I’m calling it. Remote working just doesn’t work in South Korea.
I’m a month into my remote working journey. I’m surprised, confused, proud and exhausted that I’ve made it this far.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, I have largely avoided working from home. I have had an odd couple of days at home here and a few half-day in-person meetings there. But mostly, it has been me at a desk in an office with endless supplies of sugary snacks and shit coffee.
South Korea has not made working from home a mandatory thing over the last two years. We are now in our fourth wave of the pandemic, and social distancing restrictions are the toughest they have ever been. So tough that the Level 4 social distancing rules have a policy stating that gym-goers must ‘maintain a treadmill speed of 6km/hr or slower, replacing high-intensity aerobic exercise with low-intensity aerobic exercise’. That is an actual rule. Mandated by the government. Sure, you can work in an office and eat in restaurants until 10 pm, but don’t you dare run too fast around people?
There have been guidelines and ‘suggestions’ for keeping office capacity at a certain level… Buuut most companies are keeping their workers indoors. In offices. On subways. In restaurants, during lunchtime peaks. It’s preposterous. I am a Melburnian, and although I didn’t struggle through 2 years of lockdowns like my friends and family, reading the Korean social distancing guidelines actually makes me feel embarrassed.
The startup I work for is working entirely remotely. It’s not going well.
When I moved to my new company a month ago, I attended my orientation online. They shipped a laptop out and said “good luck”. Well, they implied it anyway. I had seen people do this on LinkedIn. I knew it was a thing that happened a lot last year but experiencing it for myself, ugh. I had a 9:30 am meeting to get introduced and then that was it. No email from my new boss. No mention of what I’d be doing or who I’d be working with. Just. You know… have a good day!? Yeah, cheers.
So what does working from home do for the Korean population? Ah, why it gives us more time to work of course. No commute? No worries! Just add on 2, 3 maybe 4 extra hours to your workday! You’re not commuting anymore so you have more energy to work!? You’re at home so work during your lunch break!
Behind Colombia and Mexico, South Korea have the longest working hours in the developed world. On average in 2020, South Koreans worked a total of 1,908 hours in a year. Back home in Australia, my homeland, people work 1,683 hours per year. If I lived in Australia, I could have an extra 200 odd extra hours in my year to sleep or eat a proper meal or actually complete the projects I start in my spare time.
While nobody in my company is forcing me to work overtime, the overwhelming majority of the staff in Korea are sending emails and slack messages at all hours of the day. Our teams in other global offices are also largely working remotely, but they are not replying to our emails and messages at ungodly hours of the evening.
So, the only conclusion that I can draw is…. working from home just doesn’t work here in Korea.
Staff are always going to feel pressure to work long hours no matter how they are working. It is the nature, the heartbeat of this nation. As I said, we are not being forced to work longer hours. It just sort of happens. But you can bet your bottom dollar that I clock out on time every day. I have way too many failed hobbies and sources of joy outside of my work to waste my life working overtime.
An emergency that requires immediate action? Overtime work, sure. A deadline that I have to meet or other people are affected? Overtime? Yes, I’ll do it. But normal Monday evening on a summer’s day with no obvious mishaps or deadlines? Overtime? Absolutely-fucking-not. I mean, *priceless*.
All I can say is, man, I really hope nobody from my company reads this.
Good luck out there people, and don’t let work get you down. Take care of yourselves, your brain does wonderful things when it’s fed and rested.
This was originally published on my Medium blog – go chekitout.
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Walking through my neighbourhood this week, I captured the essence of what summer looks like in South Korea. Empty coffee cups everywhere. Empty packets of cigarettes. This area has a lot of office buildings and it is not uncommon to see office workers standing around smoking and drinking a LOT of ice coffee. Yes, even during this pandemic.
I don’t know what Korea’s obsession with iced drinks is, but it is obviously making sense during this heat wave here in Seoul. However, it is pretty common to see people drinking these in the winter. Any office I have worked in has had a pretty consistent background noise of someone fetching ice from a fridge or dispenser of some kind. People need their beverages iced and they need them now.
With the window illustration in the background of this image, I thought this moment was so quintessentially Korean. It’s as though the two characters are admiring all of the coffee cups that have helped fuel workers throughout their day. Like, ‘good job you guys, you’re doing good work here’.
Of course, the bigger question that this photo alludes to is a nation’s obsession with plastic. I haven’t really spoken about it on my blog but Korea is plastic-obsessed. Things are wrapped up in plastic, bagged in plastic and served in plastic. The problem is not the plastic, it’s that people don’t seem to care.
The day I see a majority of Koreans using reusable bags for shopping and reusable cubs for their coffee order will be a miraculous milestone. But spoiler alert, I don’t see it happening any time soon. As long as the consumers continue to demand highly efficient products and services, without any consideration for plastic consumption, the big conglomerates will continue to provide. It’s that simple.
A real change needs to happen on a day to day behavioural level and I honestly think it’s going to have to come from K-dramas, K-pop stars or some kind of social media movement. That’s a long way off in my mind considering that people are still trying to figure out that feminism isn’t about hating men.
How to Make Korean ‘Bibim’ Cold Noodles
This week I was asked to evaluate some delicious Korean foods that are being exported to the Australian market. One of the items in the package was ‘Bibim Noodles’, aka Korean cold instant noodles that are perfect for summer. I thought it would be a good idea to make a video on how to make Korean ‘Bibim’ cold noodles. I have a sneaky feeling that western people don’t know a lot about making cold noodles. So here it is! The people asked, and I delivered.
I have to admit, when I first tried these ‘Bibimmyeon’ or ‘Bibim Noodles’ back in 2017, I was not a huge fan. I am happy to report that after being reintroduced to them for this project, and I am already a huge fan. We only have one packet left!
In Korean ‘Bibim’ means mixed and ‘Myeon’ means Noodles. So they are literally mixed noodles. They can be served either warm or cold, but because of this sweltering Seoul heat, I decided to show you how to make them cold.
This video contains the simple steps needed to make the cold noodles. All you need to do is boil some water, cook the noodles, drain the water, mix the noodles in some cold water (and ice!), add the sauce and mix! I added some colourful peeled cucumber, seaweed and chilli flakes for the fun of it. I really enjoyed making this video and I decided to edit it with a really chilled, ASMR type, in the cafe listening to jazz piano vibe. Enjoy! Let me know if you have tried Bibimmyeon in the comments!
Watch the full video on YouTube here and subscribe to my channel!
Korean Cold Noodles
More Food Content
🍋 Hola Hola! 🥭
This week I got to sample a bunch of yummy Korean products that are entering the Australian market. It is part of the KFoodies program! I am not usually a fan of Aloe drinks but these Hola Aloe flavoured drinks are delish! The whole household has been enjoying them this week so the bottles are looking a bit sparse in my post (oops).
I have been loving the Mango flavour with a handful of ice, some soda water and lemon. I’m hoping this will make the bottles last longer 🤞🏼. The pomegranate is also SO yum with the same combo. I’m not going to lie, I always judge books by their covers and the packaging wouldn’t grab my attention in the supermarket, but the colours of the drinks would be enough to pique my curiosity.
This sweltering heat wave has me craving sugar, icy poles and fresh and juicy fruits. The Hola Aloe drinks are a great alternative to those sugary drinks your dentist tells you not to drink! Perfect for an Aussie BBQ and is something everyone can enjoy in punch or on its own!
Let me know if you’ve seen these guys in stores or if you love aloe drinks!
Note to self: next time I have to review a product, take pics BEFORE posting so they don’t look half full!
Have you been wanting to explore new parts of Seoul? No? Oh, that’s cool! Oh, you don’t live in Seoul and this post is irrelevant to you? But you want to know anyway for when you inevitably travel here in a post-pandemic world where life is free and maskless? Okay, cool. Let’s see Hannam!
Hannam is a wealthy suburb in Seoul located next to Itaewon, conveniently situated in front of the Han River. It is a great place for shopping, cafe hunting, photo taking and it’s great for spying on some of the most expensive houses in Seoul. It also happens to be where our beloved BTS members live. I highly doubt they leave their house and I also highly doubt they spend a lot of time in their homes. So where do they go? Who knows. But I can guarantee if I ever saw a BTS member on the loose I wouldn’t recognise them without makeup and a Louis Vuitton ensemble.
My cafe recommendation for this area is Summer Lane Brunch. It is an Australian style brunch spot located in Hannam (or Itaewon, I’m not sure how Seoul geography works). If you are looking for some Aussie brunch and coffee, this HAS to be the next cafe you go to in Seoul. Here are the deets:
Summer Lane Brunch
49, Itaewon-ro 55ga-gil, Yongsan-gu Seoul, Korea
Opens 7:30 am to 18:00 pm every day
How to Get Lost in Hannam:
After you fill up on Aussie sausage rolls and Duke’s coffee, head in the direction of the ‘Nine One Hannam’ apartment complex. On your way down the stairs, you will find cafes, clothing stores, pubs, book stores and everything else you need to live a cultured and colourful Insta-worthy life.
Nobody likes furniture shopping, especially not when you are an ex-pat in a new foreign country. Unless you have a lot of money and boatloads of spare time. After this blog post blows up the internet, maybe I’ll have some of that. When I first came to Seoul, I had no idea how to buy furniture for our tiny apartment. Now that I’ve been here for two years, I know a thing or two about the best places to shop for furniture here in Korea both online and offline.
Last year, I briefly worked in a Korean company as an interior designer. We are all still scratching our heads and trying to figure out how that happened. I learned a thing or two about how not to buy furniture. I was a terrible interior designer. But here’s some advice that doesn’t suck.
Where to buy cheap-ish furniture in-store in South Korea
Full disclosure, I am a huge fan of furniture and homewares. If you are just after basics to get by with, check out Facebook groups and also Craigslist Seoul. But, if you are buying new bits, these are some of the places I have purchased cheap items from or dreamed of buying from (in no particular order).
Special mention for homewares goes to…
Jaju is one of my FAVOURITE homewares stores in Korea. ‘Jaju’ in Korean means ‘often’, so they sell all of those items in your home that you use often. It is very much like a Korean version of Muji but with more colour and more of a Scandinavian feeling. If you are looking for storage solutions, textiles, cookware, kitchen utensils, rubbish bins and other small storage furniture, definitely check out Jaju. Most Emart supermarkets have a Jaju located in their stores. Jaju is owned by Shinsegae who also own Emart supermarkets.
So, if you are sick of buying cheap, low-quality items from Daiso, hit up Jaju! They also have cute pyjamas and clothing items which I am currently eyeing up!
Where to buy furniture in South Korea online
There are so many great sites in Korea for buying furniture online. If Korean is not your strong suit, I recommend viewing these sites in your browser. If you look at them in your browser, you can easily translate the pages into English to help you navigate to the products you need.
These are just some of my favourite places to buy furniture online in Korea. I have used most of these sites so I can definitely recommend them. You may need someone’s help ordering things online if you are new to Korea!
Where to buy mid-range furniture in Korea (in-store and online)
Muji – Great products but they are quite pricey and there are very limited styles
Hanssem – One of the top furniture brands in Korea and is kind of similar to IKEA. Hanssem has showrooms all around Korea with a range of low-price to mid-range furniture. Hanssem has amazing customer service in-store, I can highly recommend them if you are buying new pieces for your home.
iloom – I have never shopped with iloom but they are another top brand in Korea. I personally really love some of their designs but I have no experience with their website or customer service.
Casamia – I have never shopped here but I often go into their stores to gawk at their huge sofas and beautiful styling. Keep an eye out for their sales!
Upmarket furniture in Korea
Department Stores like Shinsegae or Lotte department store
Yongsan Living Park has a great range of furniture that is on the pricier side and is located right above the train station. There is also a Hanssem store there!
Bonus Round: Where to buy a bed in Korea?
We bought our bedhead and mattress from Brandless last year and we absolutely love it. They are really affordable and have a lot of showrooms around Korea for you to go and test out their beds. Definitely my favourite bed store in Korea!
Want to see my house?
Last year, I made a video touring my house here in South Korea! A lot has changed since we filmed it so I’m thinking I might need to make another one.
More home content:
If you have some more tips and tricks about furniture shopping in Korea, help a girl out below.
This morning, I went into my office for the first time in a few weeks. We have been working from home for the most part due to the recent wave of covid cases here in South Korea. This week, we are moving to a new office on the other side of Seoul. Tomorrow is our last day in our Myeongdong office that sits right in front of the Cheonggyecheon stream.
On my morning commute, I decided to prolong entering our building to walk around the area, take pictures and enjoy a warm coffee. This won’t be the last time I visit this area, but I just wanted to soak it all in. I had so many good memories in this area in summery Seoul in September. Somehow it didn’t have the same charm on this particularly chilly winter morning.
This move has come at a great time, we can kick off our 2021 in a brand new space!
Korean word of the week ‘방콕’ or ‘집콕’ ~ it means to stay in your house/room and do nothing. It is also spelled the same way as ‘Bangkok’, so if someone asks you where will go on holiday, you can either say ‘나는 방콕 갈거에요 = I’m going to Bangkok’, or ‘나는 방콕 할거에요 = I’m going to stay at home and do nothing all day’. 그래서, 오늘은 제가 하루종일 방콕 할거에요! 여러분들도 집에 계속 있으면 좋겠어요.
Last week, I posted this word on my instagram and thought I would put it up here for my 3 readers! This word has a new meaning now that most of us are staying inside, away from public spaces and keeping our distance. I thought I would share it here! Have a Merry Christmas and I hope you are staying safe and sound.
Here are some of my recent ‘방콕’ style videos from my channel! Enjoy.
Hi job seekers, are you having a hard time finding a job in Korea? I’m sorry to hear that, but it’s also a pretty normal and common situation to be in as an expat. So it’s fine. It’ll be fine. You’re fine. BUT, just in case, I’m here to give you some handy tips on how to get started with what may feel like a never-ending quest. I have a degree in job rejection, but luckily I got a PhD in bouncing back. First, let’s break some things down with a series of questions to see where you’re at, and then you’ll get all of the juicy links to the sites and the things.
First things first, what kind of visa do you have in Korea?
The type of visa you have is the key ingredient employers are looking for in Korea. If a job description explicitly states the visa requirements you must fulfill, make sure you fulfill them! Wow, what great advice!
Do not bother applying for jobs if you don’t have the correct visa. It is a waste of time for both you and the employer.
Here is a good article that explains the different work visas here in Korea. Please note, it does not include F visas. Make sure you are aware of any working restrictions your visa has and whether or not your potential employer would be willing to sponsor you. Once you have sorted that out, let’s move onto the next step.
Why do you want to work in South Korea?
This sounds like a pretty simple question, but it is important for your job search. The answer to this question will help you determine where to look for a job and what to include in your applications and CVs.
Are you interested in the language? Are you interested in a particular industry that is unique to South Korea? Have you been studying Korean? Etc.
If your answer to any of these questions is, ‘because I love BTS and I want to be a professional ARMY member’, then it might be time to think seriously about what you want to do in Korea!
How should I write a CV in Korea and do people need Cover Letters?
It is okay to submit CVs in English to many jobs here in Korea. If you are a fluent Korean speaker, you will need to submit your CV in Korean as a Word document (from what I have seen). Additional documents like portfolios and cover letters can also be in English, in whatever format you desire (but just check what the employer wants). Make sure you tailor your CV and portfolio to the specific job you want to apply for. You should never use the same CV on jobs with different job descriptions. If you want to know more about this process, scroll down to watch a YouTube video that I made about starting your career overseas! Some jobs will ask for a cover letter, but it is not a common requirement in Korea.
Websites for Job Hunting in Korea
Korean companies use these job sites to post jobs. *Shocking*. Most job postings are in Korean, but foreign companies typically post their listings in English. It is a good idea to turn on notifications for particular searches to get notified when the perfect job pops up! For example, turn on notifications on LinkedIn for ‘Engineering Roles in Seoul’. Make sure your profile is in good shape before you start applying for every job you see.
This is a FB group run by foreigners in Korea and is a great place to join during your job search. It has a wide range of jobs on there but they are posted sporadically. Foreign employers will often post about opportunities at their companies. You have to request to join, and make sure you follow all of their rules!
Sadly, Craigslist is the preferred method for hiring foreign workers in South Korea. Nobody is happy about it, but you can occasionally find a diamond in the rough, so it is worth checking periodically. Be careful about scammers and weirdos. If a job posting has a link to their website, that’s usually a good indication that it’s legitimate. I have been to several job interviews through Craigslist and have had multiple jobs through the platform. BUT be smart and don’t expect to find your dream job!
The Seoul Global Center is a great resource for foreigners living in Korea. They have multiple centers in Seoul and host Korean classes, cooking classes and other cultural events. The Jobs board is not updated frequently, but always keep your eye out for any opportunities that may come up!
If you have Korean skills, try here:
Startup-specific Job Boards
It’s like Korean LinkedIn for Startups – Requires Korean Skills
Great place to find jobs in the Seoul startup scene. It is also worth joining their Slack group as people often post jobs and events happening in there. It is an amazing community and has been really helpful for me in Korea.
Another site that looks specifically for foreign workers in Korea.
When all else fails, find people on Instagram who work in your desired industry, and follow them. It is a good idea to build up a community on social media, no matter which country you want to live in. Not only can it help you network for your career, but it can also help you find friends, feel less lonely and learn about what’s happening around town.