Friends- I have just come from my quarterly corporate lunch briefing, and I have this to share with you. As background, I work in the public sector, so none of what follows is because people were being deliberately insensitive. It was all done with the best possible intentions. Also none of this is lies. It all really happened. It is a homegrown truebiscuit, if you like, and I am your frontline reporter.
It was Chinese-themed (we like to align ourselves with dictatorial regimes that invade countries, brutally repress free speech and run people over with tanks) so we had low-quality fake Chinese food- (that famed Chinese guy Uncle Ben provided the Sweet and sour Chicken), Kung-Fu Panda was playing on the big screen, some Chinese-style Cornish pasties (my mind and mouth conjured up a hearty “wtf?” at that one), and sausage rolls (eh? shurely some mistake?)
For decoration, we had some random Chinese characters printed out and put up on the walls (best one read “love horse, wet tiger”). God knows why we just googled some Chinese characters- we have at least one staff member who speaks three dialects of Chinese and can write full and simplified forms nicely, but no- actually asking someone who is familiar with the customs and language was deemed unnecessary.
Did I mention the Balinese (yes- balinese, because all oriental peoples and cultures are the somehow the same)statues? No? Well, we had those too.
I’m surprised we didn’t get someone to come in and play the “diddy diddy did did did did daaa!” tune on a piano, whilst wearing a coolie hat, so authentic was the breadth of our cultural embrace.
God knows what our next corporate lunch will be themed as- they did Wimbledon last year, so that’s out. Terrifyingly, the Chinese thing was because we are near Chinese new year (well, February 14th wasn’t that long ago). The next one is in June, which ties in handily with the 2009 apology for slavery in the US Senate, so maybe our chief exec can black up, wear an Afro wig, deliver her address in jive (“When people ask me how we are pushing service excellence in social housing forward, I shall say 'Yo’ kno’ ah git soooooul, mofo!”). Maybe we could then tuck into grits and fried chicken, before shaking our booty to some authentic P-Funk. Or spirituals, if you want a more sombre feel.
Oh, and finally: we are listing this as an achievement in our corporate plan, and counting it as evidence of our progression in our Equality and Diversity brief.
I am slightly more aware of the culture of the far east than most, as I lived there for a decade and speak (and write) a fair bit of Mandarin myself, but I am sharing this in the hope of some of you mob joining in with the least appropriate (but well meaning) epic failures in the work place.