10 things not to tell anyone at work, in Korea

I’m on LinkedIn. LinkedIn will sometimes recommend articles for me to read and since it’s important to know what’s happening in the writing-articles-for-LinkedIn world I sometimes read these articles.

*Wrote girls instead of articles up there. This happens when I listen to rap music*

There are a lot of articles about what to do and what not to do in an office. The last one I read had 10 things not to talk about in the office. But how relevant are these tips to working in a Korean office? Let’s find out!

  1. Salary or money details This is a moot point in a Korean office since everyone has a rank and everyone in theory is paid the same amount as everyone else of the same rank. Also, those directly above you know how much you get paid because they were the same rank you are within the last 4 years. I know there are AT LEAST 4 people in my department of 16 that know my salary and benefits (ie, same as everyone else of my non-existant rank).
  2. Intimate details about your love or sex life – I’m sometimes asked if I go on many dates. The correct answer as the only foreigner in the office is that I never have any dates. I spend my time at home with my cat and I feel lonely, thinking about my family. Or so I’m told.token white
    That said, some people will boast about their sexual exploits. If you’re a foreigner in Korea, NEVER boast about your sexual exploits, especially to Korean men. Even if they initiate the conversation. Besides being very unbecoming of a gentleman, I don’t need to know what you said you did to someone I don’t know and in all probability do not want to meet now that I know what you said you did. More so if I know this person.
  3. Whether and how much alcohol you drink – I’m surprised drinking ability isn’t required on Korean résumés. Every interview I’ve had I’ve been asked me if I like drinking within the first 5 questions; the first is usually if I’m married.  ‘What’s your religion?’ is usually in the top 5, too.
  4. Political views – I’ve been in Korea for two presidential elections. Sometimes my coworkers will ask me who I would vote for if I could vote (not a citizen so not a right I have). I always answer with “Which one has the better foreigner policy?” as I would vote for my interests. This is an acceptable deflection since Korean presidential candidates usually don’t address this kind of issue beyond American forces in Korea or foreigners in foreign countries perceived to be doing anti-Korean things (China & Japan, basically).
  5. Religious views – One of my ex-bosses was pretty religious. One of the first things he asked me was if I am Christian. I’m Greek Orthodox so when I’m asked “Are you Christian?” the person asking really means “Are you my Christian?”, typically some kind of evangelist, rarely Catholic (Catholics tend to say they are Catholic, not Christian).
  6. Non-pc jokes – Basically don’t discriminate against anyone. Unless they are are not like you and your group.
  7. Your Facebook account – The only people talking about Facebook are the ones responsible for our fanpage (me included). The others don’t have Facebook so it may as well not exist. That said, we have an understanding in our office where we are not Facebook friends, even though we all share admin on our fanpage.
  8. Medical details – We have an incompany clinic. There are always two doctors, one for transmittable diseases; he always wears a surgical mask; and one for injuries. They will always ask if you were drinking the night before if you see them on a Wednesday of Friday as Tuesday and Thursday are the usual company drinking days in Ulsan. Because it’s incompany and because the company covers 50% of medical costs (not dental unless it’s for your children), it is difficult to keep health issues private. Some of the older workers prefer to go to non-company clinics because they think their health issues will have an effect on their employment status.
  9. Gossip and negative comments about co-workers – There is always gossip. It’s human nature for people to talk about other people. Why would it be any different in an office? I always hear gossip about other people but I usually don’t know them or if I do know them they are usually not important to my carreer prospects. One of the perks of being a contract worker is that there is no need to shine your superior’s shoes. As a contract worker, there is also NO CHANCE of promotion (ergo no benefit in shining your superior’s shoes). Besides, if the foreign guy knows the gossip then sure as hell everyone else does, too!
  10. That you are looking for a new job – Obviously. Though whenever someone has said they are quitting (that is, the contract workers; permanent workers don’t quit), the permanent workers seem to be unable to understand why someone would quit a job at such a prestigious company. You get lifetime employment. You get education paid for your children, college included (as long as you don’t retire before they enter college), and guaranteed promotions & bonuses every four years up to general manager level. Of course, contract workers don’t get any of these benefits.

So how relevant are these tips? Not very, since what you regard as personal information is usually common knowledge among those that outrank you.

If you’re interested, here is the original article.

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