Chinese satisfaction levels directly linked to good food

In China, happiness (in general terms) is all about food. Even saying “How are you?” in Chinese is “Have you eaten?”

Conversations revolve around food and what we are having for lunch. Vacations destinations (especially domestic ones) are often chosen less on the activities of the place, but by what cuisine is served there.

Food obsession is not unique to China, but its more pronounced, where everything is about the food.

For example, we were in Getu in Guizhou province. Its probably in the top two climbing destinations in China. Overheard at our guesthouse was a couple of the Chinese climbers saying that Yunnan has better climbing BECAUSE the food is better. So for these climbers, it was less about the climbing conditions or scenery but, let’s face it, we can climb somewhere that has better food.

My brother works for a company called Elevate here in Shanghai. The Hong Kong branch of the company does factory audits to evaluate the conditions for workers — safety and worker satisfaction.

The Shanghai branch of the company takes the learnings from the audits and creates solutions for factories to make improvements — usually this involves creating simple e-learning videos for factory managers to watch.

Elevate received the survey results on worker satisfaction/dissatisfaction levels for over 100 factories in China.

The number 1 thing workers were not satisfied with was (no surprise): salary.

The number 2, though was: Food in the factory cantine sucks.

Now, think about it, it may be impossible for a factory manager to increase all wages. BUT food in the cantine! This is an obvious opportunity to make the workers more happy. You poll them on their favorite foods, you get in some new vendors to mix things up and provide more interesting food options.

Factory workers typically live in dorms at the factories, outside the big cities and they hence rely on the factory cantine for breakfast, lunch and dinner and don’t have access to other food options.

They probably don’t get paid well and have long days, so the daily joy of life is anticipating what’s for dinner. And clearly the cantine is not doing the job.

What if they even did a large-scale overhaul of factory cantine’s like what Jamie Oliver did with the British public school cantines?

Want workers in China to be happier? Give them better meals. Simple. Maybe think about offering free beers after work on Fridays. Free Bubble Tea on Tuesdays.

Often its the little things that make people feel they have a better quality of life, even if you can’t afford massive pay hikes (which of course would be ideal).

In Thailand, workers expect a level of fun in life, even in factories. Thais don’t see the point of doing anything, unless there is some fun in it.

At lunch, food carts of every kind roll up to the Thai factories, everyone sits on plastic chairs outside and REALLY enjoy good food and a nice selection of it.

At 6pm, more carts roll up outside the factory, with beers and music and it basically makes a hard day of work worthwhile cause there is an element of fun or what the Thai’s call “Sanuk.” They often ask: Sanuk, mai?“ “Are you having fun?”

* Sanuk is a deep cultural value in Thailand. In some ways, the goal of most casual social interactions is sanuk. Sanuk is the output of a group that is in harmony; a group that does not have an agenda. There is a raucousness to sanuk, but also a deep caring and comfort. Something really can’t be sanuk if you’re alone — being around friends and family is what makes an experience sanuk.

Fun, doesn’t have the same importance in China compared with Thailand, but food: daily satisfaction = good food.

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