A really crazy job interview in Japan

This is an old post that I deleted by accident when I transferred my blog from zuco.org to blog.zuco.co Many people asked me about this post, it seems that many of them linked it in their sites getting a broken link. Sorry for that! I decided to put it back and update it a little bit. Also the redirection is fixed so old links will point to the right place. Here we go:

It was the summer of 2006. I went to Japan in an old fashioned emigrant way, looking for a job. One of my work interviews was quite unusual from my point of view at that time. Your point of view changes a lot after living a while in a completely different culture, but at that time I had very little knowledge about Japanese culture.

A friend of mine arranged an interview with a very small company that he knew they were interested to hire a foreigner. We met for dinner in an Izakaya; which is a kind of traditional restaurant, very common in Japan, where you can choose from a huge variety of foods and drinks. The boss was already inside drinking with other employees. I introduced myself to everybody and we started a normal chat, about where I came from, why did I decide to move to Japan and so forth. They didn’t speak English, my Japanese was poor but we managed to communicate. After they realized that I was quite normal, the real test started.

The boss ordered a lot of different Japanese foods. He wanted to see if I was able to eat their food, which makes sense. Food is a very important aspect in everyday’s life. Test passed. I only rejected natto, which is a food made of fermented soybeans, that also many Japanese do not like. The rest was delicious! Japanese cuisine is just amazing. The next test was to see if I was able to keep listening a Japanese conversation for long time even if they knew that my level was quite low. It was about 2 hours of chat, I picked up just some parts of the conversation. But I kept my self focused all the time trying to understand. I never unplugged from the meeting. Test passed. I didn’t get bored, I didn’t  understand what they were talking about but it was fine. They wanted to see my effort to understand the language and the conversation. Finally my boss asked for a lot of different drinks. Different kind of beers, Sake and other liquors. He wanted to test my resistance to alcohol. I was drunk but I controlled myself, I was able to understand and reply so it was enough. In fact they were much more drunk than me :-)

Finally my boss asked: “do you like women?”. I replied: “Yes, of course”. He said: “And Japanese women?” and I said: “Yes I like them a lot!!” So he said: “Would you like to touch some tits?”… That was too surrealist for one night. I was drunk, I ate a lot, I was already mentally tired trying for several hours to understand a language I yet didn’t speak, and now this guy was asking me if I wanted to go with him somewhere to touch some girl’s tits!? This was supposed to be a job interview for Unix System Administration and Software Development… I went to Japan to live and work there, so what the hell! Who cares! I wanted the job. Let’s go and do touch some tits!! After a few seconds processing all that information I replied: “yes, sure let’s touch some tits!!”. He was really happy to hear that!

We left the Izakaya and started a pilgrimage in many different Kyabakura. Basically, it’s a local where you pay about $100 per hour to talk with a girl. There is no sex involved, just an expensive chat with some hot girls. They try to please clients in every possible way, listening to them, filling their glasses and lighting up their cigarets. They are always polite and they always try to be sweet and smile every time. This is very common in Japan, and there are thousands of this locals, some of them cheaper and some of them very expensive. There are also equivalent locals for ladies, where primarily male staff cater to females. Some few locals allow you to surpass the barrier of the chat and do something more, like gently touch girls boobs. There is no sexual intercourse, just a way to get closer to the girl. In fact, in many of them you cannot touch the girls. My boss wanted to go to some of these. Finally, after checking some locals, we arrived to one he liked. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time for him. The doorman asked me if I was Japanese. I told him that I wasn’t, and he denied my entrance. My boss was very angry asking why. I didn’t understand well, but it seems that some foreigners didn’t understand that it was just and only touch girls tits, and some of them just jumped over the girls. Anyway, we moved to another one, this time a normal one. My boss apologized promising that the next time we would do it. That was a good signal, in fact, if he wasn’t interested in me, he would have never said “next time”. Usually in Japan things are not YES and NO, but at that time, I didn’t understand this, and I was quite drunk as well.

We finally arrived to a normal Kyabakura and we spent there the rest of the night, chatting and drinking with many different girls. We never talked about business, money, job, technical stuff, nothing. They also were curios about how I reacted, because they had the italian stereotype in mind of the latin lovers. Some girls gave me their numbers or emails, which is not permitted in these locals. They were really exited to see that. I think that influenced a lot my chances to get hired… My boss wanted to know me from a personal point of view, as a person not as a human resource. The most important thing for them was to check if I was trustworthy, my skills were secondary. My boss left about one hour before and left me with his “second in command”. When we got out the Kyabakura, at 5AM or sometime near that, I was truly drunk as everybody else! The “second in command” (that’s the name I liked to call him), barely keeping himself standing told me “じゃあ、頑張ってくださいね!” which is hard to translate in English (in Italian it’s much easier) but it’s like “OK then, good luck, do your best!” basically that was a “yes we want you!”

At first I made fun of all this many times. But after living in Japan for several years I understood that all these, even if it could look abnormal or meaningless to western cultures, in fact it’s a much more effective way to create a link between people. They paid for everything of course, they were my hosts, they were very polite but they also wanted to see if I was able to survive in a completely different cultural environment. It makes a lot of sense. They had no idea about my culture, they had no idea about dealing with foreigners, so the most intelligent approach was to see if I was able to live with all the differences they were able to present me that night.

I had to admit that it was the funniest and most amazing job interview I’ve ever had.