[Long rant about the miseries of living in South Korea ahead, feel free to ignore.]
My awesome sister sent me a Christmas package to spread some holiday cheer in lurvely Daegu, because she’s amazing and thoughtful.
However, the package never arrived, and after asking the building manager for weeks if anything had come for me, we assumed it had been jettisoned over the Pacific. (You’d think a package with any English on it, including my name written in Korean, would stand out and, ya know, simply be placed in front of my apartment door where everybody knows the white devil lives.)
So last night (a Sunday evening) I get a knock on my apartment door, and one of the manager’s assistants sheepishly told me to come down to the office (of course, because if the manager himself was there I’d have to chew him out for the fourth time over the past few months).
Miracle of miracles! The package had arrived on time almost a month ago and promptly was dropped in the bottom of a dark closet, even while my sister probably made a few frantic calls to the US postal service and I was told straight to my face that nothing had arrived for me.
It’s pretty clear I enjoy living and working in South Korea, but this incident, in a nutshell, sums up the “dark side” of ESL thug life. In a lot of situations, there is simply no accountability when mistakes are made that directly impact your quality of life. The only thing you can do is try to learn as much of the language as possible to directly confront people who can and will try to fuck you over, and publicly embarrass them until they manage to do their (incredibly simple) jobs.
I complained to my boss, who is basically my only leverage, and he’ll call the building manager this morning and of course nothing will change.
This evening when I go home I’ll try and confront him, but he’s cagey and knows my work schedule and knows when to make himself scarce. And when I do confront him, I will scream at him in Korean.
Scream, you say? Aren’t foreigners supposed to meekly accept the non-confrontational side of Korean culture?
Bullshit. In my experience, it’s imperative that you learn enough of the language to make yourself heard when there’s a problem, even a small one. Simply asking politely for your toilet to be fixed or the building water heater to be turned on will not solve the problem. Direct confrontation, and being able to call bullshit in Korean on someone when they claim they don’t understand you, is critical to long-term survival in a country where the appearance of competence is actually more important that actual competence itself.
Never, ever let anything slide, because if someone like a building manager can get away with ignoring you and your very basic toilet/heat/mail problems one time, he will always do it.
So now I’m the problematic, “scary” foreigner. I’m sure he tells his drinking buddies all about me. But guess what? Until this package incident my life has improved immeasurably by being able to confront him in front of others (crucial) and, in Korean, tell him what a fucking moron he is and publicly shame him. No more cold showers in the morning. Repairmen are now sent promptly when something needs fixing (which is rare, and all the more reason why it shouldn’t be a two-week saga like it used to be). And, after I’m done with him next time I see him, no more shenanigans with my mail.
I’m no Donald Trump and take no joy in somebody losing a job, but this fuckwit would have been fired long ago in America. But in Korea, he gets to keep his job until he has a heart attack. Because, Korea.
And that’s my rant for today.