Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Talk about almost missing a flight

My last two days were supposed to be relaxed, with only 1-2 things to deal with. It turned out to be ANYTHING but. I had lunch with a friend, had to run around to pay bills (before the movers could move things from my apartment). Finally, after not finding a person I was supposed to meet (they were giving me a check for some of my stuff I had sold), I hustled back to my apartment and headed to the airport.

Now I learned something at the airport, or several things, and not many of them were pleasant...The line on Asiana was SUPER long, and being Silver status on United does nothing for you (and they were really rude about it in fact, especially given that Korean Airlines does offer privileged boarding status for Silver members). When I finally got the front of the line, they would not accept my ticket, since my Alien Registration card had expired (I should have asked for a single entry after my previous flight in about 8 days earlier). I had to go to immigration, which had a line, and make it back in the span of about 15 minutes. At a dead sprint across the airport, I managed to get the stamp I needed (and give up my poor registration card), and ran back to the nearest counter. Made it, but just barely...Needless to say I won't be flying Asiana again at any point soon ;)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Busy last Sunday

So I had several things to accomplish on my final weekend, starting with picking up a scroll that was going to be used for the wedding guest book (with the logo that Michelle's cousin drew). It was super cool to go there, he served us really good tea in this elaborate tea ceremony (he had three containers that the tea was transferred between!) The scroll itself was enormous, I have no idea where we will hang it, but all details for later).

Then it was back to the apartment to try and give some stuff to my friend Sunghee (who was the translator for the scroll and tea ceremony (she has been such an invaluable help over the past couple of years!). She walked out of the apartment with everything from a picture to a mammoth bag of toilet paper.

Then the day ended with my last basketball game, and I scored the last bucket, a reverse lay-up. At that point I needed to pull a Kostanza, “thank you, I’m outta here!” What a way to end!!

Bittersweet farewell

It seems so strange to slowly move out, and realize that you have no idea if/when you will see some of these people again. I had an interesting moment though involving a going-away party. This is a poll I would love to ask a bunch of people. I know that in general for Koreans that the most senior person pays for everything, but for many going away parties, I feel like the foreigner pays. I wonder if that is because you are no longer part of the group, or if it is making the most of a situation. But I did appreciate all of the last minute lunches and what people did for me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blistering hot, beautiful palace

Went to Changgyeonggung today, a palace with a 90 minute tour (a world heritage site, which I have heard means very little even though it sounds impressive). Very nice sights, cool buildings, some stuff overlooking lakes, and temples in a forest in the middle of Seoul. I can't believe it took me so long to get here, but glad I did! Just wish it hadn't been about 100 degrees and humid ;)

Meeting members of the new class, good people, and happy that they are starting on a new adventure (mine will be adventures, just different, and different location). Would be nice to overlap with them more, but perhaps better that the grumpy old guy leaves sooner ;) I remember two years ago pretty well, funny to hear it from their shoes though!

Short-term versus Long-term

A question I have, even if I know the answer. Why is there such a focus on short-term here in Korea? (not that the US is much better, but still) Executive decisions are made on a quarterly basis with often too little regard for long-term sustainability (ie cutting marketing budgets if sales drop even a fraction). But the interesting one for me is a lack of understanding of ramifications. Granted this could be due to the military like focus and that everyone is a cog in a wheel (and therefore doesn't think of these consequences). But as I leave (on a sour note or two), it makes me wonder, there isn't much thought about former members being brand ambassadors, or potential partners, or even willing to work with Samsung in a different role (ie not Korea). I hope these things change, but perhaps this is just American idealism...

Why I don't like Korean negotiation

So I had an issue with my contract, my return city was the wrong one. And I had mentioned it before, but made the mistake of mentioning it again, and I just have a feeling that they don't even look at the original contract (probably just a fixed budget, which is pretty high) to move people back home. But of course in traditional Korean style it is a point used against you (well, we helped you fix this portion). What is interesting is that you would expect to realize that others might know this ploy (and it sets a bad precedent, and maybe people more likely to not trust you later if they have heard about this example). But the other element that I wonder about (and i have heard too many times about Korean negotiation is that nothing is fixed - even if you have settled on points 1-4, when you get to point 5, the previous points might be brought up again). And you wonder why there is a bad reputation of Koreans in Asia involving negotiations...I digress, but I will say, it is not the way you want to end your time. But lesson learned I guess?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Half self-service

What is this exactly? I am still not quite clear on what half-self service means. It was at one of the local hamburger restaurants. And the funniest thing? For having "self-service" the restaurant had a total of maybe 10 tables, and about 6 waiters. Something doesn't seem right with this math ;)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Too many 14 hour flights

So over the span of a month (or less), I will have made 2.5 trips to the US...Which means FIVE 14 hour flights. It gets tiring to say the least. When you have watched 5 movies and you still have at least 4 hours to go, you know it is brutal...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Trips to NYC

So a couple of trips to NYC, whirlwind ones lasting less than a week each. It has meant that my body has no idea which way is up. But it is nice to be back in the US, seeing Michelle (and the occasional friend). The current one is to meet with companies for the current project (we’ll see if I can get some wedding stuff done as well. But I finally had it with the work computer. The battery literally lasts 10 minutes. 10!?! And we make computers. Mine is about 5 years old, weighs maybe 10 lbs, and with no battery. So everything goes through personal email (because we don’t have webmail for security reasons). It AMAZES me, truly ;) And this was impressive. The business trip approval (outside of the fact that there are portions in Korean, even within the “English version” of the travel system), it took approximately 30 minutes to complete it. Productivity? Maybe next year ;)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Image Conscious Society

With my cousin in town for a weekend, I did my best to show her around Seoul, from my favorite areas to the main tourist spots. We went out to Eden on Friday night, with my Ukrainian colleague, who had no problem dancing with his backpack on his chest and a pen in his pocket (gotta love someone who just doesn’t care!) But my cousin was highly amused by the dance floor (including a guy who could have been out of a model shoot, who was standing on the dance floor (not moving), with sunglasses, as a girl paid him a lot of attention. His movements were restricted to occasionally putting his arm around her. “Okay, so this is a slightly image conscious society” was the key take-away. This was fully confirmed when we went out shopping and Laura was looking at a dress and the owner came up and said “No. One size only” Yup, one size in most stores. (All of the anorexics of the world would be proud). We joked that when we went to the “plus size” area that this was where you could find a size 2 ;)

Overall the weekend was a lot of fun, we ate some great food, saw friends, had drinks at the Ritz (the Garden restaurant, which was beautiful), and got caught out in the rain. Sadly I had to leave before she did (a business trip to NYC), but one of her friends from Tucson came up from Busan to spend time with her. So in good hands in the end!

Sunday, August 2, 2009


So apparently in Busan there is this term called “Hunting” where you have thousands of people on the beach at night (women in heels of course) trying to “meet” each other. Ah Korea, the land where men and women meet in typically awkward ways (blind dates, booking clubs where the women are forced to sit down at tables and guys pour them drinks, and now “hunting”).

This is a new low

So I think one of the balances when you know you are leaving to try and find a balance between knowing that the company has little invested in you, and the hope that they will treat you well. I remember struggling with this before (for example, do you give someone a promotion on their way out if they are going to school, since it is little skin off your back, and it can create a lot of goodwill?)

I have perhaps fewer illusions in a Korean company, partially due to bigger difficulties in negotiations (and how often the excuse is used: "company policy" Now what is funny is that "company policy" is often selectively enforced, and often a local knows how to get around these policies, but I digress...) But the latest one I heard (thankfully not to me), was when a friend was dealing with an issue, and when something needed to be done (or should have been done), the response was "I don't want to stress out my baby" Wow. I am waiting to hear some priceless lines on my side. (Some of this stuff is so good you wish you had a video camera).

New model or new model?

So when Samsung announces is largest lineup of new models in China (see link), you have to wonder, it is the phone or the women on display? Definitely a double meaning of the word model ;)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Back to the Chinese

So on Saturday we went over to my friend Haes’ house for some drinks. What was meant to be a much more energetic night turned into a very lazy night, with literally 3 of the 5 people asleep while watching a documentary on Dubai (I am still not clear why it was chosen). But there was a crack made about one of their classmates marrying Chinese (with an apology thrown my way). I turned “none taken, after all, the odds are what, 1 in 5 that you will marry a Chinese?” Just think about that one for a second ;)