4 Customs to Prepare for When Working in Korea
My coworkers have very quickly become my family here in Korea, and I thank them a lot for it. Because of our relationships we often hang out on the weekends, have board game parties at each others’ houses, and celebrate birthdays.
Fun stuff aside, I was intrigued by how much coworkers are a part of each other’s lives. Networking and keeping up relationships is a big deal in Korean society, so its normal to have half of your office show up at a coworkers wedding, or to have former employees come to the office with an ice cream cake just because (true story, best day ever.)
While some of my experiences may be atypical, if you’re working in a Korean work environment you’ll probably get to experience a few of these things:
My coworkers all decided that 2016 was the year to get married. This year alone I’ve been invited to five ceremonies, as has my entire office. Because it is Korean custom to pay to attend a wedding (you literally pay for your meal) its common for people to invite their classmates, coworkers, and anyone else who wants to come. Chances are, if anyone in your office gets married, you’ll have an invite, no matter how close you are to them!
If you’ve been in Korea for more than a week you’ve probably heard the term so-gae-ting, or blind dating. These dates are often set up by someone you know, and in office life its super common to have a coworker set you up. Don’t be offended when your coworker asks you about your “ideal type” and availability on weekends. Chances are you’re going to be offered a lovely guy or gal for a blind date at least once in your office life.
A few months into my time at my current company, we were all sent an email from our team leader telling us that a fellow coworker’s mother had passed away. His family lived in Busan, on the other side of the country. With no hesitation my coworkers set up group chats to buy train tickets, set up hotel rooms, and get a huge group down to Busan to pay their respects. A few months ago another coworker’s parent passed and when I arrived at the funeral hall I found plenty of my old coworkers there as well. It was very surprising to see how many people came to show their respects and it was really moving.
This might just be a tradition of my office, but if you move near the office you are obligated to have a house warming party. Of course, coworkers will bring the Korean traditional house warming gift of toilet paper or trash bags! I have moved twice while working at my current company and both times I’ve had to throw a small get together. Maybe my coworkers just look for an excuse to order food, but its a tradition I love!