Why Asians Do Everything Fast

When it comes to work, a lot of Asians are fast and efficient. Sometimes scarily fast and efficient (when compared to others). It’s like a super power that some of us have.

I’m a fast worker. Part of my job at work involves processing: I stamp application forms and divide them into batches of 100, which takes me around five minutes per batch. But that’s not as fast as my Asian colleague, and let’s call her Mandy. Watching Mandy grab a stack of papers, flick the papers up by their corners and count each one until the 100th one in a matter of twenty seconds is like watching a magic show – the papers flick up in a blur, actually disappearing for a second.

If we move too fast, we might just miss the finer things in life. Bolte Bridge, Docklands |Weekly Photo Challenge: Minimalist.

If we move too fast, we might just miss the finer things in life. Bolte Bridge, Docklands | Weekly Photo Challenge: Minimalist.

Maybe some of us Asians do things fast because we want to be first, first to cross the finish line. Coming out on top and getting titles and rewards is admired in Asian cultures. When I was younger, my parents nagged at me to finish all my homework as soon as I got home from school so I could start the next set of questions in the maths revision books. I did that, because back then I naively thought keeping ahead of the pack made us truly happy.

And so we do things fast and perhaps achieve as much as we can because of pride. It’s a “face thing” in Asian cultures to do this, do that, been there, done that.

Perhaps some of us Asians are fast workers because we want something to do and want to keep occupied. Maybe in the past we lived the rough moving-around-pinching-every-penny Asian life to make ends meet, didn’t have the chance to put our skills to use and so are eager to seize the next opportunity to be productive and better ourselves today. When I finally found a job in the Australian Caucasian-dominated workforce after a dull year of unemployment straight out of university, all I wanted to do was throw myself into work and get everything on the job done ASAP.

Then again, maybe the reason some Asians work fast boils down to our hard work ethic – we know the value of working for what we want and it’s something we picked up as a kid.

Sometimes work demands we work fast. If the paperwork doesn’t get put away as it comes in at my work, it piles up. Maybe Mandy is the sort who likes to get it out of the way, though we don’t have an exact deadline for this task. Once she said to me, “Do you want to start processing? Because you’re fast.” The faster we work, the faster we get work of the way and don’t forget to do it.

Usually things go slower in the Western world: there’s more consulting than action compared to Asian workplaces; trains generally run slower. In all honesty, I’ve been guilty of working slow. The other day I counted papers slower than usual because I had a headache – and realised I needed my health to work. There have been times when I’ve wanted more time to rewrite my freelance articles and asked my editor for an extended deadline. It takes time to put feelings into words, time to do anything creative.

And going slow is something I’ve come to like. The slower we go, the more we see what’s happening around us. The more we live in the moment. When we’re doing things fast, chances are we get tired easily. Feel stressed more.

Now that I’ve come to appreciate working slow, perhaps I’m losing a bit of my Asian side? As an Asian Australian who slaves away at a repetitive 9-5 office job for money and moonlights as a writer, I suppose I’ve come to experience the best of both worlds: getting things done when I’m fast and seeing the finer things in life when I’m taking my time.

I could be Mandy the Magician and make papers disappear like her. Once she called me “little whiz” when I counted about 500 papers in twenty minutes, so I’m sure I can if I push myself. But if I do, I don’t think I’ll have the energy to blog after work. Watching Mandy process paperwork already makes me a bit tired. Then again, I’ll get bored if I took my time – I like moving on with tasks, doing different tasks at work.

Sometimes we can only work so fast. And work so slow. We all have our limits, and our good days and bad days.

Do you like to do things fast at work? Or do you take your time?

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158 thoughts on “Why Asians Do Everything Fast

    • It must be a good feeling when you feel inspired. You sort of get an adrenalin rush that helps you spring into action and do what you have or need to do. As a writer, inspiration hits me at the oddest times too. And when it does, I don’t want to stop writing. Thanks for stopping by.

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  1. Very very provocative piece for us! One of us Asian and one of us not! The Mrs (Le) does things fast and efficiently – that’s just her style. The Mr (David) prefers to be slow and steady and is happy for things to all be that way! As it turns out after the Camino, Le has learnt slow and steady is the much nicer way to go! And since then we both slow down in general, not to the point of unproductivity or laziness thought!
    Along the Camino we saw plenty of snails which we saw as a reminder for us to ‘slow down’ so now when we see a shell or a snail, we take that as a gentle nudge from nature to tell us that there is no need to rush 🙂
    The moments are all there to be enjoyed and appreciated! Look around and soak up what surrounds us 🙂

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    • The two of you Monkeys sound like chalk and cheese. What different personalities (though I’m sure the two of you have similarities!). Going slow and steady is certainly wise for long-distance hiking trail or travel. Not only will you conserve energy to last the distance, but you get to look around and look out for your physical safety too 🙂

      That is so nice that you think of snails that way. Slow but always moving forward. So nice of the snails to let you Monkeys go “fast” 😉

      The Mrs is fast? Somehow I get the impression she’s the Monkey who likes to keep the house tidy 😀

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  2. Everyone has a different definition of “fast”. I have heard in HK, the city pace and I assume some workplaces would be “faster”.

    But then again, I worked in Toronto for over 14 yrs., where I thought the city pace downtown was definitely more hyper compared to Vancouver or Calgary, both cities where I’ve lived and worked also.

    However Toronto is “slower” in pacing than HK.
    Somewhere someone must have done a sociological thesis/study on Asian culture workplaces in terms of speed, stress ….and entrepreneurial tendencies. How about the latter for a blog post?!

    I do want to be careful ..though that we don’t go down the path for your blog in stereotyping Asians. A lot of it gets down to how the person was raised/family background, educational exposure, etc.

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    • So true. “Fast” and “slow” are a matter of perception. To someone, fast might mean doing a set of tasks in an hour. To someone else, fast might mean doing the same set of tasks in two hours.

      I’ve always thought the pace of life in Toronto/Calgary is is similar to Melbourne…after all these cities have been consistently voted as the most livable cities in the world. Less stress, good work-life balance leads to a slower, less hectic life? Perhaps.

      That is a good idea for a blog post. Thanks, Jean. Not all of us are the savvy, entrepreneurial, start-up kind. Some of us do like to play it safe…

      Good point. Our individual personalities plays a considerable part in the way we choose to do things, and usually depends on where and how we’ve been brought up.

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  3. I can see both points of view – the slower we go, the more we live in the moment and SEE what’s happening around us. But working fast and getting things done is challenging and exciting in it’s own way. There are just days/ periods where one appeals more than the other!

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    • Sometimes when I’m being “slow” and taking my time to do things, I find that my mind wanders. It could be because the pace is too slow for me or that I’m bored doing what I’m doing. I don’t know if this happens to you, I hope it doesn’t 😀

      When I’m doing something fast or am forced to do it within a very tight deadline, I usually find myself putting all my attention towards what I’m doing. Or maybe I’m just a bit OCD and that’s why I’m usually fast.

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  4. Wow this Mandy chick sounds pretty cool…

    On a serious note, I am not sure if it is more a personality trait than an Asian thing? I was adopted into a Australian family when I was a baby and never had the so called pressures that you may hear of from the “stereotypical first generation parents”….

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    • Definitely. This Mandy chick is cool and popular. Many comments below talk about her, like she’s “superhuman”.

      That’s a good point. What we choose to do and who we are might very well boil down to personality and how we are brought up. I’m sure a lot of Asians who have stereotypical parents have strong minds and would consider taking a break from hectic (work) lifestyles they lead..or consider taking conventional jobs. After all, many of us have an education.

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  5. Another great post!! Actually, one of my husband’s good friends from university lives in Australia now – Sydney to be precise. He is Taiwanese but completed his masters degree in Australia and now lives there. When he returned to Taiwan for a visit earlier this year, we all went out to dinner. He told me that his manager, who is Australian, always says to him ‘Ken (not his real name), take it easy! Don’t work so hard! Don’t give yourself too much pressure.’ He told me his boss is extra nice to him and encourages him to work at the ‘Australian pace.’

    Also, I feel that he and his wife are raising their children the ‘Australian way’ as well. They are quite young but he doesn’t put any pressure on them. He said that he wants them to be kids and enjoy their childhood and that there will be enough pressure for them in the future.

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    • Thanks for sharing that story, Constance. I found it hilarious and laughed out loud! The ‘Australian pace’ must be considerably laid-back compared to the work pace in Asian cities.

      I notice that many white collar workers – not managers, just regular office staff – in Singapore and China consider it the norm to stay in the office well after the sun has gone down just to get a project done in a tight timeframe. So far of all the places I’ve worked in Melbourne (government, non-profit, education sectors), every one of my colleagues rushes out the door at 5pm or within the next half an hour. I don’t know if it’s that way where you work and if expats in Asia still adopt this laid-back mentality.

      Ken sounds like a very nice guy. Hardworking breadwinner and always thinking of his family. Hope he does take it easy at work, and gets more time to spend with his kids 🙂

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      • Actually, I think Ken decided to have an easier life when he chose to live in Australia. His parents actually wanted him to take over the family business which would have meant long hours managing the factory. I guess he got a taste of what life would be in Australia and decided that was more suitable for him. And as a side note, I just love talking to his oldest little girl – she uses the word ‘reckon’ and ‘mate’ (words that I never use) with the cutest Australian accent ever.

        As for work in Taiwan, most people stay a hour or two longer than what they are paid for. If you rush out the door, your boss may label you as lazy or not dedicated to your job. However, I have heard that most people during this time do nothing productive and only use their smartphones or chat with their friends using Line. I am not entirely sure about this because I don’t work in an office environment.

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        • Ken definitely is a brave man to come to Australia and experience the slower, more relaxed life here. Moving is never easy, let alone adjusting to a whole new lifestyle. I would love to hear how his daughter speaks “mate” – though I’ve lived here for a while, I don’t use that word either (some of my Asian friends do, though. I’m just not comfortable with saying it myself).

          Interesting to hear people in Taiwan like to twiddle their thumbs for most part staying back after work. I’m sure they do get a bit of things done, but very minimal. In Australia, if you’re rushing out the door the mentality that goes around is that you’re eager to live the “life” part of your work-life balance.

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  6. Mandy and you both sound like very hard working girls! I am afraid that is not what I have encountered in China, in general… For example if you need to have some official paperwork done, the clerks are always slow, lazy, chatting around, and then when it is your turn they are mean and nasty. They work for the government and it seems they can’t be fired (or it is very rare), so they don’t care about their work quality. They just go to their office and warm their seat because they have to, but don’t expect them to make any efforts.
    In my previous job, some of the Chinese girls in our office worked very hard, but many others spent most of their time chatting on QQ, studying English, browsing Taobao… and if I went and asked them to do something they would say: “I am very busy!”.

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    • I’m so sorry to hear that they have terribly slow service in China. Perhaps they have bosses who act the same way too and they feel that it’s okay to follow such beheaviour…it’s not if that’s the case.

      Government workers in Malaysia are always slow too – it takes forever to get a passport done or a driver’s license renewed. Then again, maybe there are a lot of demanding or difficult people waiting around to get things done and that’s not pleasant…still, not a good enough reason, I think.

      I hope you have colleagues that are much more hardworking. It’s not nice at all and fair to have one that’s not pulling their weight and sitting in their seats “earning money” just like the rest of us.

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  7. I deeply admire Asian working ethics. Of course that being efficient doesn’t necessarily make you happy, but the faster you do your work, the sooner you can enjoy other things, right? 😉 Send my regards to Mandy, of whom I’m slightly envious but I won’t say! Mandy appears to be superhuman, but you strike as a pretty efficient person too!

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    • Spot on. Being efficient all the time doesn’t guarantee happiness. Not everyone can work fast and if you work fast, you might end up alienating others who are naturally “slow”. As a fast worker, sometimes I’m a bit conscious of working fast, thinking: am I doing all the work and not letting my slow-and-steady colleagues do their bit?

      But oh yes. The faster we finish work, the sooner we can have fun. Nah, Mandy is indeed superhuman. She works fast 9-5. Don’t know where she gets her energy 😉

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      • What? You felt embarrassed about working too fast?! Well, that’s surprising. I’ve felt many times inferior because I’m a slow worker. This depends though: at some routine tasks I’m fast, at more creative tasks, I’m very slow. I accepted that this is the way I work and try to take comfort in the fact that my work is usually meticulous and careful. Many people do work fast but are sloppy at the end. So here’s to everyone’s natural working pace!

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        • Yes, I’m actually a bit embarrassed about working fast. I’m usually concerned that I’m stealing my colleague’s work, especially if we’re doing things in a pair :/ Of course, the sooner the task gets done the better but I really don’t want to bring their morale down.

          Oh dear, now you’ve confirmed my fears by saying you feel inferior as a slow worker 😀 Creative tasks can never be rushed. I’m sure you take quite a bit of time to do up your blog photos!

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  8. It’s funny that you think of Australian culture as slow – I think it’s pretty fast, compared to a lot of cultures. But then I suppose there is that “she’ll be right”, take it easy ethos as well. Parts of my job – which involve analysis and writing – just can’t be rushed. Other aspects, like my social media responsibilities, impose a fast pace that sometimes has to be resisted. If you act too slowly in the social media world, you miss opportunities; but if you move too quickly, you can make big mistakes. Lovely pic of the bridge & sunset, it evokes a sense of calm, which I guess is what I prefer.

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    • Yeah. I definitely think Australian culture is slow when it comes to the workforce. For instance, working overtime or past 5pm isn’t that popular here. But in many Asian cities, it’s quite common for employees in white-collar jobs to stay back and rush to finish projects within a tight deadline.

      “She’ll be right”. That’s a phrase that has always intrigued me. I suppose it means no matter what we do, what decision we make, how fast or slow we go, things will work out in the end…correct me if I’m wrong.

      Working with social media definitely demands a sense of urgency. You don’t want to miss what others are saying. At the same time you have to be careful about how you word your social media posts.

      Thanks for the compliment on the photo. I don’t know, it seems to be too orange to me. I might re-do it 🙂

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      • Some Australian phrases are funny I suppose – having grown up with them I just take them for granted but when I stop and think they start to look a little weird. You’ve got the definition right though 🙂

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        • Growing up I remember hearing these Australian phrases. It was difficult for me to hear then because of the Aussie accent and I thought many Australians seemed to speak very fast.

          It would be fun to do a post on these phrases someday… 🙂

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          • I hope you do,I’d love to read your take on it. Some Aussie slang is dying out though, the language is being colonised by American expressions. 😦

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            • I would love your take on Aussie slang too. I’m sure you know more than me since you’ve lived here longer than me. One thing I’ve noticed is that Australians are not shy but fast to throw around colourful language.

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  9. Mandy makes me think of my mother-in-law and my wife! They can count a stack of money in no time. It really appears for me each time to be a magic show when the money just flies in their hands like a money counting machine. Each time I on the other hand start counting papers or money they just get annoyed and take it away from me :p
    Working fast, I think I have to learn it again. It has been too long time away from proper work that I actually do not even know what to do in the beginning. For now I can only say that I will try my best to adapt to my new work place and see when I am up and running again with 100% efficiency (though some Asians might think I run on a low effiency when you take money counting as an example)

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    • Asians seem to have an eye for money all the time… Counting money would mean your MIL and wife are good with numbers, presumably. I can just imagine your MIL jumping up and down with excitement upon seeing a stack of money on her dinner table…

      Your money story reminds me of the post-wedding times in my family in Malaysia. A few times I sat with my relatives post-wedding banquet and they opened up all the red envelopes their wedded son/daughter received. Money all over the table (twenty or so thousand dollars) to be counted – and my relatives always counted and arranged them in stacks very quickly 🙂

      Good luck with the job, Crazy. You impressed at the interview, so I’m sure you’ll impress on the job once you’re settled in 🙂

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      • Seems that many Asians know how to deal wit stacks of money. The same happened at our wedding, at home my in-laws opened all envelopes, counted the money, made neat stacks and wrote down from whom we got each envelope. I wold have been prety much los, most likely messed up all the counting and wrote down the wrong names for each stack of money 🙂

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        • I don’t know why, but it seems that the faster you count money, the more you appear to better handle money. I suppose way back in the day where there were less banks, our relatives kept money at home – so they developed a skill to quickly count the money, keep track of it and stash it neatly at home.

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  10. Very interesting topic!! In Brazil people are so slow that makes me crazy…the problem is that apart from being slow, there is no efficiency! On the other hand, here in Germany people like taking their time, though they manage to efficient, and I like this way better… depending on the task, I like to take my time, otherwise I get too stressed out and my efficiency isnt the same!! 😀

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    • I didn’t know Brazilians are so slow (like snail?)! Maybe it’s because Brazilians like relaxing and watching football/soccer – that is their life, very important to them and work is second nature 😀

      It’s good that Germany are a bit faster, maybe you feel less frustrated! It’s good that you know how to pace yourself and not stress. No wonder you always seems so energetic and happy on your blog here 😀 ❤

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      • hahaha exactly Mabel, you got it!! Brazilians are lazy hahaha
        awnnn you think Im energetic? hahaha I am… I talk too much, like to wake up early and Im always busy doing something 😀
        But you know, I find it cool that Asians are fast, I prefer this way than being slow, like in Switzerland, I dont have so much patience to way so much for things.. I know, that is bad 😦

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  11. Here in Greenland, things go at a much slower pace. This is a statement which generalises, I know. There are exceptions.

    When I left my old job in Greenlad, the few speeches that were given were around Tanny being hardworking, with good ideas and effective. Effective was the word I kept on hearing for some reason….

    In truth I’m not that effective, I like good process and to make sure what I’m doing is worth my time as well. I was just used to a faster-paced production-based environment. And I knew exactly the path of development we should take.

    At my new job, I can say they are more tech-savvy and faster thinking and better talking than I am. But it is nice to have a good mix. To talk, to assess, but also to do.

    I’ve seen so much ineffectiveness in my year in China so I did start to question this ‘inherent’ quality. But there is a reason us Asians have this stereotype…. Working hard is part of the ethics vAlued!

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    • For the longest time I’ve been wondereing what exactly “effective” meant. It’s quite a vague term. As you mentioned, you would associate with “good process”. Maybe you had a system or method that got things done on time in an orderly manner at your work.

      Or maybe your colleagues were referring to the fact that you’re organised. Or hardworking. I am sure you felt flattered when you heard your colleagues’ speech 😀

      Definitely a good to have fast and slow workers. Chances are each employee sees work from different angles and brings different ideas to the table.

      As one of the commenters said (Marta), some work deparments in China can be ineffective. Slow at delivering service. This behaviour could be due to a number of reasons – too many people to serve, an ineffective leader or pure laziness.

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  12. Here in Florida, everything is very slow. I don’t work, but find it very frustrating to have to wait seemingly forever to be served in restaurants and stores. I do love efficiency and punctuality, but because I wish for for it in others, doesn’t make it happen. 🙂

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    • I’m so sorry to hear you get slow service in Florida. Maybe restaurants and shops there are understaffed and there’s just too many people…or the people working there are plain lazy and prefer to go at a slow pace. You sound like a very patient person, Sylvia. Hope next time when you’re waiting for something it doesn’t take too long 🙂

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  13. Hi Mabel
    A very well rounded post looking at pace from both sides. I suspect that in some Asian cultures – say mainland China, one must work fast to survive. With the sheer number of people competition for necessities like transport, food, work, groceries, is a real concern. If you’re slow, you miss out. I once read a documentary called “Factory Girls” which explores the lives of a few women who work in Chinese factories. One thought of the author stood out: people must hustle to survive. Not only do you have to do something, you must do it better and faster than your neighbor else risk getting cut. So in a way, the pace of life is not only cultural, it also depends on economics. The laid-back cultures I can think of are usually the ones that are more prosperous, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t go through an industrial period where working fast was the utmost importance. Those countries are established now and are reaping the benefits of having developed their infrastructures and economies earlier – with the help of fast, dedicated workers.
    Mandy the Magician could perhaps be a product of that mindset – having parents who drilled into her that working faster was essential to survival. I know I certainly was told that from a young age – work hard, be at the top, else risk being left behind.

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    • Always good to see you here, Pixie. Well said: “one must work fast to survive…miss out.” That documentary is an excellent example, thanks for bringing that up. A lot of businesses in Asia are heavily profit-driven and it’s drilled into their staff. Achieve or you don’t get a bonus – and these bonuses are massive if you are working in a major, well-known company. Maybe it encourages some of us to work faster and more efficiently.

      “risk being left behind”. For those of us who are hard workers, I think many of us fear not being able to learn the next idea or process or technology that comes along. Which is a bit of a dangerous thing because we can always learn later. As long as we have the desire to continuously improve our skills by studying or taking up a new task at work when the time suits, we should not be left behind.

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      • Agreed – bonuses can be a tool to motivate or manipulate. And true that we can always learn later – fear shouldn’t be the main drive to learn, but rather, the thirst for knowledge and bettering oneself and society should!

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        • Very wise words, Pixie. I’m sure a lot of us are hungry to learn and that in turn motivates us to get up, hustle and get things done. But who doesn’t like a good monetary bonus? 😉

          Hope you’re having a good weekend and taking things slow 🙂

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  14. Hi Mabel, It’s amazing, that you can find interesting topics and deliver the stories and messages so eloquently. The speed and efficiency could be the reason that iPhone/iPad are made in China. 🙂

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    • That is so true. New iPhones come out almost every year, and they must make them really fast in China – millions of them in a few months. Commentor Pixie just above you said almost the same thing about China 🙂

      I don’t know how I come up with these topics, I really don’t. It must be fate.

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  15. Very complex subject!
    Surely a great deal is personality — I am faster moving in mind and body than my husband — he is more slow and steady. I’m intuitive, he is logical.
    But then again, a lot is cultural work ethics, which aren’t the same in all strata of the same culture (just to make it a little more complex).
    Then throw in climate — northern climates encourage faster motion (to keep warm) whereas the more tropical, the slower people go, in general.
    And then there’s mood! Today I go quickly with sharp focus, tomorrow I’m tired and a little bored, so I’m a lot slower.
    You stimulate really interesting discussions, Mabel. P.S. The photo is stunning.

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    • Working fast/slow is definitely one complex subject. And I love your train of thought on it – so many factors can play a part. Personality: we all have our individual tastes and methods of doing things that make us comfortable. We might prefer fast or slow because it’s in our nature, like intuition. I hope you and your husband don’t fight over whether to go fast or slow when you’re doing something together. Doesn’t sound like it 🙂

      Climate. I never thought about that. It makes a lot of sense. No wonder we feel more active when it’s summer and rushing to do so many things. Come to think of it, I write much faster in the summer.

      Thanks for the compliment on the photo. I thought it came out too orange, I might re-do it 🙂

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  16. It is nice to stop and enjoy the scenery, although some things I definitely prefer to do fast. Work was one of them. I was the speediest (yet most awesome) report writer 🙂 these days I don’t have to rush much.

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  17. These are great observations, and I think the Asian culture does affect the mentality of how to approach work (homework, regular work, etc…), and face really fuels this as well. Your comment “The slower we go, the more we see what’s happening around us” I think is very valid. I generally work pretty slow ~ but I get very involved in it to make sure I’ve covered (or created) options as well should things need to be changed, and sometimes I think getting so involved I also can miss ‘life happening around me’ as well. 🙂

    Of course, when it comes to the work environment ~ I actually really like the Chinese way (HK and mainland) because decisions come quickly (and with debate, so they are educated decisions) where as when I return to the States I am at disbelief at how long things get dragged out (even when the solution/decision is obvious). Perhaps a nice blend is needed: speed & efficiency at work, and then when at play ~ make sure to enjoy the scenery.

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    • I figured you like working slow. Photography and writing demands that we don’t rush. Art can never be rushed and sometimes it takes years to produce a piece of work 🙂

      Sorry to hear that things get dragged out in the States. It must be meeting after meeting and no one’s closer to a conclusion and there’s all this red-tape to be careful about. There tends to be more established laws and legislations in the Western world, maybe that’s another reason why things usually move along slowly (in the workforce and government sense). In Asia, under the table hush-hush deals still exist and (snap) decisions are still made based on that. Things get moving…for all the wrong reasons and you never know if sound decisions have truly been made.

      Agree with you there – no rush with play. No rush at all. That’s the time to relax, stop to smell the roses 🙂

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  18. I always thought that part of working quickly depended on how much time you have for the task: if not much, then it had to be done and fast. That’s one reason I do better if I have a schedule and a list, else “the job expands to fit the time available”, quite dangerous for a retiree like me! I’m always threatening to go back to work so I can get more done at home, which I know sounds crazy. — also sounds like I could use some training from you fast workers — Sandy

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    • Good point. The less time we have for a task, the more we’re forced to pay attention to what we’re doing and get it done. From your blog, it sounds like you’re doing a lot of things, Sandy.

      Spending time at home going over what you have tucked away and going out to live life. I think you’re living a balanced life 🙂 No stress. Which is what a lot of us fast workers don’t really know 😉

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  19. Mabel do you think it is environment or heredity? I am Caucasian but grew up on farm in Canada and my parents had an amazing work ethic. They worked at a frenetic pace as long as I can remember. So in the first art of my life I worked very quickly. I am slowly down as the years progress. Maybe that is just age?

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    • Very good points, Sue. Maybe environment, heredity and age has something to do with us working fast or slow. And maybe personality has something to do with it too. Some of us may just simply prefer to be fast or slow, because we’re OCD that way…

      Never thought working on a farm could be hectic. I suppose there’s the animals to take care of and then the crops need tending to. Planting, harvesting and watering. I imagine if you had a big farm that would mean you had to work fairly quickly.

      I am guessing your kids live the fast life 🙂

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      • I think on a mixed farm where there are livestock, gardens and massive fields the work really never ends. Or possibly it becomes the routine that one works quickly and constantly.

        My kids seem to have found a better balance in working quickly as required but taking time to enjoy life too. Smart young things. 🙂

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        • Interesting. I’m sure the livestock included chickens and you had to run around fast to catch them if they left the cages. So I can totally see you as a fast worker… 😉

          That is great to hear your kids have a work-life balance. Don’t work fast or slow, but work smart.

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  20. Thais are known for being lazy and will call themselves lazy, too. It’s a horrible stereotype, but there you have it. I think it really depends on the person, but old school Asians are known for having a good work ethic.

    I’m actually a fast and slow worker depending on what I’m working on. Generally, I like to get things done and out of the way so I can do other things I’d rather be doing. My pet peeve though is being rushed. So, I’ll give myself more time than less to do something, arrive early to work, and try to be patient with those who lag or don’t manage their time like me 😉

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    • “Old school Asians” I love that term, Lani. I guess we both fall into this category most of the time. Me too. I absolutely hate being rushed. When I am rushed or forced to do a task very, very quickly in a short space of time and I’m not prepared, I feel like a failure from the start 😛

      Always good to arrive early to work as you get a chance to settle down and plan what you need to do in the day ahead. But waking up early is so hard for me 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I have to agree with you a 100%, It’s not always about the quantity, sometimes Quality matters most. Even if you work a bit slower as long as it is quality work and you get to enjoy it, it’s great ! I don’t think working slow means you are losing your Asian Side Mabel, Not at all. I’m sure that is not the only thing that defines you as an Asian. Your traditions and values are what makes you who you are, so you are still an awesome Asian Australian 😀 ❤

    I loved that you said sometimes working slowly allows us to live in the present moment and enjoy it, Because after all 'present' is what we are always going to have to live and enjoy. Future is nothing but uncertain.

    Last but not least we don't want to see you not blog because of you being tired of working hard and being so tough on yourself, So I maybe biased in saying this but Please work slow so we get to read more of your brilliant writing ! ^.^ 🙂

    Have a great weekend sweetheart ❤

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    • So true. Quality over quantity any day for me. I think so long as we are enjoying working no matter if we’re working slow or fast, that’s what matters (and of course if others around us are okay with this). That is very nice of you to say that I’m an awesome Asian Australian. I am flattered 😀 Being Asian Australian is complex, it means sticking to our traditions…and sometimes not sticking to these traditions. We’re all our own people, so I think if I’m working fast, not necessarily I’m losing my Asian side – so you’re right!

      Haha, you want me to work slow so I have more energy to blog? Sometimes if I work slow I get bored and start getting sleepy 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Do things fast at work or take your time in doing so, are two ends of the same spectrum. I think there is a middle ground and there is a moderation in everything we do, which brings a balanced view towards life and living. And it depends on multiple factors including the external ones, in office our pace of work depends on the culture of the organization, team you are working with and the nature of work itself…doing fast without adequately investing into thinking may not give the desired results.

    Hence it is very important to strike a balance between the doing and thinking…as each individual we have a pace to think, we should be in cognizance of this very fact. Perhaps there exists a different pattern of working between the western and the eastern but may not be a deep rooted established trend..

    Lovely post and the question does make us ponder…

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    • “there is a moderation in everything we do” There is indeed moderation if we strive and work towards it. Too much of anything can’t be too good for us. For instance, if we work fast all the time, we may be prone to making mistakes or risk alienating our colleagues who prefer to work slower. And you’re so right that external factors play a part in how we do our work. If we’re working with new colleagues, we may prefer to work slower so as to get to know how they do things and see if they can use your help, or if we can use their help if we’re unsure of what we’re doing.

      Thanks for stopping by again, Nihar. Really appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Interesting observation Mabel. If I can comment from the point of view of a regular restaurant customer and a food lover – whenever I went to Asian restaurants that managed by Asians, the food usually served very quick and later on cleaned up very quickly. Generally, Asian food dinning means quick dining 😀 In other hand if we went to French or Italian restaurants, we know already the dinning will lasts for hours! Three or four course meals served in certain tempo and of course the wines served to enjoy..that’s how I found it, kinda weird that being fast also reflect on the culinary thing 😀
    Meanwhile at my work, sometimes we have to complete our tasks in short deadline with short notice – our work depends on other parties schedule and decisions. In the end all of us – the Asians and Europeans are still working in the fast mode 😀

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    • That is a very good observation, Indah. Many times I’ve had big Chinese banquets with family in Malaysia. Once we see the first dish coming, all the other dishes will come out of the kitchen in the next five minutes 😀 I reckon most of the time the food is pre-cooked, though. Either that or Asian food is easy to cook (e.g five minutes to boil noodles and two seconds to pour sauce over it!)

      That is so true. At work our colleagues might have other responsibilities different than us, so it can definitely affect how fast or slow they can finish a team task.

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  24. Thought provoking! I think it depends on what kind of task it is. Personally, if it’s something repetitive like the processing you mentioned, I think I’d like it to go fast, to get it out of the way. ^^ I’m quite clumsy though, so perhaps I wouldn’t be able to do the processing work you do even half as fast! I’m always amazed at the speed and the *ease* with which a lot of customer service-oriented employees do things here. It impresses me, and I often wish I could work with my hands as smoothly. (Meanwhile I dropped about 3-4 things from my fork the other day when dining with my husband, haha! Hopeless!)

    Anyway, I’m glad you balance things out so that you still have enough energy to blogーI really enjoy your posts! 🙂

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    • Clumsy? I’m actually a bit of a klutz, bumping and dropping things here and there! 😀 With repetitive tasks like processing, so long as you know the procedure well, the task becomes like clockwork. So you CAN learn how to do it fast…I can see you doing it 😀

      I also wonder how restaurant waiters are so fast at picking up plates and bringing food to the table! Sometimes they can dash to the kitchen with ten plates in hand and a couple of cups. Amazing. Maybe the fork you were using wasn’t that big 😀

      Thanks for the compliment. Blogging takes up more energy than most people think.

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      • Yes, waiters and waitresses always impress me with their amazing plate-carrying skills! 😀

        Blogging does take both time and energyーbut I’m glad you find the time and strength to keep up with it, because I really enjoy reading it. 😀

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        • Waiters and waitresses are very skilled at what they do – carrying plates weaving in between tables and customers in their way. It’s like finishing an obstacle course very fast! I take that you haven’t worked in a restaurant before. I have never myself, actually. Partly because my skinny arms can’t carry heavy plates 😀

          Thanks for your nice words, Ri. Blogging I feel is something I can’t do fast. It has to be done slow. I always have so many thoughts in my head and I need to go through them slowly 😀

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          • I’ve helped out with a friend’s catering company for private events, but that was max two plates at a timeーmostly I was serving drinks (I’m much better at that), but in a restaurant it’s so hectic and so many things to keep track of, eep!

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            • Hehehe. It sounds like you pulled yourself together and did not drop anything! Apart from juggling plates and cups, waiters and waitresses have to keep track of our orders and requests in mid, that must be very hectic!

              I’m sure you’re fast at other things. Like blogging – you blog so often! It amazes me 😀

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              • Haha, it’s only because I’ve gotten better at planningーmost of my posts are written about a month in advance. 😄 It’s only the weekly update thing that I do “last minute” as I want it to be current. 🙂 doing it far in advance gives me more time to plan and organize my schedule. So I may write 3 in a day, but that will be a week’s worth, 2 weeks to a month later. 😀

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  25. I’m a fast worker. When I was working back in the day LOL my job was extremely fast-paced and stressful. There is no way I could relax for one moment unless it was around Christmas time. I think working at that job for 30 years maybe do everything fast. But now that I’m not working I had to learn how to slow down and I rather like it that way now. 🙂

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    • Hard to see how you, Dragon, work fast in an office. I’m sure you can, though, and live up to what you say. With photography, naturally you would take your time walking around and snapping photos 🙂

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  26. That there’s a distinction to be made between working fast in the short term and in the long term. Sometimes, it’s worthwhile spending a bit of time building a tool or improving the processes for a particular task so that it can be done even more quickly in future, or perhaps allowing downstream tasks to be done faster. Not every worker has the power to make such a decision and I think it’s one reason why some Asian people are fast at their particular jobs.

    I think there’s a very different work culture in Asia, which Asian people may take with them to their adopted countries. Asian countries tend to have high populations, ensuring a large, competitive supply of labour that attracts labour intensive businesses. Workplace rights are also weaker and there’s a greater societal inclination for obedience towards those higher up in the hierarchy, leaving some with the mindset that they have to do whatever their bosses ask, however excessive or irrational, because they’re being paid to do so. These combine to ensure that for many workers, being fast is both necessary for survival and the only way to get ahead.

    This attitude may persist for some even when the work conditions are different. But there are plenty of others who are aware of the difference in job security and take full advantage of it to laze around. I was once in a Chinese bank with my grandfather where we waited for an hour behind just a handful of people while most of the staff simply stood around watching others work or chatting to each other (and this was the VIP queue). When I was in the public service in Canberra, I had a Chinese colleague who not only did less work in a year that I would typically do in a day, but also readily flaunted it by spending the majority of her day in idle gossip, knowing full well that it is extremely difficult to be fired from her job. I’ve also felt a general attitude that getting a public service job (especially those in Asian countries) is a good thing not because of the value of the work or even just the job benefits but because one can occupy such a job while doing close to nothing.

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    • Agree with you there, Sam. There is more stability and established legislations in the Western world. In other words, there is more red-tape in the workforce here, especially in governmental departments. Very good observation to point out Asian cities have dense populations. The more people there are, the harder it is to regulate behaviour. Under the table (financial) dealings are still common in parts of Asia – which usually seals a work deal quickly. Moreover, some are willing to do anything to escape a life from poverty.

      There are always meetings and consultations, lots of agonising over how each potential discussion can affect the future of the company and how employees feel – and sometimes all this talk ends up going no where. During my time working in the public service in Melbourne, I noticed my colleagues took their time with their work and told me not to do my work so fast. While I was there I realised many of them had rotated roles throughout this sector of public service for a number of years – it’s as if so long as you show up to a job in the public service each morning you get to keep the job for a long, long time no matter how fast, slow, a lot or little work you do.

      Sorry to hear of your terrible customer service experience in the bank. I suppose those who were working then were either very stressed and had to let off some steam by chatting, or they might be just plain lazy.

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      • I think what happens in public service happens to some extent as well in other large organisations that have been around for a long time. They’ve accumulated so many rules over the years that they slow work down and there’s enough opacity and protections that people who are lazy can get away with it for quite a while. My experience though is that people in the private sector tend to be less open about their laziness than their public service counterparts (although there was that one guy whose days working from home mysteriously coincided with there being cricket on TV).

        The most generous assumption I could make about those bank workers was that they were on training. I didn’t really care for my sake, but it tended to be mostly old people in the queue and making them wait for an hour to get service is really not acceptable.

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        • Well said, Sam. Some people are just content with the established rules and the way things are done, thinking that they can get the easy ride to a decent paycheck this way. I guess it hurts the sector in the long run on various levels (think productivity, personal development, financial and so on).

          Even if the bank workers were on training, that really is a poor excuse to be inefficient.

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  27. As you already know, I also slave away at a repetitive 9-5 office job, I hate my job, but I do it fast and I do it good.
    On my spare time I do creative things and this weekend I continued on one of my “neverending projects” (a digital drawing of The Mad Hatter http://cardinalguzman.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/the-metaphysical-rabbit-hole/). On projects like that it’s very important to pay attention to the details, so I take my time and slowly work myself through the process. Sometimes the result is better, if you leave enough time for the creative process. In this example I’ve been working on this project on and off (mostly off) for a long time, but I’ve gotten new ideas during the process and it’ll hopefully be great when it’s finished.

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    • “I do it fast and I do it good” That is the way to keep a job and keep the money rolling in. The better we do our routine day jobs, the more time we have for our creative adventures…

      That is a very impressive project. I hope it doesn’t hurt your eyes too much. You definitely want to pay attention to detail – that helps to bring art alive 🙂

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  28. I have no ways of determining whether I qualify as a “fast worker” since all of us in our work are Asian. But I know I work faster then the others. It’s a double edged sword. It could mean you finish early with work or you can be given more work. Most of the time it’s the latter for me. But as you said there “Sometimes we can only work so fast. And work so slow”

    When I was younger, I wanted to be so fast and efficient because I have something to prove but now that I have established my skills at work, I learned to take things more slowly. I also used this as an indirect tactic of telling my boss..”Hey, I am human too. I also have limits.”

    Hope things at work get more pleasant for you. 🙂

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    • “a double edged sword”. I love how you describe working fast. Finish early and given more work? Then you might learn something new…or you might get more tired 😉

      That’s great. You can work both fast and slow, how flexible of you! An all rounder 😀 Work is great for me at the moment, positive energies.

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  29. some fast some lazy and slow…
    it’s personal thing of human being,
    my friend can do 5 or more patients for an hour and i can only half of his number with the same result,
    but sometimes the opposide happen, there’s also personal gold moment of doing things!

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    • You are right. Fast or slow is a personal trait. Your dentist friend is very fast. I am sure he can make more money because of that. Work harder, Dedy 😉 But I’m sure you are doing just okay at your pace.

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  30. In my opinion, fast or low is depend on how much attention (or I must say how much love) you put into your work 🙂 I feel it so unfair to confirm people are fast or slow just based on their nationalities. My sis always say: “Heroes are everywhere as well as loungers” 🙂

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    • So true. The more focused we are on a task, the faster we might be able to get it done, no distractions. Fast or slow is indeed more a reflection of our personalities and attitude to life, not just culture or nationalities 🙂

      Haha, I love that quote from your sister. Never heard it before, thank you for sharing that.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. It occurs to me that “Asian” really doesn’t seem to be an identity group inside Asia. I’ve lived in Korea for 5 years now and I know lots of Koreans who work slowly, lots of people who don’t want to let their jobs define them. I mean, I know lots of workaholics, too, but I’d be lying if I said my Korean colleagues skew significantly in temperament away from the whites/Hispanics/whatever I worked with in the US.

    I guess the question is, if “Asian” is an ethnic group that only exists in the West, why is it so different from the ethnic groups its drawn from?

    Thanks for the interesting article,
    Ben

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  32. Man, you are funny. You go right to the attributes that are known as stereotypes sometimes. I actually have a few of the thoughts from this post on a draft; been thinking about this myself. Efficiency. You handled the cultural differences diplomatically, Mabel. Yes: the Western World, at least the America I know, is slow. We can spin this in a lot of directions but I enjoyed your assessments on the Asian pace. We are an impatient lot!

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    • Me funny? Thank you, D. What a compliment. I would love to hear what you think about being fast and efficient, especially since you live in the States. For instance, I always wonder if Koreans and Asians over there tend to be efficient too (like quite a few in Australia)? It’s a stereotypical trait, yes, but maybe it does hold…

      I suppose if we are very passionate about a certain goal then we’ll definitely be impatient about getting there!

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      • You beat me to it. “I suppose if we are very passionate about a certain goal then we’ll definitely be impatient about getting there!” I was going to say this on the board sometime. And YES, it’s as I wrote Ben, Koreans are among the most impatient/hurried of Asians out here, although there IS a disparity between west coast and east coast people in all the races. More relaxed in California. I see the difference in people behind registers at stores and restrnts. I tap my feet, agitated (lol) when the person dilly dallies. And s/he’s not usu. Asian. Didn’t want to say things like this but that’s why I get a kick out of your honesty.

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        • Passion. That’s a strong emotion. I’ve always wondered what’s your take on that topic, D, especially on creative passion. I hope you write about it someday, if you haven’t already.

          I think you’re the more honest one here, picking out who’s who at being fast and efficient. Very brave of you to admit that Koreans are the most hurried among Asians. I’ve met a few Korean Australians and they do things fast. Wasn’t sure if that applied to other Koreans. Maybe so 🙂

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  33. I always found that if I rushed things, then I’d make mistakes, so I slowed down and got the job done faster because I was not having to go back and correct all the mistakes. It’s a kind of swings and roundabouts situation, Mabel.

    Also I found that when working in a big city, everybody worked faster, whereas when working in a small town or village, everybody took their time. That is also true of some countries. On a recent holiday to Cyprus, everybody seemed to work at a snails pace and there never seemed to be any urgency to get anything done quickly. They all seemed to be enjoying life to the full including their work they did.

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    • So true. The more we hurry at what we do, the more likely we are to overlook the finer details no matter how sharp we are. Going back to correct mistakes takes time and sometimes leads us to feel more stressed.

      Hope you had a good holiday in Cyprus. It sounds like a good city to take it slow, relax and unwind. Enjoying work and enjoying a life outside work, now that’s the life 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • It was last May I was in Cyprus, Mabel, but yes we had a very good time.

        I’ve just come back from New York where, like London, the pace was fast, fast, fast. And with the run up to Christmas, life just seems to be fast, fast, fast, now. But I’m not going to let that stress me out so mistakes can come through the door 🙂 They are barred!

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  34. I’m Asian – ethnic Chinese really – but I’m so slow I miss chances. 😦 I identify with ADD, although no doctor has confirmed it to me yet. I feel left out and unemployable. Where do you think I could get a job, or – donning an entrepreneurial attitude – what jobs can I create?

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    • I am sorry to hear you feel left out. Not all jobs require us to work fast – it depends on the work place and the nature of the job. And certainly not all Asians do everything fast. When it comes to writing, that is something I do slow.

      We all are different and are good at different things, and some of us choose to focus on what we’re good at.

      Someone once told me to “do what you love” and “do what makes you happy” when I was asking advice for jobs. At the end of the day, if we aren’t happy with what we’re doing or our job, we won’t be happy. Good luck 🙂

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  35. One of my colleagues calls me Speedy Gonzales for the speed with which I can do some things. My avatar on the story wall is the Looney Tunes Road Runner… but I chose it not for its speed but because the character theme was birds and I liked the cartoon character. I tend to work fast not because that’s how I was brought up (my background isn’t mainland Chinese) but because my personality wants to get the job done as quickly as possible.

    I think that cultural upbringing can lend itself to the stereotype that Asians are hard/fast workers, but I’ve seen people all races work both fast and slow – from the slackers to the workaholics.

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    • With a nickname like that, you must be an employer who works really fast and barely anyone can catch up with what you do. It is true that how fast or slow we work depends on our personality, and there’s also not forgetting our physical and emotional capacities in a given moment. I think efficiency is a trait that is prided upon in many Asian cultures, but that I think is a matter of perspective. After all, there are many ways to define efficiency…and the terms “fast” and “slow” as well.

      Like

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