Are you willing to eat bitterness?

June 11, 2007


Good. You’re hired.

recent article in National Geographic about the industrialization of China details the way manufacturers go about advertising jobs:

Boss Wang posted a handwritten job notice on the factory gate:

1. Ages 18 to 35, middle-school education
2. Good health, good quality
3. Attentive to hygiene, willing to eat bitterness and work hard.

All across the Lishui development zone, young people wandered in packs, reading the factory signs that had been posted at the end of the New Year holiday. At the local job fair, migrants gazed up at a digital board with listings so terse they read like code:

“Cashiers, women, 1.66 meters [5.4 feet] or taller”
“Willing to eat bitterness and work hard, 25 to 45 yuan a day, male,
middle school”

“Male workers 35 yuan, female workers 25 yuan”
“Average workers, people from Jiangxi and Sichuan need not apply.”

There were no euphemisms, no apologies. If a company preferred its women to be tall, they asked for tall women. If they had a prejudice against a certain region, tough luck.

I’m guessing that “willing to eat bitterness” translates into “team player” in English.


3 Responses to “Are you willing to eat bitterness?”

  1. QuakerJono Says:

    Does it come with eggroll?

  2. The pharse “eat bitterness” indicates to workers that the position provides no safety net or benefits. You come to work, you work as long and as hard as told and you are paid your wage.

  3. Wufu Shen Says:

    In China, “eat bitterness” (chi-ku) means bear the hardship of work or life :)

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