Sunday, September 30, 2007

Cell phone etiquette (or lack thereof)

It is funny, you notice all of these little things that are indicative of the overall culture. In order to silence a ringing phone, you have to hold the volume-down button for a few seconds. It is telling that it isn't easy to silence a cell phone, since Koreans will happily answer their phones, even in the middle of a meeting. It is just the way it goes.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I need help with Everything

Furnishing an apartment, NOT easy. Especially when they have no IKEA and almost everything is in Korean. Like my TV menu for example. Or my dishwasher, where my real estate broker had to provide a translated sheet so I could figure out what button is what.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Korean Thanksgiving

So Koreans celebrate Thanksgiving as well, called Chusok. It occurs a little earlier, we had 5 days in late September. After only 3 weeks of work, I decided I wasn't quite ready to have another big vacation, so I stayed near Seoul. I had just settled into my apartment the first day of the holidays, so I wanted a bit of time to get used to my new digs.

I did manage to have one expedition. Bukansan, which is one of the more famous mountains around Seoul. It took about an hour to get there by subway and bus, and I climbed it with my co-workers Tom (who was wearing dress shoes since his boxes had not yet arrived) and Tony. Some parts are so steep that you have to practically pull yourself up the rock!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Project 1 – Back in Advertising

Our projects were announced and I ended up back where I left off. My first project is working on Cheil Worldwide, which is Samsung's wholly owned advertising agency (and one of the other 30 companies. It was interesting to be back in an area that I knew so well, and was the perfect excuse to catch up with many of my old colleagues! It was fascinating to see where many of them ended up, and to see the changes in the industry (and Ogilvy). I still find the industry fascinating, but I may prefer to be on the client side for a little while.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Professional Male

Translation can sometimes be a problem for Koreans, and my title was one example. My title is Global Strategist, but for legal reasons, I have to have a title and a desk for the company who sponsors me (Samsung Fire & Marine, an insurance company). Everyone in my group is sponsored by one of the Samsung companies, but only Fire & Marine has a title like this one. In Korean, it roughly means corporate worker (male) who receives a monthly salary. The translation, however, was Professional (Male). I had business cards made up to commemorate my title. This is the sort of experience you just don't get in the states! Within 1 week, my title was changed to Professional. Apparently they didn't appreciate the amusement I had gained from my title.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Samsung is the 2nd largest shipbuilder in the world

The Samsung Corporation has about 30-35 companies (yes, I should know the exact number, but call me a bad employee ;) We toured around Korea for about a week, meeting members of the different business units. They have a center for dogs to help handicapped people, a fashion line, an amusement park (which through some legal maneuvers may own the whole corporation), and a ship building facility that is pretty wild. The company controls 10-20% of the Korean economy. So pretty much if it exists in Korea, Samsung probably makes it or has a subsidiary that does.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Kimchi Refrigerator

There are some appliances you expect to see in an apartment, one of which is an oven. Not in Korea. Koreans don't bake. Instead, in my apartment I have a refrigerator specifically for Kimchi. For anyone who has no idea what Kimchi is, it is fermented cabbage, and there are over 200 varieties of it. It also tastes terrible to most Westerners (you can ask one of my friends who visited what he thinks of it). The refrigerator was useful for storing beer for my housewarming party, but outside of that, I doubt it will be getting much use...

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Artist's village

One of my colleagues organized a small trip to a nearby artists colony about 1.5 hours outside of Seoul. The village was really a collection of a number of shops and galleries. My friend Marina bought an incredible set of tea cups in the shape of a face. I wandered around taking pictures of the buildings and meeting a few of my new co-workers, including one person who grew up in the same town as my cousin (and knew a number of his friends!)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

You look too good

Have you ever been rejected from a club because you were dressed too nicely? "The" hot club in Seoul (off of a street called Rodeo Drive, literally) won't let us in if we have work attire on. We showed up with dress clothes (ie nice pants and a funky shirt, and they pointed at our pants and said No. That is definitely a first for me.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Korean way of meeting women

Booking clubs. An interesting phenomenon let me tell you! The men sit down at the table (and pay for a bottle of alcohol), and women get in for free. The catch? They can be pulled to any table by the waiters, with two exceptions (1) they are on the dancefloor, or (2) they have to use the bathroom. Very Korean-centric, or I was repelling girls subconsciously. Amazing how not being able to speak a language can scare someone off so quickly! I had a great time when another friend joined, and I danced for a good chunk of the night. Quite an experience though!

Booking clubs -- a true Korean experience

Korea has an interesting way of people meeting each other. Either through blind dates or booking clubs. At a booking club, men have to get a table and buy a bottle (or two) of alcohol. Women meanwhile, get in for free, but they are expected to talk to men at different tables. And by expected I mean that there are waiters or "hosts" who literally drag the women over to the table. The men buy the women a drink, if she likes you, she will stay and talk, otherwise she can leave. Two key points: 1) Women cannot be dragged off the dance floor, and 2) Women will often just get up the moment the "host" turns around to find another victim to bring to a different table. I can speak from personal experience, I have never seen girls get up so quickly after sitting down next to me. Whether this was because I am a foreigner or because I spoke about 10 words of Korean only, who knows. It was an amazing cultural experience though. What kind of screwed up place is this!??!?