Thursday, May 22, 2008

rant of the day

adjusting to korea has its ups and downs. and while i always try to find something positive about the (confusing) culture here, some days i just can't. yesterday was the most frustrating day in korea so far. i've been frustrated on many occasions right from the start, and somehow it always relates to the school: they gave us a shitty apartment, they did not give us time to get over jetlag, they did not give us a training, they gave me more classes, they made me teach teachers, etc. all kinds of last minute surprises, which is typical in korean culture. while i still hate the apartment, i don't mind so much the extra workload- i find it challenging.

so, yesterday. got into a bit of a discussion with my supervisor, who told me that i could use microsoft word to type a lesson, instead of the korean program, which i don't understand and haven't had a training for. turns out she changed her mind and still wanted me to use the korean program, even though i cannot understand it. when i asked if i could have a quick training, she laughed in my face. she told me that aaron and i were the only ones that complained about it, even though the rest of the foreign teachers complain about it within our staff room. and when i told her i just wanted to work things out and work on finding a solution, she walked out on me.

apparently, "finding a solution" is not possible in the korean workplace. back home, i learned that there was a solution for everything. i mean, i worked for one of the most popular tv shows in the province and god knows how many times we encountered problems. and we'd always work on it, sit all together and find solutions so that everyone is happy. and i loved that. we changed everything, we changed the office, we changed all the rules, we changed our daily tasks and we adjusted. if i was unhappy with something, i'd go talk to my producer and we'd agree on an understanding. it's one of the most valuable things i learned in the workplace, to compromise and work on finding solutions. i also learned to stand up for myself and speak up.

unfortunately, standing up for yourself and speaking your mind in korea is a big no-no. it's culturally unacceptable to say "no" to you boss or to express unhappiness. it's also impossible to work on things. it's a fact: even though 6 foreign teachers all complained together about the teacher's classes and presentations we have to give weekly, nothing was changed. they'll listen and nod to your complaints, then stick to their ways.

it's one of the most difficult things to accept for me while i'm working here. while i like the school in general and my students, i feel alienated from my korean co-workers. i already find it difficult to relate to them in general, but it's far worse in the workplace. some days i find it depressing to come to work and to have to put up with all that bullshit, but then i remind myself that i came here to travel and experience things outside work.

so that was my rant for the day, hopefully my next entry will be about something fun.

1 comment:

Sigil said...

yeah, it's all about leverage here. if you don't have leverage, you don't listened to, simple as that.