There’s days you wake up and think hmm I don’t know if I can shoulder-barge and body-check my way through this depressingly loud and aggressive, blunt and selfish, unrelenting and uncompromising, dog eat dog internationally famous mega city today…I’m starting to feel inhuman…I think I need to spend the whole day at home. Sounds good until you remember your work requires proof of illness. You can’t exactly roll up the next day and say ‘Hong Kong makes me fucking sick boss’. You’re going to need to do better than that.
First some background. In Hong Kong, things are very clear and by the book…almost black and white you could say. If your throat’s sore…you must have eaten crispy food. If you drink tea too late in the day…you’ll never get to sleep at night. When the party’s over…we all stand up at the same time and leave. When we’re in public…we act like we’re at home. When we chat on the phone…we yell. When we have a gathering with friends…we all talk at the same time. When it’s Sunday…we play with remote controlled cars and boats. When it’s 30 degrees but it’s cloudy…we wear a gigantic arctic jacket. When our food comes…we take its picture. When we’re running low on toilet paper…we go and buy 64 rolls. When we’re sick…we see a doctor. Grey areas…do…not…compute. And taking a day off work and not producing a doctor’s note would be one huge grey area in the eyes of your employer and your workmates. Was he really sick yesterday, they’ll all whisper. What was he doing? Did he go on some trip? Is he lazy? Does he know that he made our workload 7% more burdensome? Why didn’t he see a doctor? We should see the doctor when we are sick, shouldn’t we? Where did he go? Was he being sneaky? I don’t understand! Why didn’t he see a doctor!! This is very unorthodox behaviour!
So it’s almost impossible to take a day off work without the need to produce a medical certificate, a DNA and or blood/ urine and stool sample. It’s not that employers don’t trust you. It’s not that at all. It’s just that they find it easier to believe an authority figure like a doctor…and they don’t trust you. They need proof and logic. They need to be able to put 1 and 1 together and get 2. They must calculate based on logical parameters. 1. You were sick + 1. You saw a doctor = 2. Now you show me the note. Feel sick – see doctor – show note. Sick – doctor – note. Black – white – no grey. 1 + 1 = 2. Having a day off and not showing a medical note would be so far out of the realms of logic to a Hong Kong employer that you would appear an unhinged, deluded nut. You’re already opening yourself up to suspicion, sideways glances, furrowed brows and gravely hushed gossip by taking a day off in the first place. In Hong Kong, the approach is far more advanced than other areas of the world where the sick day is often entrusted to the judgment of workers. The judgment of workers! Bah! What would they know?
In more backward parts of the world, lazy workers are allowed ridiculous leeway by crazy employers who allow multiple instances of having a day off work that don’t involve a trip to the doctor to fetch a note. Employers with this kind of hippy mentality are asking for trouble. How could someone who is sick for a day not go to see the doctor on that day? There would be something very, very fishy about that…more fishy than a Sai Kung fish butcher. In Hong Kong when you are sick, you must get up and get outside and get to the doctor. It doesn’t matter at all if you end up having to wait hours to see a doctor or that appointment times seem to be as flexible as everything else in Hong Kong is inflexible…or that in going to the doctor you are ultimately doing everything you set out not to do that day…commuting, lining up, waiting, being pushed, yelled at, listening to people eating MacDonald’s in the waiting room…just generally being assaulted by all those aspects of Hong Kong culture you sought to avoid. Anyway…you got pills coming…and pills make it better.
Hong Kong employers frown on the sick day. And I for one understand their attitude completely. What possible reason could you have for taking a day off work in Hong Kong? Your mother died? You have cancer? Your youngest child has bird flu? These trivialities fly in the face of the Hong Kong work ethic. We work hard in Hong Kong. Go and play funerals, chemotherapy and vaccines in your own time. Hong Kong is a business not a playground. Those stories you may have heard of employers phoning sick employees at their home, demanding answers…and in some cases of actually going to an employee’s home to investigate the trustworthiness of their sickness claims…those stories are true. And fair enough too. If employees showed that kind of dedication to get the job done, there’d be no sick days at all.