A friend of Niuniu's, Mu, returned to China recently after living and working in the US for 20 years. Among recent returnees, he has spent the most time abroad, and is the most Americanised of Niuniu's circle. Nevertheless, Mu has chosen to work as a senior consultant at a state-owned enterprise because he believes this sort of company needs good senior management more than the Chinese branches of big multinational corporations, such as IBM or Intel. Niuniu wants to find out how Mu is adjusting to his new work environment, so she invites him for a cup of coffee. 'I'm eager to know what the differences are between a Chinese company and an American company,' she says. 'I'm thinking of writing an article about the different corporate cultures.' 'First,' Mu says, 'there are the dirty jokes. My colleagues here love telling dirty jokes all the time, yet nobody feels offended. Even my female co-workers joke around without any sense of embarrassment.' 'What about the idea of sexual harassment in the workplace?' 'Apparently, that is quite an American concept. Here, talking about sex is considered a way of relieving stress,' Mu says. 'The second difference is in the work hours. It's not nine to five. It's eight to six - but there's a two-hour lunch break when people usually take a nap. And, even with the long work day, you can't expect to achieve much during normal working hours. The big business deals are normally done after work at dinner engagements.' 'Dinner engagements?' 'Yes. People here seem to value their personal time less than in the States. There are always unexpected last-minute notices of corporate dinner meetings, weekend conferences or unscheduled events, such as karaoke practice.' 'Unscheduled? Aren't companies supposed to plan things ahead of time?' 'Nobody makes appointments here. It's passion and spontaneity that count.' 'Do you get paid overtime?' 'No, but nobody complains. It's the norm here.' 'So, work occupies a lot of your family time.' 'Exactly. My wife has to eat dinner alone every other night.' 'Do you hear of complaints from your colleagues' wives?' 'Well, I was surprised to learn that Chinese couples don't spend a lot of time together. It's quite common for married couples to eat separately. The company often sets up conferences over the weekend somewhere out of town, but wives are never invited.' 'So it's still a man's world.' 'It's true. Last week, our company decided to hold a meeting at a resort on Saturday, which was Valentine's Day. So, I brought my wife along to stay overnight. My colleagues were shocked, because I was the only one who came with his wife. They asked me if she was my girlfriend or my mistress. I told them she was my wife. They really couldn't understand why I needed to bring my wife along to the party. For them, wives should be left at home taking care of the family.' 'They're more used to seeing colleagues bring their mistresses than seeing husbands and wives go somewhere together. Isn't that strange?' asks Niuniu. 'Yes, it's strange. In my colleagues' minds, if a man and a woman are close and intimate, then they couldn't possibly be husband and wife.' 'They can only be lovers?' Niuniu asks. 'That's the mentality here. The Chinese translation of Valentine's Day is 'Lover's Day'. But the term 'lover' is reserved for your mistress, not for your wife. It's awful, but that's the way it is.' 'Is there any way to survive in a company like this?' 'Yes. First, you have to learn some drinking games and dirty jokes, so you'll be considered part of the team and not an outsider. 'Second, you want to carefully push your agenda at dinnertime. But keep the conversation casual. 'Finally, in order to save your marriage, every night when you go home, be sure to give your wife a good foot massage.'