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한국어: 대한민국의 나라문장 English: The coat of arms of S...

한국어: 대한민국의 나라문장 English: The coat of arms of South Korea Español: escudo de Corea del Sur 日本語: 大韓民国の国章 中文: 大韩民国国徽 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This blog is mainly for transitioning into HR, but today I’d like to write more about cultural transition. I’m a huge advocate for working abroad and I truly believe that without global knowledge you are limiting your professional and personal opportunities.

I’ve been back in the States for just over a month now, so between job hunting and trying to stay on top of all things HR-related, I’ve had some time to think about the transition from Asia back to the USA. While the big move has been smoother than I thought it would be, there have been a few unexpected challenges along the way.

In the beginning, the hardest part was getting over the jet lag. They say it takes one day per every hour in the time difference – and they were right. (South Korea is 14-15 hours ahead of Chicago, by the way.) Despite being awake at odd hours it felt almost too easy to get back into a few old routines. Some were nice, like driving to the mall while listening to the radio or spending a weekend with my family. Other habits needed to be restricted, like eating CHEESE for every meal and watching reality TV. I wouldn’t want to further enforce the typical “American” stereotype I’ve fought against for the past 3.5 years.

Everyone had warned me about the reverse culture shock, which I had experienced during previous visits back to the US: the momentary surprise when hearing little kids speaking English, seeing non-Asian employees at the airport, and even the terrible customer service at shops in the mall. Coming back this time around will be even worse, I thought. But the culture “shock” hasn’t been so shocking at all. Maybe I knew what to expect, so this time it’s more like small realizations that pop up now and then that remind me how every day life is very much influenced by our country and culture.

I’ll give you a couple of examples.

One of the “challenges” I found myself facing is the ridiculous amount of CHOICES I have here in America. I was so excited to go to the grocery store once I got back, but when I stepped in and looked just at the cereal aisle, I knew I was in over my head. Likewise, my choices at the movie theater have now increased at least x10. I’m not saying I don’t like having all these choices, but now I wonder how much more of my time will be wasted researching what product I’m willing to spend my money on.

Koreans have just as many wants and needs as Americans, but our economy is less dominated by particular companies and organizations, increasing competition. In Korea, the winners are clear.

Another challenge was every time I came back to the States from Korea I would get a little “shock” or sometimes a bit nervous about social situations. It took me a little getting used to, but after a month or so in Korea I had pretty much gotten all the acceptable social behavior down, e.g. bowing when greeting/saying goodbye, handing something to another person with two hands, facing away when drinking in the presence of elders, etc. So after doing all these things for months and months on end, I had to remind myself that it wasn’t necessary in America.

I remember worrying about accidentally shaking someone’s hand using both hands during a job interview in America, since it is a sign of politeness and respect to do so in Korea and I had done it for so long. While I might still hand something over using both hands, I realized practice makes perfect. And honestly, I’d rather be too polite than not polite at all. Thank you for that, Korea.

Overall, like I mentioned before, the transition has been a smooth one with very few bumps. But this is coming back to my home country, where I spent most of my life. The transition to Korea was much more challenging than anything I’ve ever done in my life. But it was also the best decision I’ve ever made. Sometimes the hardest decisions to make turn out to be the ones that are impossible to regret. I can only hope that my decision to move back to the States and pursue a career in HR will be as rewarding as the one I made 3.5 years ago.

So far, so good.

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Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Today I had the opportunity to participate in the first Twitter discussion (hashtag #peoplechat) lead by PeopleClues, a global provider of assessment technology. The weekly chat sessions will be held every Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. CST. PeopleClues and its moderators will pose questions and encourage discussions on topics relating to HR.

Today’s topic was Culture and HR, which is right up my alley, so I was sure to tune in. I’d never taken part in one of these rapid-fire discussions on Twitter before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It lasted for 30 minutes, but it felt like only 3 by the time everyone signed off and all that was left was the last bit of the high I was getting by just clicking the refresh button over and over again, hoping for yet another great question or answer put out by the many participants, and perhaps, if I was very lucky, another mention directed at me, hehe. (I know, but I don’t think anyone can disagree that it is infinitely more fun to participate when you’re getting positive feedback.)

PeopleClues does plan to post a recap of the #peoplechat discussion tomorrow on their blog, but I’d like to do a mini-recap of my own. Unfortunately it will mostly be from memory alone. Lesson learned: next time, take notes!

The first question that was posed was what you can do to improve culture when it’s less than impressive to begin with. While all suggestions were well thought-out and helpful, a few of the responses were re-tweeted by PeopleClues. Those answers centered around acknowledging that there is a problem, facing it head on, and making a change! My tweet, the idea to ask the employees what they think is the problem and how it can be improved, was also a common theme in the answers for question one. Overall, I guess we learned, if it doesn’t work, fix it until it does!

After ten minutes of discussing how to improve culture, the second question on how to foster an innovative and creative working environment was posted. This time PeopleClues also offered their own answer, suggesting “hire the right people, be the culture, employees will follow!” Another great answer reminded to minimize negativity by taking employee input and feedback seriously. Personally, my favorite theme in the answers for question two was investing in your employees by offering ways to develop themselves and their skills. If your employees are learning and happy, productivity and retention will increase. Can’t go wrong there, folks.

Finally it was time for the last question of the week: “What is one thing you do to develop your culture from the top down?” Suggestions ranged from setting good examples to making sure to be transparent about what’s going on at all times. Then, as quickly as it had begun, it was done. And wait, I think someone also mentioned free yogurt for everyone?

Be sure to join the #peoplechat Twitter discussion next week on Tuesday at 12:30 CST. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

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