Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An Unpleasant Week

Let's say you're a company looking to recruit more international employees. Let's also say you've got a batch who've made it through the interview proccess and have agreed to spend the summer as an intern to get a feel for the place and vice/versa. What would be the best way to welcome such a group?

I don't know, but what isn't the best way is to imprison them in a dorm, quarantine their electronic devices and hand out poorly translated rules that are contradictory and/or nonsensical. But what do I know?

I'll admit this seems like a bit of a harsh judment (largely in light of my enjoyable weekend which should be described soon enough), but had I written this around 6PM last Friday, I'd have probably been much more critical.

The biggest problem was that our security badges were not available/active until Wednesday night. Since the dorms are located w/in the secured complex, this meant we couldn't enter without an HR escort, effectively imprisoning us inside the complex. So, fine, we have to stay put. Oh, but wait, external electronics are a security threat, so no personal computers. So no skype, or any phones (we did get cell phones by the end of the week). And on top of the security at the gate checking us, there's additional security at the dorm. Where we have to sign in when we enter. Presumably this additional security is to ensure that we do not 'disturb public moral' and that we're not 'drunken'. Never mind that we were taken out for drinks our first night and warned during orientation that it is common Korean business practice to frequently go out drinking with coworkers and that sometimes this might last past midnight if karaoke gets involved. Also no food in the dorm (there's no kitchen). I haven't been this locked down since I was locked away at the academy in high school. Also there was the rule about being in the dorm by 11pm and that we had to stay until 11pm. Some mistranslated nonsense. Which we signed. In addition to the Korean version that had 4 additional bullet points that they decided we didn't need to know about.

Combine this with the jetlag from only arriving the night before and a week of going 8am-6pm of orientation and just the general adjustment period of being in Asia again and I was sick of being accomodating by Friday and just wanted to be free to go wherever and do whatever (turns out whatever involved tequila).

But enough ranting. I actually feel kind of bad for the HR guy in charge of us. He's clearly stressed about the whole situation and is working to get things resolved (most of which has been done). The dinner Monday night was highly entertaining, complete with drunk/angry guy busting into our private room and throwing a fit. I'm not sure if our dinner hosts or the restaurant staff was more embarrassed, but the profuse apologies all around were as amusing as the guy.

And the most important corrections (the 11pm curfew and 'no staying out overnight' rule) were resolved in time for the weekend. Actually, we were questioned when we rolled in at 4am Friday night/Saturday morning. I gathered that the security guy was concerned that we missed the 11pm curfew, but his lack of English and my utter lack of concern resolved the matter quickly enough. He later approached while I was making the last entry and asked something about if I had had a lot to drink. I said yes and he seemed satisfied.

It still seems that the security guards like to stare at me, but they just bow politely when I look back, so I guess everything's ok.

Either way, I'm optimistic that the work I'll be doing will be interesting and if my first weekend is any indication, Korea should be an entertaining time.


  1. Well this sounds cheerier than your last existentialist post. Are the 12 other people with you pretty tolerable?

  2. Wow, that sounds like the Academy in Korea. You should ask if you can sign out to study at the library.