Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Land of Opportunity You Say?

I saw this the other day and at first was tempted to post about it but then I decided against it and have since changed my mind yet once again. You see, the chameleon is in the market for a job but it is not as simple as just looking for any old job-been there, done that-no thanks. As anyone who has read my previous post knows I work in Korea but have traveled the world. I have been all over Europe, Asia, South America and even Australia. Not only do I have a passport that is full of entry and exit stamps but I also speak fluent Korean and Spanish in addition to my native English and I can communicate on various levels in Japanese, Italian, German and can understand Portuguese and a very small amount of French. But I am more than just a linguist, I am able to use sophisticated statistical analysis of complez business issues to improve performance, reduce costs and otherwise reduce defects-something that supposedly is a skill that is in high demand. Nevertheless, here I am with no new jobs and no news from companies that I have done telephone interviews with that I thought went pretty well. I am in a foreign country working for a company that generally takes pretty good care of its employees but sometimes takes serious prodding to get them to keep their commitments and quite frankly I would much rather be back in the US where I can settle down and persue the "American Dream". That includes having my kids get approximately the same quality education that I did and be able to enjoy the outdoors and good weather instead of the substandard everything that exists here in Korea.
So I am left asking myself the question-what did I do to myself to deserve to be cursed like this? why do I have to suffer like this? To those people that believe that "there is a reason for everything" and "we are where we are because someone else needs us there" I have to ask: does that include the children of those that have according to your screwed up system of rationalising things? Does that also include the financial future and prosperity? In your screwed up belief system is there anything I can choose for myself? Even the Buddhists that believe in destiny believe that suffering can be overcome through wisdom and knowledge and they believe in destiny... No I am not trying to attach anyone's beliefe system but I am at a point where I question very seriously why things are not going the way I invision them and so the particular belief system I use to understand and cope with my unhappy lot in life becomes very important. If I subscribe to the view that there is a higher power moving us around like little pawns in his game of chess than I might conclude that higher power is awfully bored or sadistic to be using my tortures as entertainment. If I subscribe to the mindset that the higher power is indeed like a loving parent that wants to give me all the nice things in life, protect me from the bad and help me learn in as safe a way as possible than I might have to conclude that heavenly being does not love me or has decided not to give me those good things in life. If I choose not to believe in a higher power at all than I have to conclude that somewhere I screwed up. No matter what, I am not finding a positive spin for this. Anyway, I am pretty discouraged about it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Indentured Servitude in Korea

I have often heard it said that with decreased high paying job opportunities that actually allow young Americans to live the American Dream, many of its citizens have traveled to points east in order to teach English in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China. I think this is a great thing that allows students to pay off the student loans quickly, save for graduate school, see some of the world and help them decided what they want to do with the rest of their life.

I belong to a sub group of these people. You might say we are quite a bit more hard core than that. The group of which I speak speak the local language usually with a suprising degree of sofisitaction and fluency. Typically we are not involved in teaching English-that type of work tends to be for those that do not plan on staying indefinately like we do. For the most part we work for major local companies and do what in our own home countries would be termed real work as opposed to standing up in front of a bunch of bratty kids to dance around, make them babble a few words in English and laugh. I think most of us were told many times in our life that learning a foreign language would be very beneficial, that it would be a key to success, riches and glory.

But therein lies the problem with it all. You see, this butt-nugget of advice comes from people that have either never been out of the country or if they have, it was with the military so their point of reference is a) picking up on chicks (being able to speak their language helps); b) jewing down people in the market that sell something the traveler wishes to buy or c) have something to show off later. These people have never worked for a real company doing real work so they have no idea of what the situation they are asking you to put yourself in. In Japan, the business world seems accustomed to the idea of having non-Japanese people in positions of significance where they are actually responsible for performance and are given some free rein to do things the way they see fit. China and Taiwan, I suspect, are not that way, however, as I really do not know, I will not speculate. Korea on the other hand I am initmately familiar with.

I have a professional position at a very well known Korean company. The problem I have with it all is that because I am NOT Korean, I am treated significantly different, even discriminatorily. It is not just me: there are other non-Koreans that are treated the same way. Undoubtedly someone will say-if you dont like it you can always leave. Slow down. As much as I would like to do just that, companies that are not Korean look at the experience and tend to say wow all that Korean experience is nice... exactly how do you foresee it benefiting our company? Or they start asking questions about the type of work that you did and in the end decided that you do not have the specific enough specialized experience which we accredit to the fact that the Koreans were given those jobs to do-not because we couldnt do it-on the contrary, we could do it better than the Koreans. But it is this lack of trust that causes us to be unhappy and want to leave to begin with. If you sepnd too much time here than your chances of ever going back are nil because you are too specialized and have very little of value to offer the US job market.

My conclusion: stay away from working overseas unless you are sent as an expat with the full package of benes or go to teach English for a few years to finance chasing tail and swilling beer but otherwise, not unlike the zoo, the countries listed above can be fun to visit-but it is highly advised to return home after your visit.