TCK issues. I am bored in Korea 

If someone asks me who and what kind of person I am, the perfect answer would be “I am TCK (third culture kids)”. I don’t necessarily like the word ‘culture’ as it is coined by human and embeded the concept of social norm. But this terminology has perfectly explained who and what kind of person I am. 

*If you are not familiar with the terminology or the characteristics, please read this article.

To give a brief introduction about myself, I am a TCK with Korean, Polish, American, Malawian background. Being in those countries regardless of how long I’ve been there, it has made who I am today. 

I hold a Korean passport and I am living in Korea. I kind of settled in Korea and thought I could make something out of it by pursuing my dreams. However, it seems difficult due to my nature of characteristics of TCK. 

 According to the article from ‘The Telegraph’, the followings are the biggest struggles/characteristics of TCK. It’s mainly focused on the expats, but it does apply tremendously. 

1. answering the question “where are you from?”

 -> The concept of ” home ” is a question itself

2. explaining your “international” accent

3. mixing up your languages

4. planning holidays 

-> there are so many countries when choosing which country to visit for the holidays

5. Long-distance friends and relationships

-> they are literally all over the place 

6. Dealing with ridiculous questions

-> for me it was “Does Poland use English?” 

7. Constant need to travel

8. Passport and immigration 

9. Explaining your lifestyle

-> It maybe different with others 

10. Different currencies and cost of living 

-> it applys for the expats 

For me, from tiny things such as respecting others culture and being open to somewhat different has made who I am today. But it sometimes can cause a problem.
I thought everything was fine until the previous and current workplace in Korea. I was lucky to have met a wonderful bosses and colleagues who were understandable to someone from multicultural background. But my previous and current workplace seems to be wanting to default the culture to Korean culture only. It’s not like I dislike the culture. I dislike the amazingly perplexed hierarchy and respecting culture. (other countries might be the same too ) 

Whenever I tried to learn it, there was a glass wall called ” mindset.” I have heard that I have a tendency to be straight forward and cannot read between the lines when it comes to Korean and its culture. 

My Korean isn’t that perfect. I am still learning the TPO phrases and behaviors and it never seems to end. But amongst all, the biggest issues are learning cultural norm of language skills and behaviors, seeking for a challenge. For the language, I should’ve learned along with understanding the culture.:/ 

Now, I’ve came to a point where I am bored and doesn’t feel any kind of challenge other than leaving the office ASAP. Looking for a challenge and something interesting is a challenge itself now.

Being a TCK is great sometimes. I wouldn’t change anything except persuading myself working in Korea. Double standards and expectations that I can’t really fulfill is bringing struggles. 

At first, I thought it’s a problem of myself by not being able to stand still at boring times. But now, I think being a TCK could have an influence.

Lost in the “World” 

Where are you from? And which culture are you influenced by? 

Honestly, I can’t answer to neither of them. I wish I could, but I learned that I should rather move on from that question. It’s alike a maze of depression. 
To give a brief introduction about myself, I am a TCK (third culture kid) who is still trying to figure out my identity. I am originally from Korea. However I grew up in Europe during my childhood. I loved how open and respectful everyone was towards the new ideas and cultures. (I don’t like the word culture due to its limitation of defining the real culture and origin, I will just use it)

What I have learned about myself is that I have never thought my upbringing would be considered as a “privileged” or “special” upbringing. I later on learned that I took it for granted and didn’t recognize there would be others who are from monoculture and that I have no idea how to deal with the culture of my passport country. 

My world is closer to westen oriented mindset and I have a mixed form of culture. And the World I know is a place where you once lived or visited for holidays, or a place where your friend lives at. But one thing I’ve learned so distinctively is that I have no idea about Korean culture. I still face challenges when it comes to expressing and reading between the lines. Would it be better if I have learned Korean more dilligently? Knowing the language does not mean that you know the culture.. So I am not sure. 

Just out of curiosity, what is “World” to you?

Epiphany! It was all the art of working hard

Recently, I’ve found a core reason for myself not being able to fully understand the workplace culture. 

Working in Korean NGO has and is still giving me so many lessons and influence on my people skills as well as my administrative skills and how NGOs are cooperating with each other. 
What I’ve learned about this NGO (it’s only about this organization) is that it’s seldom effective, work-wise and operating human resource-wise. 

The problems that occur often is that there are no specific duties and everything is so tentative. And people love doing yaguen(overtime work).  I don’t quite understand why people enjoy joint project. Having many tiers could help the quality of the results but seems too much. It just seems like they have too many people working for one simple project.

And the biggest difference I’ve felt about work culture was “constructive problem solving”. Having Economics adapted from the Western culture, it made corporates to start a discuss openly. And my NGOs tried to do that… it’s just that.. they say we “promote” open discussion and critical thinking, but somehow personal relationship seems to be more important to resolve all of this. 

I have a tendency of having a good people skills and closing the deal. I thank my TCKness for that. 

But my biggest issue is relationship with my colleagues who have issues with inferior feelings or strong need of approval. I can feel their need and characteristics, getting all the credit. But somehow I end up not caring about them. 

And it all starts with me having opinion or giving options and analysis on the issues and resolutions. They consider it as I consider them like a colleague, not boss or whatever they are. I didn’t quite understand this part yet. 

Guess I will have to find a way to get along with them. But that was when I learned that I am cut into one person project, (loves distinct and clear task distribution) and am not afraid to speak out my opinion. 

Thinking back, my TCKness has helped me to think in depth with a vast perspective. But still, work culture of Korea is a huge challenge. It is a place where human being lives.

But it is a mistery why they want to show working hard by overtime working and having joint project with too many people. 

Seriously.. why would getting other’s approval so important? Wouldn’t the result compensate them? 

I have given a thought about what I should do. But came up with a solution that I am not going to change my actions. I think showing respect but speaking out my opinion when it’s necessary is enough for me. Itself is difficult already..:/ 

But your input is always welcome! 

Saying goodbyes 

As a TCK, making a new friend was never a difficult thing. But keeping certain distance so that I don’t have to be sad when either one leaves is always difficult. (It was always, staying or leaving) 

For me, I thought I have learned how to be okay when someone was leaving and I am staying. But apparently for the ones whom I became very close were hard to say goodbye. 

And especially since I became the one who is staying, it stings to say goodbye. I didn’t notice it when I was leaving, only feeling excited about what will happen from now on. Now being in their shoes, I can feel how blue it can be. Thanks to the technology, it will be fine. But still, it’s not the same.

And knowing the end of ones stay in the same country is so helpful to find an emotional closure. Yet I don’t know when I will be okay with a close friend leaving the country without knowing when one will come back.  I wish I don’t have to comfort myself pretending it’s totally okay by saying ” We have technology so it’s okay.” I wonder how other TCKs dealt with this when there were no technology. 

What is it like to have “your country”? 

What is it like to have ‘your country’?  
Few days ago, one of my friend asked me what it is like to have “my country”. Frankly, I don’t know how it feels like.

Somehow, “my country” for Koreans in perticular, means a lot to them. It is changing fastly, but for some who still has affection  on the country is not hesitant to share the greatness and flashing development of Korea. And they love to use ” woori (we)”. And interestingly, nevertheless they dislike their country, they would always say good things about Korea to foreigners.


‘My country’, yet difficult concept 

I was putting my time and effort on finding out about my identity two years ago. Thanks to only focusing on that matter, I was able to move on after a year. Well… to be more clear, I got to differ what I can identify and figure out, and what I should move on (cuz there is no resolution to those such as greive). 

My country was one of the things I’ve decided to move on. Currently, I am constantly amazed at the details of Korean NGO culture. Crazily complex hierarchy, and the tangled emotions with ‘professional side’ is so delicate and not easy to sense it that it feels like I am passing by a whac-a-mole game. All I can do for now seems to be not making the mistakes again. 

So, having “overcoming the details of Korean NGO culture” itself, my plate is full right now to focus on what is my country. I will never know how Korean-Koreans think like and why they were so happy when Korea was doing successful during World Cup 2002. And I will have to learn to stop myself from being excited at cultural festivals and booths. (I had an awkward conversation about making a fan at cultural festival. I was so excited to share the experience and the beauty of written words, painting, and the whole process)
Someday… 
I would truly love to feel what it is like to have ” my country”. 

I have concept of  ” my home”, which is where I mostly grow up and where I am living now (specifically my room). I consider Warsaw my home city, but I can’t say that my emotions are the same with Polish. I was a foreigner there, and I will never be the same. I literally have my own culture, and is it explainable? I am not sure. I could list the countries that provided me an experience which made me who I am, but it will be like a chemistry result. 
Will I know what it is like? 

Anyhow, I’ve learned that I can understand what ‘my country’ is like, but will never get to sympathize about it. 

Starting from the beginning. Bilingualism? It’s not easy. 

Do you have an experience when you had to face your weakness? Working in a Korean company as Korean seems like an easy thing. But there are so many unsaid problems. Not only the untold language barriers (reading between the lines) but cultural differences (different understanding and being bit weird). 

 Well, for me, it’s happening constantly in my workplace. I try my best to catch up with Korean skills and other necessary skill sets, including cultural differences. At this point, I really want to stop trying as I have to do presentation everyday and  show how terrible my comprehensive skills are. 

And this exactly feels just like when I started attending Korean school again. Back then, It was like hell. I couldn’t follow what the others are saying nor follow the class. My GPA was barely holding up thanks to my English grade. As time went by, I gave up trying hard for awhile. Korean seemed like an endless crow that would never end crying out. 

Fortunately, I was able to catch up with essential Korean skills I needed to know. Yet, I am still not smooth when it comes to expressing or writing a sentence. It’s still alike shipwreck except for few areas like my professionalism. I can proudly say that I have what it’s necessary to be professional. But I still need to conquer the other fields not to be dragged back to where I was standing. 

Now, I am paying it all back. It is simply endless agony. However I try, my Korean skillset is dragging my legs and not letting me go freely. Thanks to past work experiences, I’ve been able to keep my post. However, the fact that I am not that familiar or active when using Korean expressions, culture, and Korean way of logic and thinking is striking me so hard that I am unconsciously seeking for anything English whenever I am not working. I am sure that I can thrive as usual. 

But really, knowing Korean without understanding the culture fully is just the same as mocking the look of it not the inside of it. I truly want to stop looking up” my identity”. I don’t understand why my boss is trying to identify me as Korean and requests to be the same. Well, to be fair, he has waited for me to catch up with his ideal “Korean employee who used to live abroad”image. If it was something that could be acquired, I would love to adapt it as my own. There must be a way. Till then I will try to be joyful. How am I lucky to face constant challenges everyday?  

If you do have some recommendations, feel free to leave a comment. 

Which culture are you from? 

Few days ago, I was asked “Which culture I am from” from a colleague of mine at Staff retreat who always considered me unique/weird. I know why he is wondering it. He wanted to know which culture has affected me to be who I am today.

Let’s face it. Would you know what to say? My honest answer would be ‘ I am TCK. What do you mean by that’. But I was nice as it was infront of my colleagues. I have experienced 4 throughout my whole life, including Intl. School culture.

I am not sure if I answered correctly. But i know that I still have a long journey till the final destination of my identity.

Living and working in two cultures

For some who don’t know me well can easily assume that I will be well acquainted with two cultures. (Cuz I have learned how to hide it) But just like others, I am like any other TCKs, wandering around the seemless boundaries of cultures and social norms. 

My main culture is simply third culture I have created and diverse culture(there are so many foreigners from different upbringings). I would say I haven’t found my clique yet. Maybe it’s me not being able to be absorbed to the Korean culture or the others, but I came up with solution that it’s neither good for both sides. There always will be someone who will confront me for not being Korean enough. So weirdly, I find no -Korean dominated clique more comfortable. 

However, I work in an organization which is based on Korean culture. I won’t suger coat it. It is killing me. People request me to be “Korean enough”as I have a Korean passport. They assume that I will live in Korea forever. But ironically, they want my western mindset and language skills when they feel necessities to reform or be creative. It has been a year since I have been working here, and I already want to quit. Frankly as a person who have moved to other companies year base, I can’t imagine how people work at one place for more than 10years. 

It’s so sad that subway announcements are making my way to work more comfortable. 

I love Korean culture and tradition, but I don’t like the people’s  bistandards and business culture.

difficult “Career choice” and hanging in there

I don’t always have a good choice on choosing where I work. I am more up for challenge and my interest rather than stability. And one of a typical characteristics of TCK has a big influence on it too. 
Some prefers to stay at one place for a long term. But for me, whenever things seems to be irresistible or unreasonable, I would always leave for somewhere else. It has been working just fine up to now. Since I am 28 years old, it has become a time to choose career carefully.(In Korea, being 28 means many things such as the followings. It is the “30” of western countries.  Have to prepare for your marriage; Choose career carefully cuz you can’t move that much!; All the decent guys are dating or getting married; people start to compare each other with social status and position at their workplace) 

For me, I have finally reached a point where I am ” surviving” and “working my way up” in Korean culture. Sadly, I’ve got to reconsider my options on leaving because it’s time to claim my position. 

Being 30 years old (In Korean age) is a brand new thing for me that I’m looking forward to what kind of compromises I have to make to get to where I want to be in my career plan.

Always challenging..introducing myself

Hi! It has been a while since I have posted last time. Today, I am going to talk about introduction.

Saying hi or bye has  never been an emotional thing for me as it was so usual. It would be weird if no one would come or go.

But introduction has been always difficult for me. I could elaborate about myself. But let’s face it. Would the other person be interested?

I know what kind of questions I will get afterwards. a) So where are you from?;b) Do you speak the local language? ; c) okay. It’s usually me re-elaborating about myself or just trying to change the awkward atmosphere. “Okay” could mean so much!

But above all, I especially find introducting myself so difficult that I’d rather work on a math problem (I am terrified and terrible at Math).  Maybe it’s because I don’t really know how much the other person wants to know about me.

Few days ago, I finally got a chance to chat with a person I was so looking forward to talk to. But there I was….. not knowing how to introduce myself. So I decided that I won’t mention anything about my childhood so I can just focus on the upcoming days! Guess what… just with a blink of an eye, there it was! The inevitable moment coming up right next to the beloved question “So where are you from?”, ” Did you grow up in Korea?”

…… I was just bumped! I literally lost words.. But I did manage to answer it.. “It’s complex..  ” Some say that “complicated” is the right word, but for this case, I say ” complex”. I might have seemed like a weird person with a different way of carrying on with my conversation.

As a TCK, I love a in-depth discussion and  getting to know about one’s way of perception on certain things. I don’t feel awkward at all. So overall, I had a pleasant time talking about the  topics I preferred in the moment. But looking back, I’ve got to work on my social skills.

Being a TCK is a two sides of coin, but not knowing how to introduce myself fully explaining about myself is such a difficult thing. I thougt I have found my identity, but guess I have more way to go.