Thursday, July 10, 2008
Working with Koreans...
In my current work and from previous jobs, I've sometimes found myself working quite closely with colleagues in the Asian region. Something that can be both interesting and challenging with cultural differences and all that. This post however is my view on working together with Koreans!
Generally, Korea is probably the country most culturally close to Japan and there are a number of similarities as well as some differences. When talking about similarities, Korea is very similar to Japan in terms of relationships between customers, colleagues and women. However, Korea feels more like Japan was twenty years ago with very strict rules. If you are a younger employee, your job is to serve the elders and if you're a woman you are expected to serve the men regardless of age and/or position in the company. The same structure exists in Japan but it is less harshly enforced now in modern Japan.
Also, like Japanese salarymen, the Korean salarymen enjoy drinking *a lot*. If you think that the Japanese sometimes overdo it when you see the drunk salaryman on their way home with the vomits in the street in the morning serving as evidence of a hard night out on the town (but, regardless, they show up at work the next day and keep working), the Korean do the same, but they take the drinking to another level until people are passed out in the corners in the rooms. Still, the next day you are supposed to come to work with a smile, like nothing special happened the night before.
One of my Korean colleagues with whom I am on a friendly basis is usually very opinionated in meetings and doesn't like corporate bullshit, something I share with him so we usually end up on the same side, but the second his boss enters the room he turns into a mild lamb.
Also, every time I've worked with Koreans, the first question you get is "What do you think of the Japanese primeminister visiting the Yasukuni temple?". This is a question with a very obvious "right" and "wrong" answer. But as long as they get the right answer things usually go very smooth from there on. It's almost like some of them enjoy asking the question and when I was asked and responded "well, you know that even if I'm half-Japanese I'm a Swedish citizen and don't really have a strong opinion" I was met with dissapointment that they could not push it further.
But generally, in my limited experience, Koreans and Japanese work together pretty well and have plenty of things to bond over. Drinking is a big one, however, the Japanese generally don't eat the dogs...