Monday, June 30, 2008

Things we are told...

How would you like a job if you were told that you had to work Saturdays (after starting to work), or that your office is an hour away? Ah yes, the fun elements of Korea. One more leaves, and we spend hours talking about Samsung and Korea. Why? Because it is such an interesting place. The battles between generations (the older generation that is committed to staying with a company, and making the economy grow versus the younger generation that is not as satisfied to simply get married young and stay at a job for 25 years....)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Jazz on a rainy night

Or at least the place is called Jazz story, even though they play mellow live music. It was the last night of my birthday celebrations, amazingly hard to get there due to the protests of the current president (over US beef). The beef issue is impressive, there has been so much anger involving beef from the US that might be over 30 months old (which stems more from the issue of the current president running the country like a conglomerate, like Hyundai, which he was CEO of before...Apparently the top-down, what I say goes, does not work as well for running a country). So needless to say, we have plenty of newspaper editorials and protests about US beef...Ah yes, Korea...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

So much for low profile

Yes, with the combination of Facebook and Michelle, seemed that just about everyone knew it was my birthday today. One of my first emails from a colleague at work..."Oh, and word on the street is that there's a guy with a new haircut and that despite the youthful new look – he's a year older." BUT the benefit of living in Korea is that the 26th happens twice with the time difference. So I am planning on throwing in a 3rd day and going out Th/Fri/Sat! But it is strange, as one friend put it "living in the future" Of course my response was, "if Korea is the future, what sort of twilight zone am I in?!?!?"

And for my actual birthday dinner? Hooters. Yep, Hooters for my birthday. NOT where I expected to be, but i guess as long as you are with friends, you can't complain, right?

Friday, June 27, 2008

No Man's Land

I took the interns on a DMZ tour, or as close as any Koreans can get to a DMZ tour (the actual demilitarized zone is apparently super cool, and surreal circumstance, maybe another weekend...) But it was a trip to go to one of the 4 tunnels that the North Koreans dug to try and invade the South. Or to go to a lookout area but not be able to take photos over the demilitarized zone. The interns were a lot of fun, they still have plenty of innocence involving Korea, and it is interesting to
And on the road to the DMZ, i noticed another great Korean sign. STD consulting. A real estate shop, you want to buy that real estate?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Seoul is the 86th best city in the world to live in

Yup, Seoul ranks 86th in a study done by Mercer. They include a number of factors, including climate, political environment, sanitation, etc. Arriving in the top 50 did include San Francisco (29), Boston (37) and NYC (49). So I have chosen some good places to live! Doubtful that I would really want to live in one of the top 5: Zurich, Vienna, Geneva, Vancouver, Auckland...(does this seem biased towards the Swiss?!?!
No comments on the fact that there are 85 places ranked higher than where I am living now...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I could have walked home faster

Last night sucked. Or at least the end of it did, and for one reason. Cab drivers in Korea are %#$%$ (or at least most of them late at night in high-traffic areas). This is probably the only place in the world where I have encountered cab drivers who will not take fares (ie too short of a ride). I would say that it is because I am a foreigner, but that isn't it. On the foreigner side however, I did have more cab drivers try and rip me off last night though ("sure, we'll take you there for $20" when i know it is about a $5 cab ride). After slamming a few cab doors and wandering for an hour, I finally got a cab (note: i had made the decision to walk home, but I kept asking people which direction was south, and i got 2-3 different directions).

Add to that I definitely hadn't drunk enough water and felt a little hungover this morning, doh! But the rest of the night was good, fried food, plenty of beer, and lots of karaoke (or norebang). Good times with everyone (including three of the interns).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Safety comes second

These window washers are crazy (a rope is all that holds them off the side of a building that is 15 stories high...) The kicker was that it was raining that weekend as well!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Our VP is gone

The lone VP from the group of GSG alums left Korea to work in the US. He was our client on two projects, and will be missed as a supporter of our group. He had a going away lunch and put on quite a show. Someone put on Surfing USA by the Beach Boys and he performed a bit of karaoke (in front of over 100 people). Members of the GSG gave him a care package of some of the things they knew he would miss from Korea
- Kimchi
- Yogiyo button (a button in every restaurant that summons the wait staff!)
- Slippers for the office (it is normal to see a Korean wearing slippers around the office, dress shoes are overrated!)
- Korean beef (you should see the protests going on over here involving that, and it seems comical until you realize the beef is not the real issue...of course bringing a hibachi to the protests might not make friends though...)
- Toothbrush, to remind him of the Korean hygenie (everyone brushes their teeth after lunch, presumably due to all of the garlic and kimchi they just had...)

As too many of my friends leave Korea, I always have to ask "what will you miss most about Korea?" Answers seem to range from types of food, the size of our apartments, to the stories. Yes, the stories that most of us admit we wouldn't believe unless we lived here. And even then it took a little while for us to realize, "did that just happen?"

It is funny to hear stories from people as they are leaving. "Going to be strange to be working for a normal company again." We are not used to the following: "trash cans by your desk, flying business class, eating lunch at your desk, a crazy security system that won't let you out of a building with anything that says confidential on it (even if it is your own document that you prepared and you are returning to your office from a client site." Ah yes, Korean business...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Korean sense of schedule

So it has been interesting watching the beginning of the Korean work day. Timing is EVERYTHING. You have to be at work at 8 am (at least in my current role), and you can get docked big points if you are not...You have to show up to work at 8, but if that means that you are outside for a smoke break at 8:05, we are all good.

Korean traffic, not that many cars, but there is absolutely zero regard for traffic rules (this was reinforced by stories from visitors riding buses in Seoul, that go about 50 mph (not a good idea in crowded areas) and nearly hit cars. But on the reverse side, apparently they didn't even have lines on the road 25 years ago, so this traffic ain't so bad!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A new role -- ambiguity

My first week in a new role, and when the head of your group says "these two (myself and my friend Taka) will be strategic advisers to the team" that is a great sign. Great until you realize, "what exactly does that mean? And as I am in my second week, and I actually sort of have a job scope, I now can definitively answer the question "have you ever dealt with an ambiguous work situation?"

Friday, June 13, 2008

Korean to English or Engrish

We have a translation engine, but that does not mean that it is correct. After receiving an email today that looked somewhat important, I put it into the translating engine: "schedule was postponed inevitably by urgent schedule of martialism."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Korea, the land of technology

...or almost. Tell that to my friend who looked up online to see where the iPhone is being released. 70 countries approximately, and as he put it. Japan is getting it, fricking Colombia is getting it?!?! But yes, you guess it, no South Korea. Whether or not we would be banished from our work if we bought it is another question entirely. But thankfully we have not been tempted...

Monday, June 9, 2008

...and in the US

Every time I hear about crazy things happening in Korea (head of one company who hired goons to beat up a guy who had gotten into a fight with his son, OR embezzlement from the head of Hyundai), I have to remind myself that it isn't just Korea where some of this stuff happens.

And a post I read about the former head of Broadcom sure puts that in perspective. My favorites:
- Putting Ecstacy into the drinks of unwitting technology executives (to help make the sale)
- Smoking so much marijuana in a plane that the pilot had to put on an oxygen mask

Wow. What can you say to that? I think that one takes the cake (not sure if I want to be patriotic though for that).

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A long weekend…

My friend James came from the states for a long weekend (it is not fair, since he works for Northwest airlines, he can get some pretty good “deals” on flights!) We made the most of the weekend, out until 3 or 4 am for three nights in a row. I never really could do that before, so I am definitely lagging now!

Out to clubs, including one of the hottest in Seoul, Club Volume. We also did a nice little hike that was only 15-20 minutes from my house, wandered around the markets, and ate some great food. I had to show James the dance at Hooters (they gave me a VIP card this time, although ironically enough, you are not allowed to use it the same day you are given it, huh?)

Sunday was a day to relax, and we ate Juk (a good hangover food), went to the nearby batting cage (the balls were all thrown for someone 6 inches shorter than me), and checked out my gym (which had just been remodeled and looks awesome!)

The classic thing is that after 4 days in Korea, James understood most of the references in this video, including the bowl of Fruit Loops. For anyone living in Korea, this video is hysterical!

Stories that we find entertaining…

- Women wear inserts here (to give them selves more curves). Now we know about padded bras, but padded underwear? (a friend of mine was VERY disappointed to hear this…)

- The rear entrance in our building is for VIPs, and it has been under construction for the last 2 weeks. This building is only 9 months old, and we wondered why…No covering, so a VIP will get wet in the 10 feet between the building and his car. Amazing that this sort of concept wasn’t thought of earlier (the front has a covering). Apparently it took 4 days to complete each floor (no comments about what that means for quality control), but it has taken a lot longer to add this covering!

- The logo for one of the nearby street food stands is a small puppy. No comment needed…

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Don't count your chickens until they hatch

...but it looks like I will be transitioning roles to do product marketing for cell phones. The transition should be awesome, and I am looking forward to a new challenge. As a added side, one of my colleagues is working specifically on the online side, and they just produced a cool like viral video

Learn to Be Nice to Your Wife, or Pay the Price

This isn't Korea, but I can almost guarantee you that many of the challenges are the same...Fanscinating stuff about societies changing. In Korea, the divorce rate may be low, but it is growing at the fastest rate in the world, partially because of issues similar to what is mentioned in the article...

Learn to Be Nice to Your Wife, or Pay the Price
By Blaine Harden
FUKUOKA, Japan -- Salarymen -- the black-suited corporate warriors who work long hours, spend long evenings drinking with cronies and stumble home late to long-suffering wives -- have danger waiting for them as they near retirement.

Divorce. A change in Japanese law this year allows a wife who is filing for divorce to claim as much as half her husband's company pension. When the new law went into effect in April, divorce filings across Japan spiked 6.1 percent. Many more split-ups are in the pipeline, marriage counselors predict. They say wives -- hearts gone cold after decades of marital neglect -- are using calculators to ponder pension tables, the new law and the big D.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

That was a more expensive game than intended

Last night a group of us went to a World Cup qualifying match, Korea versus Jordan. It was a great game for about 70 minutes, and the last 10 minutes turned into a big disappointment. After being up 2-0 (in your own stadium), Korea let Jordan tie the match, and we all left feeling slightly deflated. In addition, I went to take a picture, and noticed that during the course of the game, my LCD on my camera had cracked. As my friend put it, you can drop the camera, and it is okay BUT you tap it in the wrong way (or you roll over on it while sleeping in a tent...)

So all of the money saved on the super cheap beers (only $3 for a biggie cup). It does make it a lot easier to take the family when all of the food costs are super low...

So I debated at night, like any boy in an electronics store, "hmm, I could use this as an excuse to get a new toy (they have waterproof cameras up to 10 meters from Olympus...)"

At the same point though, I know that camera phones are getting much better, and I was just trying to ride this one out, doh! Needless to say, I decided to try and take the high route, use this as an adventure to try and get it fixed (in Korea!) or even better, to try and buy a new LCD and fix it myself. We'll see how dumb a decision that ends up being...