Saturday, August 9, 2014

Working at Ikea

In all those years shopping at Ikea, I never thought I'd be working there. No, I'm not wearing a blue shirt and driving a forklift, but I am working at Ikea now. Today I started a seven-week Business English class for ten or fifteen of their employees who already have pretty good English at the start.

 I can already tell it's going to be fun: unlike worker/students I've taught at some other companies, these guys are super-talkative. There are two class clowns who should keep things interesting.

The Chinese employees of the Development Zone have a definite sense of hierarchy of companies. The Scandinavian, German and American companies are regarded as the very best, with Ikea at the top. All these Western companies are known for relatively good pay (Germans and Scandinavians somewhat higher than Americans) and great office atmosphere.

Chinese companies suck, but no worse than Chinese companies in the rest of China.

Korean companies are known for low pay and bullying bosses. Japanese are regarded as the very worst. The pay is ⅓ lower than at a Chinese company, the bosses are extremely condescending and demanding, and the office atmosphere is authoritarian.

A student in class today said "Japanese boss tell me 'Do this, then do this, then do this.' Ikea boss tell me 'Solve this problem, up to you how.'" I could clearly see the results of that respectful atmosphere in the attitudes of these students.

Now that I'm living in the Development Zone, these kinds of classes should be plentiful. It's a shame I love teaching at the university, because I could probably make twice the money with a lot less stress and hassle just by chasing down jobs like this in the Development Zone

The Development Zone has this great combination of lots of foreign companies, but almost no foreign teachers. That means parents out here see the value of English for their kids, companies need to teach English to their workers, workers earn a hefty premium (sometimes 20% or more) for knowing English — and there's only little-ole' me and a few others to teach them! I like that particular mixture of supply and demand.

The only trouble is, I don't love teaching English as much as I love teaching content classes like Business Ethics, European Civ, The Moral Foundations of Capitalism, and Entrepreneurship. So I'm actually taking a relative pay cut, working longer and harder, for the privilege of teaching what I most love to teach. Teaching English is a blast, too, but it just doesn't exercise my capacity the way that teaching philosophy-related courses does.

So for the time being, I'll carry on working at the university while making my real money on the side at lovely little gigs like this.

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