I am so tired of this question. Does anyone else find it repulsive?
Does one’s career define the sort of person one is? Does being an accountant guarantee one will also be boring and introverted? Does being a musician and graphic designer automatically make me some nouveau-bohemian coolster?
I haven’t travelled much, but I am lead to believe this question is uniquely North American, and that Europeans wouldn’t have the audacity to ask something so tactless and ultimately meaningless.
How about we start asking more meaningful questions, like “What’s important to you?” or “What are you when you’re NOT an accountant?”
While I have heard it before, you are right in thinking that it is somewhat secondary to us.
Of course, it all depends on setting and environment, but when engaging in a conversation with someone, I would agree that we would rather ask something along the lines of: “What are you up to?”
It then all depends on how much the person identifies with his actual job and to what extent his daily activities bring bread on the table.
I am happy to say that the first thing we ask, though, more often is: “What are you having?” Cheers!
I used to live in Eastern Europe, where the first question is “How much money do you make?” (I hear this is the first question in Japan, too.)
Westerners find that question REALLY offensive. For me personally, it is just irrelevant. I work at my job because I love it… not because it pays the best.
I prefer to ask people, “So how do you like to spend your free time?” It is a far more interesting question, and leads to a real conversation, instead of the inevitable dead spot that follows “What do you do for a living?”...
“I’m an accountant.”
(...look off into the distance…)
“So I’m gonna go get another drink. See ya!”
I guess I’ve been realigning my understanding of things lately, because I have recently found myself perplexed by so many things that most people around me would consider utterly normal.
Part of it might come from the recent liberation of my working hours. It’s a lot harder to answer “I’m a freelance web designer and musician” than it is to say I work for such-and-such.
Freelance web designer and musician inevitably seems to come off as “suckerfish leeching off society’s broken back” instead.
It’s a bit depressing, really.
Next time someone asks me what I do I’m going to tell them something ridiculous.
“You know those ‘Body’ exhibits where they make art out of real human cadavers? I’m the guy with the high-speed saw skills.”
Let’s see where that goes.