Do’s and Don’t’s for English-speaking businesses in Korea

Hm. After a great deal of contemplation on the topic “Home businesses that target English-speakers” I think I’ve finally articulated the reasons for why I end up resenting them so much.

1. Things get lost in translation.

Why: This happens when I’m speaking my native language to other native speakers, so it’s perfectly normal if it happens between non-native speakers and native speakers, too. The frustration it causes, though, is avoidable.

What to do: Keep it simple. Keep it clear. Ask another native speaker to look things over for you.

(Quick tip: If someone has to ask you 50 million questions to figure out exactly what you’re selling, you/your website is the problem….not them.)

2. Inconsistency.

Why: Not knowing the times you’re “in the office” can be more than a pain – it can cause you to lose business. Not knowing exactly what your guidelines are causes everyone to waste time asking/answering a million questions.

What to do: You should have firmly established times and guidelines, including what the customer can expect from you, and what you expect from the customer. Make sure it’s visible, not a tiny blurb in a corner! Procedure for disputes about services should also be covered. Some “business owners” seem to actively avoid the fact that disputes can and do happen. Which leads us to…..

3. ….Develop a thick skin.

Why: There’s a damn good reason why I don’t do certain jobs, like “chef” and “business owner.”

What to do: If you’re too sensitive, then running a business isn’t a good job for you. Inevitably, you’ll either hate yourself or hate your customers, or both. Why be miserable? Why have people hate you? Either develop a thick skin, or don’t be in charge of handling customers. Instead, hire someone with good people skills. Or don’t run a business. Simple.

4. Value.

Why: In Korea, it’s easy for a business catering to foreigners to see itself as “unique” – and it is! But it’s a luxury, and you’re banking on a small community wanting that luxury. If you’re not giving your customer the value they expect (the value a luxury entails), they’ll get disgruntled – and rightfully so.
Example: charging 12,000 KRW for small, tasteless portions of food is just ridiculous….and yet, some businesses here are still doing it.

What to do: If you put a hat on a donkey, it’s still just an ass. There’s no excuse for overcharging and then under serving. Oh, you can keep telling me it’s the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten, the rarest beer or the hardest to find book, but if it’s disgusting, old, or overpriced, I’m going to find out pretty damn quick. Ultimately, that suggest you think I’m stupid, desperate, or have very poor taste/money managing skills, etc. Now that I understand your low opinion of me, I’ll take my business elsewhere, or nowhere at all.

So don’t do that.

(Quick tip: If you question your skills as a purveyor of Western goods and services – which you should – find ways to verify them. Ask a friend, offer specials, allow customers to give feedback. Your business is a guaranteed fail if none of us patronize it.)

5. Apology accepted.

Why: I don’t know what it is about people targeting foreigners, but a lot of them are quite rude. They lack even basic politeness, as suggested in their failure at points #2 and #4. Often, I get the feeling that because they speak English (native and non-native alike) I should thank them. But not just thank them – I should also consider them an infallible god-send. This has happened to me on more than one occasion, which really surprises me. There are OTHER businesses. I have Korean friends and co-workers. I have my wits. I don’t NEED their business, but I’ll try it if it makes life easier. Irritatingly, it makes my life more difficult and causes me more stress than before.

What to do: Don’t be an ass. Refer to previous points for specifics. Understand that an apology doesn’t mean groveling (you should never grovel), but recognizes that a mistake has been made on your part. Which is pretty likely, since it’s your business to get it right, and leads us to….

6. Understand customer/business relationships.

Why: I’m paying for the services. You’re providing them.
If I don’t pay you, it’s my fault.
If you don’t deliver, or do a crap job of it, it’s your fault.

What to do: Be professional. That’s what “business” implies.

7. Never, ever, EVER say “We just want to help foreigners.”

Why: If that was true, you’d do it for free. It’s not true. You’re an opportunist, and you sensed an opportunity. That’s what a business is.

Complaining about “rude” customers and trying to guilt trip your entire potential customer base by saying you “just want to help” is complete bullsh*t. You know it. I definitely know it. I now know you think I’m delusional.

What to do: Don’t do it. Ever.

8. Remember I’m a human being, and that YOU determine if I use you again.

Why: If you give me a cell phone only in Korean, crappy food, are late on getting your truck to my house to pick up my furniture, try to overcharge for used books because they’re in English, close whenever you feel like it, don’t respond to an order placed that morning because you’re “taking a break from your business” that evening (and I have to hunt down the information), split a full order of food onto 2 separate plates for the sake of getting back to your video game, overcharge on Western products, and ultimately show absolutely no concern for my well-being…..We have a phrase in the U.S. we like to use. We have a very graceful hand motion as well. You deserve to see both of them. (Every single one of those things has happened to me.)

What to do: Review points #1-6. Get over yourself. Treat me like a human being, not a faceless meal ticket that should worship you because of language skills or blood quantum. Trust me – I can and will find a way to live without you.

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English-Speaking Business Do’s & Don’t’s in Korea

Hm. After a great deal of contemplation on the topic “Home businesses that target English-speakers but probably don’t pay Korean taxes” I think I’ve narrowed down the reasons for why I end up resenting them so much.

1. Things get lost in translation.

Why: This happens when I’m speaking my native language to other native speakers, so it’s perfectly normal if it happens between non-native speakers and native speakers, too. The frustration it causes, though, is avoidable.

What to do: Keep it simple. Keep it clear. Ask another native speaker to look things over for you.

(Quick tip: If someone has to ask you 50 million questions to figure out exactly what you’re selling, you/your website is the problem….not them.)

2. Inconsistency.

Why: Not knowing the times you’re “in the office” can be more than a pain – it can cause you to lose business. Not knowing exactly what your guidelines are causes everyone to waste time asking/answering a million questions.

What to do: You should have firmly established times and guidelines, including what the customer can expect from you, and what you expect from the customer. Make sure it’s visible, not a tiny blurb in a corner! Procedure for disputes about services should also be covered. Some “business owners” seem to actively avoid the fact that disputes can and do happen. Which leads us to…..

3. ….Develop a thick skin.

Why: There’s a damn good reason why I don’t do certain jobs, like “chef” and “business owner.”

What to do: If you’re too sensitive, then running a business isn’t a good job for you. Inevitably, you’ll either hate yourself or hate your customers, or both. Why be miserable? Why have people hate you? Either develop a thick skin, or don’t be in charge of handling customers. Instead, hire someone with good people skills. Or don’t run a business. Simple.

4. Value.

Why: In Korea, it’s easy for a business catering to foreigners to see itself as “unique” – and it is! But it’s a luxury, and you’re banking on a small community wanting that luxury. If you’re not giving your customer the value they expect (the value a luxury entails), they’ll get disgruntled – and rightfully so.
Example: charging 12,000 KRW for small, tasteless portions of food is just ridiculous….and yet, some businesses here are still doing it.

What to do: If you put a hat on a donkey, it’s still just an ass. There’s no excuse for overcharging and then under serving. Oh, you can keep telling me it’s the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten, the rarest beer or the hardest to find book, but if it’s disgusting, old, or overpriced, I’m going to find out pretty damn quick. Ultimately, that suggest you think I’m stupid, desperate, or have very poor taste/money managing skills, etc. Now that I understand your low opinion of me, I’ll take my business elsewhere, or nowhere at all.

So don’t do that.

(Quick tip: If you question your skills as a purveyor of Western goods and services – which you should – find ways to verify them. Ask a friend, offer specials, allow customers to give feedback. Your business is a guaranteed fail if none of us patronize it.)

5. Apology accepted.

Why: I don’t know what it is about people targeting foreigners, but a lot of them are quite rude. They lack even basic politeness, as suggested in their failure at points #2 and #4. Often, I get the feeling that because they speak English (native and non-native alike) I should thank them. But not just thank them – I should also consider them an infallible god-send. This has happened to me on more than one occasion, which really surprises me. There are OTHER businesses. I have Korean friends and co-workers. I have my wits. I don’t NEED their business, but I’ll try it if it makes life easier. Irritatingly, it makes my life more difficult and causes me more stress than before.

What to do: Don’t be an ass. Refer to previous points for specifics. Understand that an apology doesn’t mean groveling (you should never grovel), but recognizes that a mistake has been made on your part. Which is pretty likely, since it’s your business to get it right, and leads us to….

6. Understand customer/business relationships.

Why: I’m paying for the services. You’re providing them.
If I don’t pay you, it’s my fault.
If you don’t deliver, or do a crap job of it, it’s your fault.

What to do: Be professional. That’s what “business” implies.

7. Remember I’m a human being, and that YOU determine if I use you again.

Why: If you give me a cell phone only in Korean, crappy food, are late on getting your truck to my house to pick up my furniture, try to overcharge for used books because they’re in English, close whenever you feel like it, don’t respond to an order placed that morning because you’re “taking a break from your business” that evening (and I have to hunt down the information), split a full order of food onto 2 separate plates for the sake of getting back to your video game, overcharge on Western products, and ultimately show absolutely no concern for my well-being…..We have a phrase in the U.S. we like to use. We have a very graceful hand motion as well. You deserve to see both of them.

What to do: Review points #1-6. Get over yourself. Treat me like a human being, not a faceless meal ticket that should worship you.Trust me – I will find a way to live without you.

Cheers!

 

Shiiiiiitake! Or, “Yes, it grows on trees.”

Ah, mushrooms. A fungus that can either delight the culinary senses, or kill you. Fortunately, Korea’s ancestors have got your back. Since their descendents already know a good ‘shroom from a bad one, your biggest problem is figuring out how to use them. Here’s a hot and fast guide to what you’ll find and what you can do with them.

King Oyster Mushroom: As the name implies, it’s pretty big. A lot of meat grilling restaurants serve this baby sliced and ready for the flames. Very tasty.

Enoki Mushroom: Rather delicate, I most often see it in soups.

Oyster/Mini Oyster Mushroom: Mostly found in bibimbap and a spinach/mushroom/sesame oil side dish.

Shiitake Mushroom: Rather common, even in the U.S.

Knightly Indiscretions

First, I must apologize to most of you. I know you only started reading because “hot man in armor” and “sex” flashed through your brains. Sadly, this isn’t the title of a trashy chivalric romance.
At least, not the kind you were expecting.

Indeed, I’m thinking first and foremost about Ritter Sport, the best chocolate company this side of Heaven. A German company, Ritter (or “knight” in German) has been tickling my palate since 2004.

So what? I’ve been eating chocolate from other companies for a lot longer. I’ve had everything from Hershey’s to Ferrero Rocher. Everything from Ghirardelli to See’s Candies. Everything from Lindt to the small business confectioner. Basically, I’ve had a lot of awesome. But the funny thing is, I’m not that excited about chocolate. I don’t even particularly like the stuff. I find it too rich for my normal palate – the exact same reason I don’t care for cake.

Why, then, would I get excited about a chocolate company at all? Simply because Ritter Sport does it for me. I’m not saying I want to hit it every single day – but when I get one in the mail…well, let’s just say it’s hard to resist. Their chocolate has a smooth, creamy texture, and the fillings are never TOO much. They also don’t wax their chocolate or change their recipe just because it’s sold abroad (practices I find abhorrent in certain large companies). Oh, and it’s already divided into perfect little squares. It’s never too much, and never too little. Furthermore, they tickle my sense of culinary adventure. Ever tried corn flakes in your chocolate? Neither have I! It seems like they’re constantly experimenting and coming out with new flavors. And of course, they’re considerate enough to make tiny variety packs so you can try them all.

Favorites:
Rum Trauben Nuss (“rum raisin hazelnut”)
Marzipan (be still my heart….)
Peppermint (spicy, yet sweet)

Bonus: Their website doesn’t suck.

http://www.ritter-sport.us/#/en_US/home

That Olde Tyme Gaming Itch…

Someone out in Daegu recently blew my mind by asking for N64 games. In case you’ve been living under a rock, had uber protective parents, or simply suffer from bad taste, Nintendo 64 (hence, N64) is easily one of the greatest gaming systems ever put together – and proof that civilization is NOT going downhill.

What could possibly make me such a rabid fan of an “outdated” system? One game, and one game only: Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Hunt one down and give it a whirl. If you’re still in doubt after multiple hours of glorious single-player questing, shoot me a message. I will gladly school you.

It’s important, though, that we stay on topic; namely, “scratching” the itch. Out here in South Korea, they’ve got plenty of good stuff to fiddle with, if you don’t mind the “new” and “improved” versions of PS and Xbox. Older stuff? Well, that’s going the way of the dinosaurs in the U.S., and is naturally harder to find.

Assuming you’re in Daegu and on a quest of your own, here’s one place you can try: 88 Game Land (88게임랜드). The name seems to have changed from 88 Game Plaza. It’s on this street, Gukchaebosang-ro(국채보상로), and it’s near the 2.28 movement memorial park, in downtown Daegu.

Here’s a photo link for a little extra help:
http://cafefiles.naver.net/20100916_3/wntjd4330_12846389685870fODk_jpg/%B1%B9%C3%A4%BA%B8%BB%F3%B7%CE_%B4%EB%B1%B8%B1%A4%BF%AA%BD%C3_%C1%DF%B1%B8_%B0%F8%C6%F2%B5%BF_2010.5_wntjd4330.jpg

The best of luck, and happy hunting my friends.

Tea’d Up

ZI’ve always had a mad passion for tea. The path to tasty tea discovery, though, was often blocked by popular teas that were of an inferior quality. I have, howevever, found many teas that I like if not love. Here’s a list of what I’ve tried, whether or not I liked it, and why.

Bigelow: Not really my favorite. In a pinch, it’s better than just hot water, but I can’t recommend it for flavor or originality. It’s certainly more economical than many of the other teas, though. They’re also into sustainability, which is pretty cool.

http://www.bigelowtea.com/

Celestial Seasonings: Talk about brilliant marketing. If you like tea, bright colors, pretty pictures, and exotic names, CS is a great route to go. It’s tasty, but more expensive than Bigelow. If you’re getting started drinking tea and want to ease into it, you’ll get exactly what they offer on the packaging. Not to mention the clever quotes by equally clever people that they place on the box, and the fact that it’s mostly recyclable and recycled. Also fair trade certified, which is always cool. Ultimately, CS takes the prize in marketing and appeasing the “lightweights” among the tea drinkers.

p.s. You can take a tour!

http://www.celestialseasonings.com/

Twinings: My favorite of all name-brand teas. No frills, no gimmicks, just good tea. You can get pre-packaged tea bags (easier but less flavorful) or you can get loose leaf (more flavorful and better for the environment. Plus they last forever!) As the gentleman in the video points out, loose leaf tea isn’t really practical for an office setting; however, for those that love tea, loose leaf is the only way to go. You can order several different flavors: Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Darjeeling, Lady Grey, Irish Breakfast, Ceylon Orange Pekoe, Jasmine Green, Gunpowder Green, and Prince of Wales. (You used to be able to get one of my favorites, Lapsang Souchong, but it’s since been discontinued. Sad panda.) I’ve only tried Earl Grey and Irish Breakfast, but I’m certainly in love!

http://www.twinings.com/home.php

Zhena’s Gypsy Tea: A lesser known brand, but very tasty. I’ve tried the Fire Light Chai (rooibos + spices) and the Peppermint Joy. I’m not much for chai without the spices and the milk and sugar, but I still liked it. The peppermint was a kind of peppermint-meets-green tea, and I REALLY liked that one. Similar to Celestial Seasonings, they’re also eco-friendly and fair trade certified. Also good for sometimes tea drinkers.

http://www.gypsytea.com/

Anatolian Treasures: Now extinct, this company used to specialize in teas from Turkey. It’s since been converted to essential oils and goes by Appalachian Valley, which I believe was the parent company. I only tried two teas, the linden (tilia europea) and the rose hip. I enjoyed them both and was sad to find out that they stopped making tea.

http://www.av-at.com/

Carolina Peach Tea: Now I’m getting into specifics. A friend of mine sent me “Charles Towne Carolina Peach Tea” (no typos in that, that’s really how it’s spelled). I was actually quite pleased with the black tea + peach flavoring, and normally I’m not too keen on it. This particular tea came through the Hale Tea Company, located in Georgia, USA. If their other teas are as tasty as this one, I’d certainly be willing to try the others.

http://www.haletea.com/

Koala Tea: I stumbled upon this tea company thanks to having a strong Jewish community nearby an old neighborhood. The tea was actually called “Gey” something or other. It was a Kosher chamomile tea, and it was pretty good. I did some research into the company, and found out that it was supplied by Koala Tea, an Australian company that specializes in tasty, Australian organic and USDA certified organic tea. They also make sure that the tea bag paper is unbleached, a concept that I never really considered. If you’re looking for exotic, organic tea, try them out.

http://www.koalatea.com.au/showcat.asp?CatID=49

New Mexico Tea Company: Earl Grey being one of my favorite teas, a kind friend sent me a bag of “Rosie Earl Grey” – a delightful loose leaf. I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit, as the rose included in the blend lends it a sort of floral fragrance (please forgive the winey alliteration). Combined with the necessary begamot, it’s what I would call a “top shelf” sort of tea.

http://www.nmteaco.com/

Shahrzad: I picked up this brand while living in a very Persian/Iranian neighborhood. I’ve tried the scented black tea and the cardamon. I’m perfectly happy with them; they’re exactly what I expected them to be, and the flavor is fine. I haven’t had cardamon for a while, so if I wanted to make Indian-style chai, I used the cardamon black tea as a substitute. (It worked well enough.) Not only is it a decent tea, it’s very economical. They almost always have a buy one get one special.
If you’re interested in trying it, I would recommend popping over to your nearest Middle Eastern/Persian/Indian/Armenian/North African grocery store and checking for it there. Online searches came up with some strange results, so you’re best off hunting for it in person.

Olive Nation and Spice Traders and Teas: Following what I consider to be a logical course of action, a lot of tea companies sell spices and a lot of spice companies sell teas. I’ve tried one from Spice Traders and Teas, a special blend called “Bloodberry.” I’m happy enough with it – mostly I got it out of “Halloween spirit.” I plan to try a few other teas from each. If nothing else, I would recommend both these stores for their spices.

p.s. Spice Traders and Teas seems to be reconstructing their site a bit.

http://www.olivenation.com/Default.aspx

http://www.spicetradersteas.com/store/

Lastly, here’s an interesting idea from a German company – Advent tea!
http://www.alnatura.de

Tomate

If you don’t live in Korea, you might not know this…but here’s a little fact.

Italian food in Korea really sucks.

Now look, I’m sure there are plenty of people that like it (namely Korean). Why not? It’s geared to the Korean palate. But my Italian is geared to the American palate, and matching palate with reality – not easy.

There is, however, a little gem that sprang like Athena from the thoughts of the many American expats here, and its name is Tomate. (Some people say ‘Tomat.’ This is incorrect, because the Korean clearly reads ‘Tomate.’)

Tomate is one of those restaurants that you’d probably go to in your hometown. The owner, a lovely woman and amazing cook, does her own pizza, pasta and coffee. The best part is, it’s got a flash of fusion to it. Her meat + mushroom pizza uses a little sausage and a lot of shiitake mushroom. Her carbonara is a mix of yummy, with a little chicken and bits of bacon and winter mushrooms. (Need a picture? Check out the next blog, Shiiiiiitake!)

Some of the stranger (read: more authentic Italian) pastas actually have pictures on the wall, if you look around for them. Everything from vongole (a pasta with clams) to a kind of kimchi pasta is on the menu, but I’m so in love with carbonara, I have a hard time branching out.

If you’re just looking for a coffee date, take a step inside, since Tomate’s

The strangest part to all of this is…..I usually hate Italian food.

If you’re a foodie, m