As the workday lengthens and the two-income household becomes an increasingly universal phenomenon, the distinction between an individual’s personal and work life is blurring. In Asia, this blending manifests in a variety of ways, from the emphasis on family-owned businesses to the holistic influence of religious and spiritual philosophies.
Sydney-based Look Television Productions examines the relationship between home and work in Asia in a 4 x half-hour series titled A Yen for the Dollar. Look Television’s Will Davies explains that his company won the commission for the AUS$500,000 (US$252,000) project from the ABC as the result of a ‘contestable’ – a contest in which the broadcaster offers both the internal ABC production units and the independent community the chance to develop an idea or series.
In the first episode of Yen, viewers will be introduced to the concept of Korea’s ‘chaebol’ – large, often family-owned companies that drive the country’s economy. Holdings are structured like an extended family and the employer, even if he/she is a Westerner, is treated as a patriarch/matriarch. Other themes this episode will include are the religious or spiritual aspects of food preparation and interior design, and how they affect business.
Episode two addresses and dispels the stereotype of Asian women as demure and passive. The film follows Mrs. Harada, a Japanese princess, who is not only responsible for the household accounts, but is also a major decision-maker in the operation of Harada Confectioneries. It also looks at Chingyee Yau, the female vice president of Citibank Asia in Hong Kong, and the challenges she faces in gaining acceptance from her male counterparts.
In episode three, the issues of ‘face’ and ‘place’ are the focus. ‘Face’ refers to an unwritten code of behavior that governs both private and business relationships. For example, diplomacy in some Asian cultures dictates that an invitation is never initially declined, but rather accepted and then turned down at a later date. ‘Place’ refers to an individual’s perceived social status, sometimes defined through religion. For example, in India where Hinduism is the dominant religion, dharma – the belief that all people are not created equal – and karma – past life experiences that determine one’s current station in life – perpetuate a social hierarchy that transfers to business.
Episode four looks at the importance of establishing a personal relationship before undertaking a business deal in Asia. The prodco uses the experiences of Handle Lee, of Texas legal firm Vinson & Elkins, in China to illustrate.
A Yen for the Dollar will air on ABC in July.