All names that appear on my blog posting are either shortened or changed for the sake of individual’s privacy.
A very good friend of mine, Annabell, is a TCK like myself – a Korean, she was born in Seoul, South Korea, moved to Kuwait, went British school there, lived a bit in UK and USA, came back to South Korea, then went on to USA, and then back to good ol’ Korea. Her first job was an executive secretary at a very well-known Korean conglomerate. For sure she experienced, heard and saw lot of stuff, and still she has loads of horror stories to be shared to this date.
One of the thing she told me about was how everyone just passed their job to her, disregarding that she already has works as much as others, because back then she was the only & the best English speaker/writer in her office (she studied English literature in USA – you can’t beat her when it comes to English). Her colleagues really got on to her nerves, saying stuff like “well, hello, NYU graduate” right on her face, when she was just trying to get the job done. Well, but when there was an English call from foreigner or their foreign office, everyone panicked and looked for Annabell desperately. She said she can still remember that ear-popping high-pitched screaming from the end of hallway – “Annabell!!!!! English Call!! Your call!!” Every time she hears this, she was so tempted to give them a nice middle finger and ignore. Of course she couldn’t. Whatever involving English, it was automatically pushed to her, on the top of her daily, full loaded executive secretary assignments. So in fact she was doing two parts of works. Whenever she tries to mention this and amend the situation, the answer was always same: “but it’s easy for you/it’s nothing for you.”
Once, some manager came over and asked her to translate a contract, written in English. Like a sane person, she replied
Annabell: Well, shouldn’t you get a professional translator out of corporate expense, especially because this is a legal contract? I mean, it’s not a happy-new-year e-mail.
Manager: Oh come on, getting translator is too much hassle and money.
Annabell: (looks at him blankly for 3 sec) alright, but before you ask me for translation, you and I are going to write an agreement saying you are asking me to do this, I’m not a professional translator, and I am not responsible for any of losses or mistakes caused by unprofessionally translated contract, signed by you and I.
Manager: What? Come on, it’s easy for you.
That’s pretty much what Annabell had to go through on daily basis, not to mention her inhumane 20 working hour per day. Basically, she was taken for granted. Yeah, sure, in terms of English it is, but you have to remember that is not her only job. Quoting from Annabell, “boy, I hated it so much that I almost wanted to sucker-punch them in the face.” If there was anything that helped her bearing 2 years was 1) thick paycheck and 2) unlike other senior executives, her boss was working as much as she did.
And not too soon after since I got an office job in South Korea, I found myself in pretty much same situation. It was not a big deal when I was a total noob and did not have much responsibility of my own. Then, several responsibilities were assigned to me, and pretty much everyone in my office said it would be hard for them to help me out, because it involves me so much English and the structure itself is different from other jobs. So I was on my own mostly. But I still got all that other works on the top of new assignments. Then, on the top of all that, another charge was added on. Som e of my coworkers began to blame me for making mistakes and not paying enough attention, forgetting that I saved their ass. When I threw my white towel and asked for a break, they did not get it or thought I am making such a big deal, being a stuck up. I even heard one saying “well, actually we can do all that English work you are doing.” Then why do you ask me to do it? Go ahead, take it. They also said “we thought it would be easy for you, because you speak good English. Why didn’t you ask us for help earlier?” Well, you already said there’s not much you can do for me, and I really don’t think anyone could be a big help for me except leaving me alone and let me concentrate.
Naturally, I started to stop voluntarily greeting non-Korean office visitors. You said you can do it, go ahead, do it. But then, as soon as some white/black/dark-skin/high nose/blue-eye guy pops up in the office, and say something, everyone just stares at me. Like saying “hello, there’s your guest!” No, you said you can do it as well as I do – so why stare at me, like I’m the only person who can do it, and why get so pissed when I say ‘I’m the only one who’s doing all English stuff on the top of Korean stuff?'” I fucking hate it whenever they do that, and obviously, sorry for the innocent guests, I can’t really be nice like I used to.
I keep thinking life would be so much easier for me in South Korea if I did not have that Mongolian look, let alone fluent Korean.
PS: HS is still spilling my beans all over, before I even mention it (reference). I’m not gonna go on to using abbreviations on business e-mails.