity because his parents had the money to send him to university in America. Going to university overseas did the opposite of open his mind. He thinks New York City is dirty and dangerous. He point-blank refuses to eat at any restaurant that isn't a national chain. He never buys from a street vendor because he once visited "the most famous" eat street in Shanghai and got food poisoning from the one thing he dared to try: an ear of corn. He could not hide his disgust when i said the kinds of places i normally go to eat. He told me i should watch out because the chemicals they use will give me cancer.