Thursday, November 27, 2008

Who wears the pants?

Kind of a strange story that I have to share with you....

One of my Chinese friends got a job for a German company about 2 years ago. When she started the management was a bunch of German men (and one lonely woman), most of them in their late 40ies or 50ies, with a family tucked into a safe, typical lao wai complex in Hongqiao, or, back in Germany. The CEO was around 58. He didn't have his family with him in China, and apparently he must have gotten a bit lonely, because it didn't take long before my friend discovered that the young, Chinese woman that her boss used to bring along at company parties and events, weren't only a 'keeping-the-boss-company-lady', but in fact his mistress.

So the story goes... and it didn't take long before the mistress started showing up more and more often. Unexpected visits to the office. Long lunches. The boss seemed to enjoy it so my friend kept her mouth shut, silently thinking of the little wifey back in Germany.

Then... the mistress' belly started growing... and whoopsydaisy. Suddenly there was a situation. Old German guy was set to be a daddy again. He decided that one wife was enough and divorced his old wife in Germany, to focus on setting up a new life with his 20-something-mistress in Shanghai. The new wife was over the moon.

The couple got married and had a baby. Everything seemed sugar sweet and my friend was actually happy that the sneaky mistress business had ended and that they now were an official couple... until... the new wife started paying the office frequent visits.

First, she came to check in on her beloved husband after work. Since my friend often worked overtime she often met the girl, who would question her presence in the office.

-Aren't you skilled enough to finish your work during your normal working hours? She would say.

My friend started to dislike the girl, who only was 2-3 years older than her and whose new 'guts' obviously came from her being married to the big boss.

The comments continued, and suddenly the visits started to become a daily thing. All in front of the boss/husband, who was happy to let his wife enter the company's office, and boss around his staff. My friend (and her workmates) couldn't do anything about it. They had to be nice to the girl as she was the wife of their boss. Eventually, they also had to take orders from her.

When my friend told me this story I sat with my mouth wide open. What boss lets his WIFE walk around and yell out orders to his staff?! And why would you even want to do that? It makes so little sense to me. Is he really that whipped?! Talk about having lost your pants and put on the longest skirt in the family... and talk about disrespecting your staff?!

My friend hates the situation so much she is considering finding a new job, although with the credit crunch and everything, the timing sort of sucks. Still, I am so amazed that this German boss is letting it all happen in front of his eyes. I don't think a similar situation would ever be able to take place if they were working in Germany, because I don't think he would allow his German wife to do the same thing.

But the situation is making me wonder: is this happening because: 1.They are in China and things that would never happen in Europe often happen here, and therefore he is turning a blind eye to it. 2. Chinese wives are much more powerful than their husband over here. 3. He is simply and sadly, mega whipped.
Or, is it a combination of all of them?

Obviously my friend doesn't dare to tell her boss how bad she feels every time the wife is giving her narky comments, as she's scared she'll lose her job.


Anonymous said...

Obviously her boss is doting on his young wife and only eager to please. *shrugs*
I'd imagine the situation won't be too different in other countries, although yelling out commands at work is a bit over the top.
But my conclusion is, once he gets 'bored' of her, things will return to normal. This should be any day now...most likely after the baby is born

yuyang said...

i will totally consider her boss is a chinese, if u didnt mention he is a german...

i always hear about things like that(your boss's women is also your boss) happens in china, but that's what i heard,i didnt reach the go-to-work age while i was in china.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That is really, really scary. Good luck to your friend. At least one person comes out well: I reckon wife #1 back in Germany is lucky to be shot of this creep.

Anonymous said...

What nerve the little flussy?! Maybe she is barking out orders in Chinese and the Big German Boss doesn't actually know she is bossing is employees around. Just a thought...

Billy Toh said...

Hey I like your blog on China. I am a Chinese born in Malaysia. Never really been to China before. It's great to be reading the details here in your blog.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Pingu -the baby IS already born... 6 months old. At most of the places where I have worked before it hasn't been OK for partners (to the CEO or to the employee) to visit on an every day basis unless they r working for the company.

Yuyang -Would a Chinese boss really let his wife behave like that? I thought this girl was taking advantage of the fact that her hubby doesn't speak/understand Chinese.

flyingfish -yeah I know. Although I still cannot help to feel for her too. It must b awful to be left for another woman.

njd -he knows, he's seen it... although he obviously doesn't understand what she is saying since he doesn't speak Chinese. When I told my friend that she should tell her boss, she went 'oh no no no!!' as she's afraid he'll think she is lying and fire her.

Se3keR -glad to hear u like my blog :) u should pay China a visit then :) Lot of cheap flight tickets from Malaysia to China on

Mark's Blog said...

Did this German boss communicate with his employees? know that they are unhappy about this? At least have a rough idea that some of the employees are not happy?

It is understandable that wife visits husband at work, but yelling out to employees? that's bit amazing.Or is she just targeting your friend with jealous, but not others?

afritzse said...

It may also be because German bosses tend to be quite bossy and authoritarian. If so, he may not care about his wife's yelling as it just reinforces his authority over his staff. I think his wife's behavior is disappointing but, from what I can tell about Chinese understanding of hierarchy, probably commonplace.

Anonymous said...

It's not unheard of in small to medium sized companies which are still family owned, for wives to come and go, in any country. I'm surprised to hear this sort of thing happening in a MNC.

But I cant see this situation going unchallenged in a Western country. Either someone would take the German manager aside and mention the professionalism issue, or someone would lose their stack and tell the boss off.

It gives the impression that once a Chinese female has some power, even vicariously through a sexual relationship, she wields it.

I read in the paper yesterday about the female driver of an expensive car who ran over the foot of a waitress asking her to move the car as she was blocking others. The waitress called the police and the lady in the car (and I use the word "lady" loosely) told everyone- waitress and bystanders, that she knew the chief of police and didnt care.

When the police turned up, she made a phone call, gave the phone to the police, who then released the "lady" and started to take the waitress to the police station. The bystanders stopped the "lady" from leaving and the police took statements from both and left it at that. Apparently this story has been making the rounds online.

Maybe there's a tv show in this- Sugar Daddy Babes Behaving Badly.

(ok ok- stop moaning at my bad jokes!)


Anonymous said...

I'm thinkin it is number three. And if that is the case, unfortunately your friend is probably right not to say anyhting.

Anonymous said...

If this is a branch office which has its head office it won't be long until head office get to know of this- if they don't already. I expect them to have a word.

Although that man is an idiot, clearly.

Anonymous said...

I would like to go work for this German wussie for a week, have his wife boss me around for a or two, then snap back at her and him. Just want to see their reaction after that. I don't pity your friend and her coworkers. They are a bunch of brown-nosers. In this day and age, why would they not even protest?

Anonymous said...

I think that most of the Chinese women, after marrying an expat, feel automatically entitled to exercise their new power over their country fellows. It is like if they say: "Look, I have improved my social status. I am now better than you and therefore you should listen to me!". Very sad. It just shows how frustrated those women are.