Sunday, December 02, 2007

Ethical Dilemmas and TreeTop Trouble

There are a million things that I love about Koreans and Korea. The men, the passion, the food, the konglish, the simplicity of the language, the hanbok, the family, the name a few. But there are some parts of the culture that I cannot navigate and a few things that I downright hate (besides the leggy shrimp): The vagueness, the indirectness, the saving face. These things are nearly impossible for a cornfed westerner such as myself to grasp and though I understand them to be inextricably connected to the things I love, I find myself at a bit of a cultural crossroad.

I'm staying for another year and a career opportunity has presented itself in the form of a promotion. But the promotion means that I would have to somehow learn how to tread emotionally lightly in true korean fashion...never really saying what I think, bowing down to superiors even when I think they are wrong, saying yes when I really mean no and then just NOT doing the thing I said yes too in order to "save face". It's better to say yes and not do it or make an excuse than to say, "I am unable to accomplish the task you have requested of me." This is NOT true to my character. The reason they want me for the position is because I am a communicator. But I contend that my communication skills are only as effective as the system in which they are permitted to function. I'm interested in challenges but not if it means losing a valuable part of my integrity or what I perceive as my integrity. Any thoughts?

In other news, I've found a new coping mechanism now that my guitar is a bit on the fritz. It's call TreeTop Trouble and just TRY to tell me this isn't addictive... I can't get to level 4 and my students are buzzing up to 20. This is unacceptable. I will simply need to devote more time to competitive chihuahua jumping. If indeed that little animal is a chihuahua.

Zipper's Treetop Trouble


Skye said...

dangerous! I got to level 3 then got eaten by a snake.

It seems like in the states foreigners can get away with a lot of faux pas because no one is really sure whether it's "a cultural thing" or not. At least this goes for dating, I've found. Maybe people would at least be tolerant of your learning curve. Of course, if they hired you to communicate and then they want you to adhere to an uncommunicative social norm, that IS a dilemma indeed.

D'Arcy said...

Wow, your description of Korean jobs is like my fear of marriage!

However, I feel that you have already tried so hard to understand the Korean culture, you love so many things about where you have placed yourself, you have influenced so many children (Faggy Mom wouldn't be here if it weren't for you leading the way!), and you could continue to do SO SO SO much good there.

I think KaRyn, that you have the ability to really make this situation work for you, and if you feel it isn't right, well, wasn't it great just being offered the promotion? Way to go!!

And I bet American has an untapped market for chihuahua jumping...

Um, yeah, I am a teacher too, so sometimes when I try to be encouraging I feel it comes out all wrong and teacher-like, sorry.

More succinctly. Kudos!

Adam said...

Grats on the promotion. I'd say the trick to navigating your new challenges is to set, in advance, lines that you will not cross. Just like the morality rules we learned growing up, drugs, violence, sex, etc. If you establish limits, it will be easier to manage the new situations that crop up in this job. Maybe something like "I wont accept a task that I am not qualified for" or "I will not accept a task that I don't have the time to complete properly".

And try not to fault people for protecting their ego (saving face), we don't know if it's the sum of their self-worth. One persons arrogance at work may be based on their job being the only thing they are good at.