Tag Archives: parents



I always feel as if I am talking to a wall whenever I “talk” with my dad.  We are a pair of parallel lines.  I think I already wrote this for a million times – how he wants me to explain something, to have a “conversation,” or asks me about my thoughts; and how I state my thoughts; and him picking on me, usually saying how my way of talking doesn’t suit his preference, or how I am being rude.  Then I try to explain.  Then again he thinks I’m rebelling or something (I’m too old to be a ‘rebel.’ Please.).

If you have been reading my blog (thank you), you know what my culture-conscious solution is.  I just zip my mouth, say yes to whatever.  Then the household peace is realized.  My dad complains about it, saying how I don’t share stuff with him.  I don’t intend to do it, at least for a while.  Because, if I do so, there are things he doesn’t know, which leads me having to explain.  And if I do the “explaining…” you know what will happen (for the reference, read the earlier paragraph).

Here’s what really put me off.  He wasn’t the kind of dad who calls/e-mails his kid frequently, unlike some parents who sent their kids to boarding school.  Not even once I envied them or upset at my dad.  I didn’t get into any trouble.  I managed my daily life.  I did better than average.  All was good, without him directly intervening.

Then, all of sudden, after I moved in with my family, he complains how I don’t share stuff, and tries to execute authority on me.  If I were still a teenager, sure, I understand.  But I’m well over the legal adult age.  I have work experience.  His experience and my experience are two completely different thing.  I respect that.  He doesn’t seem so.  How can you share something and understand each other, unless both parties respect each other, and recognize they are different?

Long story short, here’s what happened today:

While I was busting my brain with LSAT and applications, he said maybe it’s a good idea to take a course in accounting, or finance whenever I’m free.  I agreed, and looked up for some courses.  It turns out all hagwons I could find were either for government certification exam, or using Korean SW (which, of course, is not used in countries other than South Korea).  What I wanted was a general intro class.  I felt exam prep courses are too serious for me, and learning only some Korean finance SW seems to be too limited and waste of money.

Then, I heard that though getting a job in the States might be tough, Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Japan can be different story.  As someone going for an occupational school and dying to secure employment in international Asian places out of South Korea after graduation, I thought learning Chinese can be a good option.

After weighing my options, I went for Chinese.  Yes, learning about accounting and finance is very helpful.  However, it’s not my immediate need, and it is less related to my goal.  Besides, I couldn’t find any courses that suit my needs.  If I get a job and luckily start to build my career, the finance/accounting knowledge will be handy only then.  Maybe I will be in MBA.  Who knows.  I’ll need them if I happened to specialize in tax/financial law.  But that ‘s not going to happen soon – I’ll be one of those pathetic 1Ls who are just struggling to stay afloat.  What I know is, it all starts AFTER I graduate and get a job.  And for now, my priority goal is to get a job in international Asian places.  I will have a bit more edge in the market with foreign language skill (which, by the way, I already speak two).

I was talking with my mom about potential Chinese courses.  All of sudden, my dad called me to come to his room.  Ooops, not a good sign, here it goes again.  Clearly he wasn’t too happy about my decision.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he said “are you not respecting what I said?”  He didn’t.  Instead, he kept going on, trying to convince me that I need to take finance courses.

Math is all about logics.  Wouldn’t you need it for case analysis and such? Wouldn’t you need it since you are going to law school? Like, case analysis, tax laws, and business law.”

– Er, well, pre-law courses I’m looking at are much more directly related (and if academic math is that helpful, I honestly think it would be better to go to academic math hagwon instead of accounting hagwon…obviously I didn’t say this out loud).  And, all that tax and business specialization happens after 1st year.  1st year, you just take common subjects and none of them are finance related.  I’m not even in school yet.  I don’t know what I’m going to specialize in, and I think taking finance and accounting courses then will be far much more useful.  I’m going to take Chinese courses, because there seems to be much more job openings in places under Chinese influence.  And that’s my priority at the moment.

What about the speech courses?
– It’s only about 8-10 sessions, once in a week and I can get discount.  I can do it while taking pre-law courses.

As you can imagine, he started to preach about my way of talking.  Dear God.  How I just cut in, make him uncomfortable as if I am teaching something, how listening improves the mood, etc.  If I need a speech class for that sense, he needs to be in it, too.  His speech is flying everywhere, so many times my mom and I have to “what ? wait what? what’s your point?”  And he cuts in all the time.  And he preaches.  I guess it’s okay when HE cuts in and not listen, but I can’t cut him in and not listen.  Another thing that puts me off.  Why does he keep pointing fingers at me, especially on things he knows no better than I do?

He concluded saying “I know less than you do in this field.  But I’m uncomfortable to ask because you just pour it out, as if you look down on me.”

Honestly, I’m satisfied with it.  If he really want my answer or explanation on something he doesn’t know, it’s him who needs to start to listen and not cut in.  From the beginning, I have had no intention to “look down” on my dad.  It’s him who feels that way – like hundreds of other Korean men.  Few days ago, I read an article by a chef and a high-end restaurant owner.  They all agreed how Koreans get angry whenever someone tries to correct/teach the proper table manner with good intention.  Quoting from them: “it’s the inferiority complex.  For some reason, not knowing and someone merely pointing it out is translated to ‘oh, right, this guy is slighting me!'”

I do pour it out and I do cut in my dad.  Why? I usually spend a lot of time thinking through, and usually have my answers ready when someone asks for my reasoning behind certain decision.  And I don’t want to have a long conversation with someone who regards my statements and reasonings as “being impolite.”  I guess it’s kind of “you asked, here’s your answer, done.”  I don’t want any nonsense stuff raining on me just because of someone’s authority.

If he knows that I know a bit better, than maybe it’s better to leave me to handle this.  After all, it’s my burden and it’s something I can’t just pass to others.

I wonder when he would accept that his world and my world are completely different, have even a minimum understanding of why I act “impolite,” and stop rubbing his values in my face.

Why is it me always have to say sorry?


You’ve probably heard stories about Asian dad.  Though exaggerated, it does have some grain of truth.  Tell me about it, because I am living with one, and I bet you know some of the past troubles if you’ve been reading my blog.  Sure, he’s not the worst and he’s doing his best.  But what drives me absolutely crazy is that…there’s no “communication.”   He says it’s conversation/communication.  Well, not really.  It’s more like him lecturing. 
Tomorrow’s my big day.  So I prepared everything and planned what I will to today before going to sleep.  My parents know it is my big day.  I will be fu*king anxious and touchy for all day (and, readers, it will be easy to infer that I will go nuts if something doesn’t go like my plan.  We all do, no?)  It will be a long day tomorrow, meaning I will need a nice snack.  There’s a particular bread that I know which would be a good snack for a day like tomorrow, so I bought one and came back home. 
What if my dad eats it away, like he always does?
The thought has occurred, but I soon thought, naaah.  He knows it’s my big day tomorrow.  He really wouldn’t think it is coincidence that there is a single loaf of small chubby bread with potato fillings on the table, from a store that is not near from our home.  He knows better.  Besides, after doing the same thing over and over, he developed a habit of asking “okay to eat this?”  Yeah, it will be alright.
As I was preparing my early dinner, my dad came.  So we ate together.  He didn’t ask for more food.  Usually, he goes to his room or watch TV after dinner.  That’s what I expected. 

I dropped by my room to check my materials for tomorrow.  I came out, and could not believe my eyes.  The bread bag opened, my dad munching a good half of the bread away in one bite, saying “this is greasy.  Ew.”  You can imagine how I got really flipped.  Or how my face would have been turned white.
“Why would you eat that!?  It’s my meal for tomorrow!  You know what’s coming up!”
My dad looked like a bit startled, and said he will get another one, but I really did not care.  He can’t tell the difference between bread shops nor where’s the place.  Or what kind.  I was pissed, and all I could do was wishing that the bread store is still open, and the bread I got is still there (it’s Saturday and breads are sold out quickly on Friday and Saturday).  I just slammed the door and ran out. 

 Fortunately, I was able to get the breads.  While I was angry because of his thoughtlessness, I knew it would be better to not to make a big deal about it (it’s hard to stay calm and relaxed before big day, and that was my primary aim for today – to stay calm and go to bed in a relatively good mood).  Alright, if he’s there, I’ll just joke about it or keep myself quiet.’
He was in his room, so I thought “right, no big deal, I’ll just play some game and watch TV and go to bed.”  He came out from his room, as if he is going somewhere.  All of sudden, he said to me, “don’t you think you have something to say?”
Oh no.  You got to be kidding. 

According to the Asian rules of indirect communication, that is roughly translated as “you did something bad and you’d better apologize for it.”  But hey, here’s my question.  One, though I was pissed and it affected my mood control before big day, is it really that much of a big deal?  Two, if this really is a something to decide guilt and innocence, is it my bad?  For both questions, my answer is no.  In addition, it is my big big day tomorrow.  And he’s picking on a fight.  Fuc* me.
I simply said (speaking in honorifics), “look, I got the breads again, so it’s all sorted out.”
Guess what his response was: “Oh, so it’s just that simple, huh?”
I was like OMFG LEAVE ME ALREADY ALONE YOU ALREADY SCREWED MY MOOD CONTROL BEFORE MY BIG DAY but of course, instead of saying it, I said, “Yes, indeed.”  He left.
I mean, is it really a big deal though I’m not too happy about the incidence?  Does he want to set his “authority” that badly?  Even before his daughter’s big day, in a situation like Eminem’s Lose Yourself lyric?  (“You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow”).  So as you can see, I ended up blogging because I needed a release.
Honestly, it’s not just my problem.  A Korean-American friend of mine once told me: her parents would just break into her room without knocking.  That part is understandable.  Well, but whenever she’s startled by this sudden break-in, somehow, SHE has to apologize for nothing.  She’s not on drug or sneaking some boys in.  It’s not a big deal, but if someone has to apologize for this situation, it really should be her parents.  But somehow, she ends up apologizing.  It drives her nuts.
Another Korean-American friend of mine has a lot of similar stories with me regarding his dad.  He understands his dad isn’t the bad guy and he is doing what he can.  BUT still, it irritates him whenever his dad goes “we need to talk,” but really he means “I will give you a long lecture and you don’t dare to speak back to me.”  So, my friend found a nice solution, just like mine: whenever his dad says something , he just shuts and say “oh, yes, you are right, I’m sorry.  All good?” 
Dad might get some authority and keeping of his face and no-talking kids, but not a communication.  So Asian dads, don’t ever complain about how your kids are shutting you away and you feel isolated from the family as time goes by.

Living in the World They’ve Never Experienced


A friend of mine – let’s just call her Jane – is a so-called “international student” in America, working on her MA and PhD degree at U-Penn.  Recently she finished her MA and went back to America to work on her PhD.  As Jane’s mom drover her to the airport, they started chatting.  The topic soon went to her MA graduation:

Jane’s Mom: You see, the professors’ gowns were really pretty.  I guess Harvard is actually a better school than Columbia or U-Penn, indeed.  Like, the Columbia and U-Penn gowns were all strange blue and not as pretty as I thought.

Then Jane started to cry, saying

Jane: What, are you ashamed of me because I went to U-Penn, not THE Harvard?  Did you want me to go to better school?  I could have gone to Harvard, and I picked U-Penn because you talked about tuition all the time!!!

Her mom is not very sure what she did wrong (or, I suspect she thinks her daughter is being sensitive).

As someone who went to boarding school away from parents for many years, I can totally see why Jane was so hurt.  Living away from family and going to school bring lot of stress.  All the other kids can just call up their parents, and they will be there in a day or so.  Not us, though.  Our family is 13+ hour flight away from school, so you are pretty much on your own.  There’s no safety net and we know it.  On the top of that, non-citizens constantly have to update and care about all the regulations and stuff, especially because it is getting so much tighter and tighter (all thanks to Bush and Islamic extremists – go to hell, all of you).  Of course the local kids don’t have that.  After all it’s their country.  This goes on every single day.

On the top of that, the Korean culture is all about connecting their kids’ school name with keeping the family’s face up, and indirect communication.  Parents complimenting or supporting their kids’ choice is scarce, when compared to western countries.  I don’t know for how long my mom pestered me for not going well-known (in Korea) Ivy schools and choosing a lesser-known (in Korea), mid-sized college.  I had to repeat that I want to be where I like for four long years, and I want to do what I want in college.  Well, if it worked at one shot, I didn’t have to repeat myself, right? And honestly, I can’t really think of times when my mom complimented me.  I can think of so many times of her screaming at me, though.  Which I will blog in detail later on…

Long story short, parents, please keep in mind that your kids know how Korean culture is all about school names and keeping up to the family expectation.  And also do keep in mind your kids are living in a world that you have never experienced and will never know every day, with great amount of stress, knowing that they don’t have safety net like other kids around them.  Please do not think they are all fine.  Just let them be and let them relax in peace.

I just like movie, that’s it, so stop making a big deal.


“I didn’t know you liked movie that much.” said my dad.  I just shrugged and answered, “well, who doesn’t like movie?”  I expected this movie conversation to end at this point.  Instead, my dad turned to my mom, and kept going on.  “Since when did she watched that much movies?  Was it from junior high, or highschool? college?”

Now my mom was confused a bit too, just like me. “Well…” she said, “she was in Midwest, and there’s not much to do except sports and weekend movies.” I nodded too.  It was a small, suburban Midwestern town.  You don’t have that much option on entertainment, unless you have a car, or can do drug or drink loads of alcohol.  I did neither of them – I did not want to get kicked out from school.

So I couldn’t really understand why my dad started to have this idea of me being a big film fan.  Sure, I like movie, but I don’t think I like movie more than average people.  If you think that’s wrong because I talk about this strange Asian movies and Hong Kong film stars, well, I’m Asian living in Asia. Duh.  I took a film class in college, but that was just for one semester.  I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either.  I am nothing like Tarantino or Spielberg, who loved movies so much that they started making their own film from teenage times.  Besides, if I really liked movie that much, I would have gone to New York University.  I couldn’t help wondering what gave him such an idea.  But I couldn’t really ask him directly, since I was scared of “offending” him again.

It turned out that since I memorize all the western names of American/British actors so well, he thought I am a big movie fan.

Understandable, but really, me memorizing western names so well isn’t because I’m a big movie fan.  I grew up in States.  Almost everyone around me had names such as John Radstone, Skyler Woskobski, Sarah Crnich, Tim Schnake, and so on.  Kims and Chois make minority.  Compared to other Koreans, those “foreign names” are not that foreign to me.  So name like Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Armitage and Jake Gyllenhal aren’t big deal to me.  Frankly speaking, I feel like I get the western names more quickly and easily than Korean names.

“Er, dad,” I said, “it’s not that I am a big movie mania.  I like movies but no more than average.”

“But how come you memorize all those western names?”

“She’s just used to it.” My mom intervened.

“Yeah, like…I spent so much time in Midwest so I’m used to hearing and memorizing all the western names.  And I watch more American and British TVs than Korean.  That’s it.  It’s not like I am a passionate movie fan or anything.”  I said, and looked my dad’s face.  He looked pretty confused and disappointed.

I couldn’t help thinking about a fellow TCK (Korean background)’s blog posting.  After she came back to Korea, she kept bombing her English exam.  Her parents thought something is definitely wrong with her – their daughter was speaking fluent English, but kept failing her English exam!  The thing was, she could not understand any of the grammatical terms in Korean.

Time passed, and she started to learn another language other than Korean and English.  Then everyone, including her parents, started saying, “oh, it would be easy for you, you speak some foreign languages already anyway.”  She was confused, because she never really thought of herself as speaking a foreign language.  She grew up, living with English language.  One day, as her dad sad another foreign-language-thing, with a lot of gut, she said to her father:

“Dad, I’ve never spoken in foreign language in my life.  Not once.”

You can pretty much imagine her father’s face.

Parallel Conversation


If you really want to annoy the f*ck out of me, there are two things you can say.  One is “hey, your thigh is thicker than before,” and another one is “see all that ‘foreigners’ settled in foreign country and working?  You did not try hard enough.”  No, seriously, before I even think, my fist will be on your face.  I could deal with my qualifications not fitting with the job description.  I could deal with the appearance of a total genius candidate.  But what I really could not deal with was unable to even apply for the position (especially when your qualification fits with job description!), because I did not have the US citizenship, nor green card.   I almost had someone who was so close hiring me.  I thought my hard effort earned it and life is fair.  Oh well, the employer canceled everything.  If the whole thing is screwed because of my own folly or something I could not consider, it’s fine – it hurts, but I am to blame.  Now, if you worked really hard and prepared the whole thing meticulously, but the whole thing was screwed up because of some factor that is totally out of your control, that hurts.  A lot.  Immigration regulations and my nationality is pretty much out of control.

To be honest, there are moments when I almost want to blame my parents for not preparing the residenceship.  I know some people who were in similar situations with me, except the fact that their parents “prepared” the residenceship beforehand.  Almost all of them are now settled in the country of their residenceship.  But I know blaming my parents is no use.  They did not know better, I got good education, and whining doesn’t help.  I should not blame since I’m benefitted then others (another TCK trait, omg).  And it’s not that I did not try (but I must admit, if I ever happen to have a kid like myself, I will make sure he gets a legal right to settle down to the country where he spent most of his life, or the country that is known for bustling diversity like Singapore).

So it annoys the shit out of me, whenever my parents – especially mom – say things like “there are lots of other kids who got a job and visa sponsorship,” “you should have gone to schools in East/West coast, there is geographical discount,” or “it’s unfair how people who studied less with majors like business are having better times (applying LSAT contrapositive, another way of saying ‘my majoring in arts and letters was a waste’).  What is done is done.  Why keep poking at the past things, when doing so gives us nothing? And, like I wrote before, I did all I could do.  There were too many uncontrollable factors, such as sudden change of immigration regulation and recession.  So I came back to South Korea.  Then I figured what Korean society expects me to be isn’t something that is me.  In addition, my parents and I are from different world (literally).  Conclusion: I don’t want to be here, and I need to leave.

The reason why I am studying LSAT and plan to go to law school is precisely that: I want to get out of here, and I will settled own somewhere that is not South Korea, preferrable somewhere with more individuality and diversity.  However, while being the LSAT student I had my doubts.  Back in good old days, graduating from law school pretty much guaranteed a job.  For people like me, that would mean job + residenceship.  Now, even law graduates from top 15 schools have difficulty getting a job – meaning even lesser chance for “internationals” like myself settling down.  My LSAT score is crap, which certainly does not help the situation.  Fine, let’s say I totally win LSAT with score like 175+ and can go to Yale law.  Still, it would not guarantee that I get to stay in the States or somewhere else other than South Korea, because I am still an “international.”  Yup, I had some motivational problem but I keep studying anyway, since I don’t see any better options.

Tonight, as I eat my supper after struggling to stay focused on my LSAT questions in vain, my mom did touch my pet peeve.  She mentioned something like “there are other kids who got their visa sponsorship just fine…”  Though I did not say anything right away, it really shook me.  After supper, I said to my mom, “mom, please do not ever say that again – how the ‘other kids’ got their ‘visa sponsorships just fine.'”  Bit startled, she said she understood.  I was still shaken.  Few minutes later, I asked her again, “do you really think I returned to Korea because I did not try hard enough?”  She said no.  Ah, relief, but I really do not want to her saying it again anytime in the future.   “Mom, seriously, I really want you to stop saying about ‘the other kids’ again.  It’s no different from me saying ‘the other parents who prepared citizenships beforehand.'”  Then she went on saying I’m saying complete gibberish.

What’s the difference?  I could say it, but I don’t, because I know we did not know better and it is no one’s fault.”  My mom said I can’t say such things because they are the *giver* and I am the *receiver*.  Oh god, here we goes again – so Korean.  Did I ever say I am ungrateful for whatever they are giving me? Heck no.  The conversation then turned its way to another direction.  Basically, my mom said she and my dad are not very happy about how I communicate with them.  In other words, they are unhappy about how I don’t keep them updated and share all the details.  “Say, the last time you said about you had to go to the interview, I was stunned.  I thought you were studying for your LSAT and law school, and there you were, going for the job interview!”  This I understand her.  But for me, I kept telling her there’s bigger possibility for me to take another year off (and obviously I’d better do something!), my LSAT score isn’t great and I know it since I am the one who studied and took the test.

The story I told her is this: I tried to share the detailed plans and worries.  In return, all I get from you were just another scolding, no empathy, no solution.  So why would I go through another trouble, when my hands are already full with my own shits?  So I stopped.

Then my mom said that’s not how communication is done.  Well, glad she now realized (sarcasm).

Even if you get the job, do you plan to go to law school?” asked mom, and I said yes.  “But then, wouldn’t it be hard for you to focus on one thing?  If I am to go to law school, I think I will keep all the job stuff aside.”  Like she said, my number one focus for now is LSAT and law school.  But as I said before, that is to settled down in another country, other than South Korea.  That being said, if there is some other channel that makes my goal come closer, I will take every single opportunity.  Thus I finally said, “my goal is to leave this country, and that is why I am studying LSAT and will go to law school.  If getting a job makes my goal possible, I’ll take it.  I know maybe it will be flunked in the middle.  Job and law school, it’s just two different channels for one goal – leaving here and settling somewhere else.  Besides, I never caused you any troubles.”  I think my answer shocked her.

Why do you want to leave here that badly?  You are thinking too highly of yourself.”  said my mom.  I said “look, mom, I don’t think I am higher than any other people.  It’s not the matter of someone sitting on the higher horse or vice versa.  It’s just I don’t fit in here.  I don’t like what they expect me to be to fit in, and the Korean company interviewers know I’m not their best fit either.
How do you know?
Mom, I had a handful of job interviews with Korean companies and I worked in a Korean office, dealing with other Korean companies.
What makes you think Korean companies don’t want you?  You know, newspaper articles say they will hire more people on 2011 and the hiring process will change.  And can you really say you had a proper experience of Korean office, when all you had was some experience in school, doing things like secretary and mediating between school and business”  I can’t believe she still believes the newspaper articles!  And even if the experience was training-like middle ground, if you don’t like the middle ground already, you know you won’t like the real ground.
Mom, what they want is an obedient Korean.  I’m not.  Some others can but I can’t.  There are things I can compromise and things I simply can’t.  This society asks a lot of me to change, when most of those things are uncompromisable things for me.  And believe me, I’ve seen enough of Korean office and their expectations, precisely because I worked as a mediator.

Then again, just like sometime in the past, she said she doesn’t understand me because she knows so many other kids who studied in States yet successfully got a job here and settled down just fine.  She also said I’m extreme, like having no one to hang out in Seoul.  I said, I have friends, it’s just that they are not in same region and I do keep check them over Facebook.  Then my mom questioned whether they are my real friends.

The conversation, again, was running in parallel lines – never converging, always running on two different tracks.  I know she didn’t even look at the book, Third Culture Kids.  I just shook my hands.

Look, mom,” I said, “this is precisely why I don’t want to share.”  I think my mom kept saying something.  I just returned to my room, printing off LSAT explanations.  Then she followed, saying how I always stop talking and leaving the room is why we can’t “communicate.”  How can we really “communicate” when all she talks about is ‘some other kids,’ not me?  And whenever I use analogy, she just says ‘that’s different?’  I just opened my room door and asked her to leave.  She did, after me repeating myself.  So here I am, ranting on the blog, with thicker thigh as an aftermath of 2 weeks of home-grounding due to my sickness and once-in-a-month-woman-thing.  I know this is a terrible thing to say, but I wish I were Bertie Wooster (I won’t go as far as saying ‘with Jeeves.’  That will be asking too much).

I seriously need to leave.  I hoped Santa to get me a new passport.  He didn’t come.

How to do Interview in Korea – 3 (My World, Upside Down)


I’ve been away for a while.  First,  I sweated myself too much on MCAS Excel and PowerPoint exam.  It turned out to be 95% same with the sample questions given from my MCAS training course.   Way to go, Korean hagwons.   So this means I am halfway done to getting my MCAS certificate.   Second, we had a short lunar new year holiday.  This is one of the major holiday in Korea.  The traffic goes crazy and all major retailers launch massive campaigns.  Just think of Thanksgiving.  Third, I have been busy, preparing my materials for Korean-style job preparation.  I know many Asian culture prefers perfect orchestration and preparation done before the real deal, but man…I keep wondering “do you really need all of this?”  You almost always begin with self-introduction.  Duh, what’s the difference? In States, it’s pretty much casual – you mention a bit about your background, maybe hometown and college.  Then you mention some activities you’ve done and describe your strength (the former often used to support the later).  Lastly you thank and say you are happy to have a chance to interview with your potential employer.  Done.

Well here, you almost have to be a adviertisement copywriter.  You have to come up with some clever punch-line.  More the better, and even better if you can make each one for your strength.  Although you are asked to do self-introduction, it’s really about you saying about your strength.   You might wonder, “but they didn’t ask about my strength…?”  Welcome to the high-context society, pal.  By the way, they will ask about the strength later on.  I assume that the reason of this grandiose self-introduction is the difference of interview environment.  In States, it’s almost always one-on-one interview.  You might get multiple interviewers, but it’s always one candidate per interview.  However, in Korea, it is VERY common to have up to five candidates per interview.  You will be compared.  I really do not like this – when I first had the Korean style interview in Korea, I almost thought I’m in a beauty pageant, if not slave market.  And let’s not forget about hierarchy and mean questions, which is unlikely to be asked in States unless you are applying for tough, testosteron-filled world of Investment Banking in Wall Street.   I haven’t come up with my punch-line self introduction.  It’s hard!

Before the last week’s job session, I wrote out my personal statement given by one of the employers here, and sent it to the specialist for review.   According to his advice, my sentences are long, some of them are a bit colloquial and I will have to diversify my answers.  Sure, no problem.  But his last comment summoned my Korean community nightmare.  It was on the last question: “where you will be after 10 years from now on? What do you want to do in our company?”  My answer was to be a helping hand to both company and foreign candidates who are working in Korea. For the intro, I briefly mentioned that Korea’s low familiarity, lack of diversity (when compared to western world) and closedness tend to push away many qualified candidates (and from there, developing how I can be a help for the problem).  The specialist says, “It might sound as you are trying to teach these people.  We are not writing an academic thesis paper here, so forget that part.” Only after I gave him more description – that I am not aiming for getting any job here, but for something I can work as a liaison between foreigner and locals, he said “well, in that case mention some of the troubles they are going through, and how you can be a solution.”  Hello, that’s what I was trying to do.

One thing I always had a trouble with other Koreans was that “teaching” part.  All I try to do is state my opinion, thoughts, feelings and/or position clearly, for the better communication.  To many Koreans, often older ones, accepted this as I am challenging their authority, being rude, if not cocky.  This is why I deliberately avoided using words like vegan and homosexual because 1) if I use a concept they are not familiar, they will think I’m showing off and 2) many of Koreans are homophobic.  In short, they are pissed because this youngster – I – don’t follow whatever as they said (I sometimes see this from my Korean dad, too).  They all preach about how wonderful US is and how it is better than Korea, but even in States they stick to a principle that works to their advantage.    On the other hand, I never had that kind of trouble in States with Americans.  In the statement, I was just trying to develop some ground for my thoughts, yet Koreans will look at me and think I’m just being cocky.  And they complain about how these smart young candidates are unwilling to do “hard work” and foreigners always cause trouble in office.

Next we did the mock interview session again.  Most of the questions were about social issues.  You don’t really ask this in States for job interview.  What’s the need, as long as you can do your job and fulfill your responsibility?  Well, welcome to the Asian wonderland.  You are almost always asked about this, and your opinion can actually affect the decision.  Unfair, but I know – it’s not US of A.  Usualyl I’m pretty good at this.  I was asked about the founder’s direct management vs CEO system.  So I gave definitions and mentioned pro and con of each system.  Then the specialist says, “this question is often asked by company under founder’s direct management.  So you’d better ask something in favor of the system.” Er….okay.  But you didn’t give me the context.  I sometimes wonder this specialist guy is trying to break me.  For this question, other participants complimented me that I gave a really god definition and said it in a very confident way.  The specialist didn’t, and like I said he mentioned the context only after I finished my answer.  There has been some more dubious moments, but I’ll keep it for now.  And again, I was said that my posture and manner looks “too cool, not passionate.”  Fortunately, there was another participants and she was somewhat like me – never raising her voice.  She, too, was constantly advised to change her attitude.

I know.  Like I mentioned multiple times on my posting, if I have to change myself completely and act something that I am not, and to be judged by it rather than the content of my voice, I really don’t know what to make of it.

The more and more I do this mock interview and job process session, increasingly I realize that I am way more objective and unemotional than average in Korea.   Some of it is because my parents.  They are 100% pure Seoul natives, and all urban natives of the world tend to be viewed as cold, direct, objective and rational.  Both of my paternal and maternal relatives are Seoul natives.  Then I grew up States, where it is encouraged to 1) be yourself, 2) state your opinion clearly, 3) be emotional is a sign of immature, and 4) be objective.  Now, I am living in a country, where being yourself and clearly state your opinion is a sign of immaturity, being objective and rational is a sign of lack of passion, if not impolite.

What a fun to have your world turned upside down to be shaken, regardless of your will, and forced to be bear with it, just because I speak the language fluently and looks like one of them and have my nationality document bearing its name on the paper.

No wonder why I want to get the fuck out of here.

Two way road


From my personal experiences, and also according to my acquaintances’ anecdotes, it is just so hard to have a good, healthy and rational debate with Koreans (some say Chinese, too).  I am not talking about how Asians and Westerners differ in building their logics.  A lot of Koreans just cannot detach their emotion from what is discussed, let the topic be sexual minority, recen politics or childbearing.  In addition, Koreans seem like they just have to shove this “South Korea is #1 in everything” idea to everyone else’s throat.  To many Koreans, if you question that, you are flat wrong or flat stupid, because (to Koreans) it is universal truth and they have a mission to make sure everybody agrees with them.  They just can’t bear a single negative opinion on their home country (yet it seems like they have a tad more tolerance of white European foreigner saying negative things than their fellow Korean-looking foreigner saying it).

Making the matter even more complex, I am a biological Korean who does not feel that much attachement to South Korea, grew up in typical American way – speak up and be yourself! – and have very objective parents.  In college, I was anxious when another Korean student started bashing on Japan.  If I stand up for Japanese, I’ll be the witch.  Stuck between American and Korean pals put me in a complex situation.  The Korean student wants to spread his mission mantra; American either disagree or unwilling to listen this mantra.  And I was in dilemma: I want peace, but if I say “let’s talk about that one some other time” or “Errr…I don’t think so,” I’ll be the most wanted person among the Korean community.  On the other hand, if I join the “South Korea #1 in everything” mission, I’ll probably become just another “that Korean girl.” Oooh, what do I do, what do I do?  Can we just all be happy and peaceful together forever?

I am not a pitbull always on a search for something to kill; if I sense the ugly argument looming, I usually cut it out or leave the place physically.  But what if another person gets all emotional and keeps throwing at you, unwilling to accept and see the difference as it is – even more just because I am Korean on facade with native language skill – what should I do?  How should I behave yet be myself, under a culture that frowns upon being direct and firm?  Especially when people like me – who knows the language well and have the looks – tend to get a lot more cold eyes and disadvantages, because I think differently yet have all this external qualities of “one of them?”

As time goes by, more and more I realize that every good work – good communication, good sports score, good craftmanship, good performance – is not a just one man’s work.  Everything has to be in its place, doing its job, giving its best.  Likewise, a good communication is a two-way road; everyone has to be willing to listen and agree, as much as they are willing to speak.  If another person is not ready to agree or listen, it won’t work out at all.

St. Paul is known for his missionary work in Greece.  He converted many not by lecturing, but engaging into a dialogue – he visited the town’s plaza and academy almost every day, having a sincere discussion with Greek scholars.  In the past, I used to think it was possible only because of Paul’s awesomeness.  Now I re-think about this, it was possible because the Greeks knew the basics of debate.  Back in ol’ days, dropping by your local academy or plaza and engage into a discussion was a form of popular entertainment.  They were ready to listen and speak.  Would St. Paul’s missionary work through conversation be that succesful, if he were with hunt-and-gathering primitive tribe in Amazon? (No intention of talking down of the primitive forest-living tribes, I am just throwing this as an example of people who are not quiet ready for debate, listen, and able to accept the different opinion or belief).

The more I think about it, I feel that the good communication does not happen with one genius.  Both sides need to be ready to listen and accept the difference and study how different they are from each other.  If there are more people in the world who are willing to listen and accept the difference and diversity, the world peace can be found right around the corner.  But sadly, as Machiavelli said, “Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.”

I guess mankind still has a long and winding road to the world peace.

And why did I get so philosophical, all of sudden?

Dec 18-20 Weekend sum-up


Dec 18 (Fri):  I really didn’t too much.  As usual, I did my 90 min Bikram yoga, showered and came back to home sweet home. Innisfree was having a “buy six get one free” campaign for facial mask sheets so I bought 6.  Mum saw it and took one once I came back home.  I said, “every time when I ask you if there is anything you want me to buy on way home, you said there’s nothing and now you take from me…” Mum accused me that I am being cheap over a mask sheet worth $1.30.  Maybe I am.

Dec 19 (Sat): Had a weekend work shift until 2 pm.  I really did not do much though – I just reviewed my job application and submitted it.  Talked with a good friend of mine.  We have a lot to catch up.  She said we should meet before the Christmas, but we will have to see.  Came back home, do nothing but watched two movies.  The 39 Steps (2008’s BBC remake version) and 24 Hour Party People.

The 39 Steps was fine – I know it has received massive amount of negative reviews, I liked it.  It felt like watching an old black-and-white classic adventure movie with fast paced plots.  And on the top of that, they got a good-looking man as a main character. Which is a big plus. Yup, like a critic wrote, this guy is a male-version Audrey Hepburn (I don’t know whether this is a good thing or bad thing).  Maybe I’ll check the Hitchcock version too.

24 Hour Party People is enjoyable for fans of late 70/s-80’s music, new wave, post-punk, synth pop, New Order/Joy Division or Manchester music scene.  If no, you might find this movie really, really strange and boring.  Fortunately I am the former and I enjoyed it.  But still, the ending was very random.

Dec 20 (Sun): Woke up at 1:30 ish.  I had a brunch meeting but due to the lack of participants, it was cancelled.  Met Kevin to get my hookah coal tray and screen at Seolleung station.  Then I went to my aunt’s house by subway.  I started to read Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945.  To my knowledge, I ordered a paperback used book on Amazon.  For some reason, the seller sent me a big-ass heavy hardcover edition, originally used for some library in US.  It’s good that I got something more than I paid in terms of value, but it is impossible to carry it in my bag and read on my commute.

As I get off to transfer subway line,   a Korean man about 50-60 years old talked to me in English: “Er, philo? Greek? Latin?” I always get confused whenever this happen.  Is he one of those random annoying scary people found at subway stations? Do I have to speak in English or Korean? Did he mistake me as an Asian American/Canadian/British who speaks no Korean?  South Korea is not the country of best diversity, and many elders just do not get it when Asian-looking person does not speak Asian language.  Some of them even get emotional when Asian-American/Canadian/British speaks in English.  So I made a safe bet – answering in Korean.

“No, it’s written in English.” “Oh, I see.”  Since he and I were all on our way to transfer, he kept following me and asking this and that in slightly broken English.  Oh, I get it: maybe he wants to practice English.  So I started to mix my answer in English and Korean.  He said he had been living in France and Belgium for about 10 years; he came back to South Korea around 2002.  As you might already know, South Koreans have this English fever; so he, too, decided to give it a go, especially because having a French base is a good advantage for learning English.  He seemed like a studious guy, regularly checking BBC news, Le Monde and Figaro: he also had some knowledge of Greek and Latin, and he continuously asked “how’s my English?”

We eventually started talking about my workplace.  He said he knows a professor at the university’s theology school.  Turns out, that professor is a husband of a program director/business professor whom I work with. The conversation was not continued because I had to get off.  But wow, what a small world.

My aunt’s house is not actually a “house.”  It is a building located a bit away from the main street of one of Seoul’s downtown areas.   The building is originally built for offices, but my aunt’s family decided to change the top floor as their living space.  The only drawback is…it’s freezing cold in winter.  The construction worker did not think it as the living space, so the heating system is designed for office building, where you don’t sit on the floor.  My mom and I decided it’s not the best idea to visit them on winter – don’t get us wrong, we love them a lot and their cute shi tzu.

My aunt’s husband is from Kyoungsang Do, a southern state of Korea, nearby the ocean.  So I had a chance to eat a piece of grilled shark meat.  Disappointingly, it was not the funky new taste.  It was just like a big piece of white fish with salt.  But still an experience.

So overall, not a bad weekend, I reckon.

Hard-knock living with parents. I mean father.


Talking about parents – it’s challenging to live with parents after all that independent boarding school life in middle of nowhere, in the country that scores like 91 on individual independency test.  Especially my father.

Seriously...let me be.

Yeah, seriously. Let me be.

Now all of sudden, just because I moved in back with them, he wants me to treat him like good obedient Korean daughter, and yells at me over not telling him about my career decisions.  He just go to “so you did wrong to me, no?”  Thanks for treating me like 15 years old crazy junior high girl, especially after your daughter has been living in midwest without any acquaintance and in boarding schools, successfully managed to finish my academics and life.

Not that my father did not care about me ever, but for the most part of my life, he never directly called me unlike other fathers.  Most of my words were passed by mom to him.  He’s got a job in a medical field as a professional.  He never experienced the office life.  His time and my time are different.  He admitted that when it comes to business and office life, he doesn’t have much to say.

As a grown up, I can reach out for advises but I ultimately make decision.  That’s how it should be.  As a member of family I let them know about my decision.  Then he gets flipped over because I just didn’t tell him – over something he doesn’t really have an idea.  Even if I do, he just interprets in whatever way he wants to, rather than listening to me, and forces me to agree with his interpretation.  If I add more explanation, he thinks I’m being impolite, talking back.  He said if I don’t want to listen to him, I can just answer either yes and no.  So I tried to go by simple yes/no approach.  Then he just asks and asks and asks for more answer, again calling me impolite and not really taking his words seriously.  It’s like vicious cycle.

Sure, he’s still my dad and I thank him for working hard, supporting the family and not causing any disaster.  But I really don’t want to engage into a conversation with him.  I really wish him to just leave me the fuck alone and stop being nosy, just like it used to be.

PS: Some of you might ask “then why do you still live with your parents?”  There’s no stigma of living with parents here.  It’s very common.  And if there is a chance, I will be more than happy to move out – I’m actually juggling with some plans.