Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dilbert couldn’t do this better

We had a presentation last week where a portion was about drinking and the correct seats to sit in. And it was amazing. The words used, the descriptions, and the overall work implications. Dilbert truly could not have made it better. Even the morning TV-show (brainwashing) is amazing. How to make 1-page memos, how to not force people to drink, etc, people just wouldn’t believe it. I would LOVE to put some of these up on YouTube. They would definitely provide Samsung with more of a corporate face, just not sure if they would like the corporate face ;)

Oh, and this corporate tradition is awesome, a woman is allowed 1 day off a month for “woman problems” Isn’t that priceless? The men may have been allowed the same due to any concern over discrimination. But apparently you can string the 12 days a year together for a long vacation. “Wait, so does that mean women can have only one period per year and have it in Bali?” hmm. (and i just heard a new name for this: menstruation vacation).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It is official

So Samsung is not renewing my contract. I know a large portion of this is because I don’t want to stay in Korea (that and maybe I have frustrated them too much). It is too bad though, I have had a great time in Korea and part of me is sad to leave. I will say that it is interesting the difference between Korea and the US. In the US, you never know where someone will end up. Potentially a colleague, or partner, etc. At Samsung you know that all of your Korean colleagues will stay in Korea at Samsung (with only 1-2 exceptions). So if you decide to leave, they have less inclination to be friendly to you. I think some of it is an overall group mentality, you are either in the group, or not. And if you are not in the group, then you just don’t matter as much. It can be frustrating, but you can’t easily change the way a society views each other.

The last work for the music phone

Managing one last project, a deal with MTV. It was amusing to be on a call and hear really fast speaking at one point. Okay, the news seems to bad, and you are trying to gloss over things aren't you? Funny that both myself and the other person on the call could tell ;)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

An expert with no power?

At times I feel like I am an expert (or know what will happen), but even knowing the train wreck will happen doesn't mean you can do something about it if you don't control the emergency brakes. (outside of the fact the conductor speaks only korean ;)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Names that should not be heard

So Koreans in general like to use their initials as their English name. Example? Hee Chong becomes HC. Now that works for the most part, but let me give you one example where it doesn’t ;) One of my colleagues friends goes by KY. If you don’t know what that means, a simple internet search would likely do ;)

The day that could have been better

I had one of those days that definitely could have gone better. It started with general exhaustion, and I was not a happy camper (a day where you don't let the details go). So after feeling frustrated at work, I decided it was time for a long bike ride, which was great until about 2 miles out of town my back tire popped. And not a small leak that i could pump up every 1-2 miles. A leak that drained the tire immediately. So as I walked back to my apartment in my biking shoes (even tried walking in my socks since the biking shoes are so uncomfortable for walking, my mood was not exactly bright. But it was great to get an invitation to hang out with some friends that night. And the day ended well, with 4 guys singing karaoke at 1 am. Wait a minute...

Monday, July 20, 2009

A crazy muddy weekend

So Friday we go out to the “Korean” version of Hooters. And this was much more like what you would expect Hooters to be in the US. Yes, they still had a dance, the women were prettier than the Korean Hooters (disclaimer, this is not my observation, it was from the colleagues I was with!) At one point it seemed that we were at a high school cheerleader practice, with all of these girls practicing their dance moves and giggling. We then went out afterwards, where my friend’s fiancĂ©e joined us, and she managed to completely miss a chair (she decided to sit down without checking to see if there actually was a chair). This was in a small room for 8 people, so it did not go unnoticed.

The next day was out to the mud festival. This year we decided to get hotel rooms, and try and make a night out of it. Which sort of happened. It poured rain, so we ended up staying in the restaurant for a while, drinking with random Koreans. Then off to a club that would not let in foreigners (yes, we get used to this), and then somewhere around 2 am, Gavin and I decided that it would be great to swim in the ocean. A smart idea given that we had been drinking? No. But fun? Tons. I took the waterproof camera out (and proceeded to get it filled with sand (it is not sandproof as my needing to fix it when I returned was evident). But a hell of an experience to catch waves and body surf at 2 am! We finished it off by walking onto the stage where bands had played earlier and mooning whoever was in sight. (Too much information? Just be glad you didn’t see it).

The overall day was a blast, although the weather was colder and windier than the previous year. So there were fewer people, and they shut down things like the mud wrestling pit, and the water slide. But we had plenty of fun, plenty of alcohol, and Gavin scared off as many people as possible by trying to hug them when he was covered in mud (although you should know better to walk through if you don’t have mud on!) We ended in the afternoon in the hot springs, a total blast, and MUCH warmer =)

Learning again about the ad world

My current project involves social media, and it is fascinating to see what is happening in this space. Specifically you are seeing agencies starting to compete for areas in the value chain, the customer voice is getting stronger (and actually listened to!), and you have some of the same old issues from before. I like this:

Zappos account review is written about, and 170 agencies request to be part of the pitch process (even though 16 were already in the mix!)

While the company has a valid point, 16 agencies was already a lot. Maybe agencies should stop undercutting each other. But I can't disagree with the idea of opening up your own shop after working in the corporate world ;)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I love this site (i LOVE this site, i could waste too many hours here ;)

What I miss and don't miss

Okay, after a trip down to Suwon today, I definitely don't miss the bus. I mean I made the most of it once I had my ipod touch (I played Scrabble, getting two Bingos over the course of the last couple of days). But the 2 hours on the bus? Not missing that at all ;)

But it was great to see the old team members, and I miss most of them. I do wonder, what happens when you see something that you really disagree with? Like a picture of a famous ad executive in the UK, wearing a bad carpet from the 1970s (I mean seriously? if you are in advertising, and talking about 90% of the ads are rubbish, I would say 90% of that coat is rubbish). But it makes you wonder, can you tell someone that what they are wearing just doesn't work? Like golf pants to work? (or some variation thereof).

So I am always feeling mixed emotions in this place (ie Korea). At certain points it reminds me of my time in NYC, when the level of stress was just always a notch or two above what it should have been. And you wonder, did I realize need to lose all of that sleep? Did I need to react so strongly? It comes with the territory, and probably being in a long-distance relationship means that you only have so much patience (and for my sanity, it goes to Michelle!)

And a few asides: Long distance sucks. It really does, and wedding planning long distance? Even less fun. But it came up the idea of why fathers give into their daughters. I joked, "if i can't understand my wife, there is no way I would be able to understand my daughter..."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Biblical weather conditions

There might as well be Niagara Falls over Seoul right now. The rain pouring down is amazing, just buckets of rain in addition to all of the wind, and the rain is practically pouring sideways (needless to say, not the best day to wear light colored pants!) Or to go to the acupuncturist for that matter! I also have learned where puddles form best in my apartment, one by an open window, and one by a closed window (huh?) Anyway, the weather is most certainly not dull now!

A quote I heard today (and wrinkles). "More lines than Grand Central" I like that one =) On a similar note, found a gray hair today, not overly wild about that. I wonder if Korea is similar to being the president (spend 4 years here and your hair will turn gray?) I am only partially kidding ;)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A weekend of missed times

So a busy weekend, but one where I definitely had hoped to get more accomplished! I went out on Friday night for a bike ride, feeling the need to clear my head from all of the craziness. Now keep in mind I had hoped to purchase a new spare tube about 5 days ago for my bike, but things kept getting in the way. A good 4-5 km away from my house I went over a sharp corner and felt the back tire end up not quite right. Seriously? NOT tonight...Yup, I walked back the whole way in a pair of biking shoes (I took them off for a point in time to go easy on my shins, at the expense of other parts of my legs of course...) So that was an ominous start. Then out to meet friends for drinks, we ended up as a group singing karaoke until 2 am. Somewhere around 1:30 with 4 dudes (we were all that was left), we wondered if this was perhaps not quite right...

The next day I decided to be lazy and sleep in (quite enjoyed that). Of course it meant that I could not make it to acupuncture until quite late, meaning that a hike or most other day activities were shot. I did pick up sunglasses, my suits, and multiple other things, but errands are not always to be classified as "fun" I am happy with my suits and shirts though! They look great at least! Basketball with friends happened to be rained out (and the two of us that were there didn't have a basketball...oops).

That night was out to meet a friend, we had Italian, awkwardly enough what was sort of a romantic place (not cool for two friends from business school). But it was a good sign when the owner got on the phone to give me directions, and I heard an Italian accent. You know the food has to be decent then! Ended up after in Hongdae, with friends of Richard's. But you know when the people you meet are focused on "getting lucky"? Needless to say it wasn't exactly the scene I was looking for. Especially not when I tried to leave the bouncer seemed intent on making me "stay behind the line" as I was asking him where the exit was. Finally when I was behind the line the absolute asshole listened to me. It turned out to be over the line and right behind him. Seriously, if you are a bouncer, listen before judging. It takes 2 seconds. And all I know is that I won't be recommending that club after that...(It is above M2 in Hongdae ;)

I did not join a group down in Busan for the weekend, much as I would have enjoyed that. This was under the expectation of seeing a friend's football match, which unfortunately happened to be rained out. (As I said, a few misdecisions over the weekend!) But I did manage to finally clean my bike, and then brilliantly enough, go out for a ride (and get it totally dirty again as the stream by Yangjae was very flooded, so much so that after 1 kilometer I decided to ride along the road. It was quite impressive to see however, almost a class 3 rapids!

What did I learn out of the weekend? No idea. I am trying to make the most of my limited weekends (especially in the summertime, and given that I don't know how much time I will have left). I did find a store called "Joo Money" however. I NEED a picture =)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why do people ask about wedding planning?

For me it is like asking how getting my wisdom teeth pulled was.

What is it about men?

We just don't do a very good job of keeping track of our eating. I had dinner at a friend's house, and was definitely filled up when I left. It was very cute that my friend's fiancee had me grab a whole set of food on my way out. She viewed his eating habits the same way Michelle views mine. "If I am not around, you are not eating enough good foot, especially fruits and vegetables!"

It was funny to walk into the house see a young girl (like 8 years old). Huh?? It took me more than a few seconds to realize that it was my friend's fiance's sister. Add to that a very young puppy, and the house was a bit crazy! He is in training to be a dad, even though he isn't even married yet!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Michelle's final trip to Korea

At least for now, since we know I am headed back in less than 2 months! She definitely had a great time, we went to a former colleagues wedding (he is in Brazil now, but married a Korean, in Seoul with a traditional Korean ceremony). The ceremony looked amazing, although poor guy was dying since the costumes seemed to be made for winter-time, and it was anything but!

On the Friday Michelle came we went shopping (I took the day off), and we found a dress for her, bought more shirts/glasses/etc for me. We won another stuffed animal at the shooting game (I SWEAR though that they made the targets harder, since we barely won!)

Michelle had her moments of being a prankster, running down the hall and jumping near the neighbor's door to make the dog bark (I think the neighbors may have moved, since there wasn't any noise...Maybe from her behavior in the past ;)

Finally on Saturday evening I went to another wedding with colleagues (Michelle was exhausted). It marked one more in a line of weddings this summer, which is crazy!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Back to the same stuff

I love watching the disconnects between the Korean staff and us. When we have projects that are voluntary but included in our "non-project evaluation" Huh? Doesn't that make it required? Yet the messages never seem to sink in, which is what is so funny about it...Granted I would not be laughing if i was about to start a 2 year contract here, but it takes time to understand the nuances and what really happens. And then time (or patience) to not take it personally (still working on that one of course ;) It has been amusing when they have the third email out about "not speaking loudly in the elevators" Apparently we are all children. As a result, I think we respond in kind ;)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Organizational Behavior

It has slowly started to dawn on me how the hierarchy really works here. Anyone who is not a VP cannot make a decision here even for the smallest thing like a vacation day (which amazes me sometimes still). At times you realize that it literally is like the army, no private will decide anything (likely not even when they can pee ;)
A meeting with the client, who has coffee with the one team member who did not join our kickoff meeting (also being the most senior person). but still, wouldn't information from our initial discussion have been important? (i ask this knowing that in korea it is not what you think they need, it is what they say they want). anything else may get you in trouble (even if it is legitimately what they need ;)

but the issue with not being a strong english speaker always amazes me. If you are head of an international division (or even manager level or higher in an international marketing group for example), shouldn't you speak English well?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Can we reprogram Korean TV?

Seriously, what is it about death and crimes on korean tv? not one sitcom over here, but almost every CSI/NCIS/Criminal Minds/etc at night on the English channels. And that does not include some bad action movies that i end up watching. True, we are supposed to have super fast cable, or i should download things on iTunes, but laziness wins out, and i end up watching some bad shows. and it really doesn't help a good night's sleep when half of them involve murders. you would think i might learn ;)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The problem with bloggers that they can be #@$%. I made a mistake in addressing a blogger (for some reason screwing up his name). Now instead of ignoring my email, he choosing to respond not correcting my mistake, but being very rude to my company as a whole. Now as I had written a number of emails, but specifically personalized not just the name but the subject matter of each one, a flippant comment like that only frustrates someone. And the funny thing is that this behavior is encouraged as bloggers get more followers. I suppose it is fine that the world has some people with no class, but email and getting a following entitles people to assume that they can act this way. The real kicker is that I can't respond, because I am writing on behalf of my company, and the last thing I need is to get into PR trouble. But people take their jobs seriously, but also make mistakes.

So I am deleting the last portion of this rant, mainly because the update is that he ended up getting in touch with me later, and we have had several interesting dialogues since then. It does remind me about the impartiality of email and the challenges that it creates, but you do realize in the end that it is a person behind that address.