The Many Varieties of “上班族”

The joys of the “上班族” life (shàng bān zú: office workers) –  surrounding yourself with people from different backgrounds, all working together towards a common goal for everybody’s mutual benefit.

Or not.

Chances are you work at an office comprised of people from different backgrounds and life circumstances, several of whom you might (not so) secretly begrudge.

Let’s look at some Chinese slang for the different types of colleagues you’ll see when walking back in to work on Monday.

工作狂 (gōng zuò kuáng)- Workaholic

工作 (gōng zuò): Work, job
(kuáng): Crazy, wild

The 工作狂 looks at you condescendingly as you leave the office at the regular 5:00 pm, as he or she would never think of leaving until 10.  Addicted to their work to the point of unhealthiness, this colleague is probably stressful and unpleasant to be around.



gōng zuò kuáng bù yī dìng xǐ huan gōng zuò, kě néng zhǐ shì qiǎng pò xìng dì gǎn dào xū yào gōng zuò

A workaholic doesn’t necessarily like their work, perhaps they feel compelled to work


雅痞 (yǎ pǐ):Yuppie, “Young urban professional“

 (yǎ): no literal meaning, transliteration of English
(pǐ): no literal meaning, transliteration of English

A transliteration of the English slang term “Yuppie” , this young and affluent group mocked for their conspicuous consumption and obsession with social status is not just a US phenomenon.



yī gè shàng hǎi yǎ pǐ de xīn kuǎn LV shǒu bāo de jià gé, shì shǎn xī yī gè nóng mín yī nián de shōu rù

The price of a Shanghai yuppie’s new Louis Vuitton handbag is a year’s wages for a Shaanxi farmer

婚奴 (hūn nú)- “Marriage slave”, whipped

(hūn) marriage
(nú) slave

With an overbearing spouse, bills to pay, and kids to feed, this colleague is not joining in on too many office happy hours. It is probably easy to tell from their tired and withdrawn disposition that he or she has significant marital and financial obligations outside the office.  Note that “车奴” and “房奴” are other common varieties of white collar “奴”.



zài zhòng duō “hūn nú nán” zhōng, hěn duō rén fēi lǐ xìng de tòu zhī… shì yīn wèi gǎn jué zì jǐ wán quán yǒu néng lì lái yìng fù, jiān xìn zì jǐ jiāng lái néng chéng gōng

With lots of the “marriage slaves”, people irrationally overdraft their bank accounts…because they think they can manage, firmly believing in their own future success.


红领 (hóng lǐng)- “Red collar”, a government worker

(hóng)- Red, Communist
(lǐng)- Collar

This refers to somebody working a government job, or a job related to the government.  Although the days of the “铁饭碗” (tiě fàn wǎn: iron rice bowl) may be over, a 红领 probably has a stable, steady income with strong job security. Note that this derives from “白领“, or “white collar worker”.



hóng lǐng lǐ suǒ dāng rán de chéng wéi qiú zhí zhě de yōu zhì xuǎn zé

Red collar jobs, naturally, are an excellent choice for job seekers


蚁族 (yǐ zú)- “The ant tribe”, young college educated workers

(yǐ)- Ant
(zú)- Group, tribe (see post on this character here)

This refers to recent graduates who are probably working a low wage entry level job, and typically live with several roommates to save money. They may be young and inexperienced, but never underestimate the tenacity of a member of the 蚁族



gāi qún tǐ míng zhī wèi “yǐ zú”, shì yīn wèi zhè ge qún tǐ hé mǎ yǐ yǒu xǔ duō xiāng lèi sì de tè diǎn: gāo zhì, ruò xiǎo, qún jū

This group’s name is “ant tribe”, because this group shares many similar characteristics as ants: intelligent, small, and live together

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