Should a programmer go to Korea to work for Samsung (part II)

    It seemed to me that in the first part about the specifics of life in Korea, I wrote too negatively. But then he gave an article to read to friends who lived or live in Korea and they said that everything is ok ... Like, it's still democratic.

    Turning back and looking at my 2+ years in this Asian country, I generally consider them not the most productive. A lot of sad experience comes to mind from terrible Korean nationalism to the inability to get a normal task at work. But it is worth noting that I am a very active person in life and if everything was bad, I would leave there in a few months. So something kept me there.


    I liked the Russian-speaking community in Korea. I think the Russians are not a very united nation, but this was not felt there. Moreover, we communicated equally well with Ukrainians, and with Armenians, and with Belarusians. We sat at the same table, sometimes together went to the countryside. It also helped a lot that Eastern Europeans communicate very directly, usually without trying to be considerate. And in Korea, the majority of the Russian-speaking population are engineers. This combination of directness and intelligence helps you quickly understand Korean features and get good advice on solving a variety of problems.

    Foreigners here, too, it seems to me, are becoming more frank. Even Americans often spoke very directly about their problems with the Koreans, and how they solved them.

    I already noted in the first part that all English-speaking people greet each other on the street, so it is usually not difficult to get to know the two “Vugugins”. The only problem is education: if the Russian-speaking population here is mainly engineers, then the English-speaking population is the American military and English teachers. Usually we have slightly different life principles and interests. Although learning English in a distant country is often just a part-time job for a young American or Canadian, as our students have part-time work as a waiter. Those. all this is wonderful and interesting if you do not stay too long in this area.
    At the same time, I still have friends with American English teachers and the military. Well, when my friend accidentally dug up an American satellite engineer in a Korean gym, it turned out to be a generally amazing person. And now he has become one of my closest friends.

    Of course, speaking of people, one cannot but mention the Koreans themselves. I must say right away that the problem of the majority of the population is limitedness. Although, maybe this is true about any country in the world. But even Korean engineers are usually not particularly interested in the rest of the world.
    This is largely due to their life - already from school they learn very hard - from 7 am to 11 pm. Moreover, for example, the geography of the world is not the main subject. The main thing is the geography of Korea! As a result, almost no Korean knows which country is the largest in the world ("China? .. um ... USA?").
    I was also killed by questions in the spirit of “Is it true that Russia is a very cold country?” Especially after I already said that this is the largest country in the world.
    The pride of the Koreans in having 4 whole seasons a year in their country was also amusing.

    But! When I first told unfamiliar Koreans that I was from the Russian Federation, in response to me the usual vodka and balalaika never poured. Surprisingly, I constantly heard something like: “Ah ... Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky?” Those. they are taught something at school.

    After school, the Koreans have an institute with a similar “study hard”. And from the second year, the entire male population goes to serve in the army. Flatfoot is not bought here and there are no our military departments. As a result, they study until the age of 26-27. And when they start working, they should give part of the income to aging parents (pensions are small) and save up for a wedding at the same time (this is a mega-expensive pleasure, especially considering that all colleagues are called to it).

    The female population is often much more open and has a broader horizons, if only because they have 2 years to travel around the world when Korean guys are trained in the army.

    Separately, I note the Koreans who had the opportunity to live abroad. Very often they are the exact opposite of the local population, much more open and often hate all this Korean ... And, as in the comments to my last part, Mixim333 noted the amazing speed of Koreans learning Russian, and sometimes I noticed how quickly and deeply they understand features of the culture of the country in which they live.

    Of course, the apogee of all this for me will forever remain our amazing Victor Tsoi !


    In terms of leisure, I liked the most the accessibility of the sea in Korea. It is here from all sides except the North ...
    Most Koreans prefer to swim in the East Sea (no one here knows what the names “Chinese” or “Japanese” mean). There are equipped beaches with lifeguards and crowds of people:

    Unfortunately, in addition to the excessive number of people in Korea wearing T-shirts in circles that don’t swim, there is another problem: restrictions. You can’t swim behind the track, because it can be deeper than human growth and there is a danger of drowning. If the waves begin to reach 40 centimeters, all swimmers are urgently expelled.

    And here I tried to fight the system - climbed to swim. Soon, however, I was forcibly pulled out by local rescuers on a boat. Then I tried for a long time to explain that I have a discharge in swimming and in general I am a free person and have every right to swim with the current calm. In response, it was politely explained that they were happy for me, but the danger was that Koreans who could not swim would follow me and they would drown. After my bewilderment that we were no longer children and why, in general, I should be responsible for some crazy people, my gallant opponent-rescuer finally split: “I was also abroad and I understand that something is not right here. But what to do, it’s such a **** strange country. ” I understood him and didn’t climb anymore.

    But I am glad that there is also the West Sea (the South is also good, but far away), in which the Koreans do not bathe much (they go there more for BBQ). It, of course, is less suitable for swimming, but there are places there without people at all, where you can safely stop with tents.

    The nature there is also beautiful:

    There are no restrictions and paths, however, as well as lifeguards. But you need to know the places, because often the sea is small off the coast:

    Through the forum I have already noted, we sometimes gathered and rode in a huge crowd to the West Sea. Sometimes it turned out that even in popular places for Koreans there were more Russian-speaking vacationers than local ones.

    Sometimes we went to local lakes, which are quite a lot near Suwon. The only frustrating thing was that swimming was officially prohibited there (patrol boats immediately arrived). This is because the depth in the lakes is greater than human growth and this is dangerous - you can drown.
    So we usually bathed closer to sunset.

    We were also going to engage in various sports - from football to snowboarding. By the way, ski resorts in mountainous Korea are very common and many of them resemble the Alps in their infrastructure. Only several times lower, they use mostly artificial snow and there is no freeriding. But at lunchtime all the tracks are closed and covered by a grader. Riding twice a day on a fresh track is an unprecedented luxury that I have not seen anywhere else in the world!
    I also really liked a large number of ski rental shops at the entrance to the resorts. As a result, sometimes it was possible to negotiate a snowboard rental with boots for $ 10-15 per day.
    In general, the phrase "Kaka jusayo" (give a discount) very often works well in Korea, especially when pronounced by a foreigner with an appealing tone.

    There are really many mountains in the country of morning freshness and hiking is very popular. It was often astonishing that even barely moving old women would still purposefully wander into the mountains. Perhaps this is one of the factors of the longevity of Koreans.
    The most popular direction of hiking, by right, is Seoraksan :

    The weather in Korea is more stable than in St. Petersburg. It is usually cold in winter (strong cold winds bothered most), but rarely the temperature drops below -9. In the summer it may well be +30. Spring and autumn are quite pleasant.


    I am very pleased that Samsung is fully engaged in the selection and payment of apartments (now, it seems, even my LSI unit does not settle foreigners in hostels). It’s rather difficult to do it yourself, because usually in Korea there are very large deposits, comparable to the cost of the apartments themselves. Unfortunately, such money is hard to find, and then taking it from the Koreans is not the most pleasant thing ... Now more and more Koreans are taking as collateral less than half the cost of housing, but at the same time you also pay monthly rents (wolves). There are options left without it (chonse), but then they are often asked to pay almost 80% of the market value of the apartments.

    When I lived in a hostel, I had enough for everything about everything $ 700 a month. After moving to the apartment, electricity bills ($ 140 +), gasoline for the car to get to work were added (now it has fallen in price and costs about $ 1.5 per liter). True, there are corporate buses, but I already wrote about the temperature there.

    Now, my friend wrote about his expenses for living in Korea with his wife:
    - rent in the summer: $ 200, from November to March $ 600 (moved to a large but unsuccessful apartment - it is very cold, so you often have to heat around the clock);
    - Internet at home + contracts with communication for 2 phones - this is $ 220;
    - car insurance, tax - $ 70;
    - gasoline $ 250;
    - doctors $ 50 (medical insurance from Samsung - this is a free clinic for workers on the territory + small discounts in other clinics);
    - products of $ 1000;
    - plus cafe / sports / entertainment / shopping.

    It turns out about $ 2000 + entertainment. But many of my colleagues live more economically.

    The real tax withheld from wages in Korea is one of the lowest in the world. About 17%. As a result, being a senior engineer (E5 - 책임 (total)), you can get more than $ 6000 net per month (taking into account the required bonuses). Which is one of the largest net salaries for a programmer in the world (of course, not including Silicon Valley)).
    And for this you do not need to brilliantly pass the interview. Just a master + 7 years of experience in the specialty. It is very difficult for a non-Korean to get a title above the chegim (especially if you do not have Japanese or American citizenship).


    So, the first working day. Introductory lecture for foreigners from a rather high-ranking person in local HR of American origin. I remember 2 statements of this interesting person:

    1. I have been working in Korea for a long time, I tried to change them, but this is impossible. I also advise you not to bathe. If you used to work a lot and earn little in your countries, then here you will be well paid, but it will not be easy to get a decent task. The main thing is not to worry, do not argue, and enjoy life.
    2. Most likely you will find a lot wrong in this unusual country. But think about it, if you think everything that is different from the accepted norms in your specific mentality is wrong, are you right?

    I must say right away - I believed in both of these phrases and both of them worked for me all 2 years.

    Even with a salary it turned out to be better than I expected, because Samsung has mandatory bonuses 3 times a year.

    After several months, I realized that my boss not only did not give me new assignments, but was also not happy that I could not think of a task for myself. He told me right at one of our face-to-face meetings that an engineer differs from a simple programmer in that he is able to come up with valuable tasks for the company.

    But the reality is different for everyone and I know people who received interesting tasks in Samsung. True, for this one must either lead with the team, or one must be truly proactive and try, no matter what.

    I had no luck or desire to try. In general, at that time I was poorly versed in proactivity, my official rank was an assistant engineer, and there wasn’t much desire to prove this strange Korean. Probably, it was also affected by the fact that by that time the local HR had been ugly with me more than once.

    I forgot to say that every day I went to work through a metal detector and also went out through it with a mandatory inspection of the phone and bag. The cameras on the phone were sealed at the entrance and checked at the exit, and if any of the stickers turned out to be removed, then all personal photos were viewed, plus the complaint against me reached VP. It was allowed to print only on special paper, which could not be removed, and therefore it was detected by a metal detector at the output. All usb outputs were blocked on the computer and there was a bunch of Korean security software that was constantly buggy. At the same time, as an Android developer, I had access to a usb linux machine that was not burdened with their security software. So all of their security looked like a farce, given the capabilities of adb.

    Local colleagues tried to avoid communication with me, being afraid to speak English.

    Most Koreans worked from 7am to 9pm. About 60 percent came on Saturdays, and 30 percent on Sundays. At the same time, I often noticed that they do not work all the time, and sometimes sleep in toilets (leaving characteristic circles from rolls of paper on the forehead) or even on keyboards. However, without receiving important tasks (for 2+ years, not a single line of my code was included in the official release), as a foreigner I at least had no problems with processing - I just left, after 8 hours and that’s all.

    I felt nationalism here even in nightclubs, when in all of Suwon (population 1.2 million people) there was only one club into which foreigners were allowed to enter. In the rest of the security, without a shadow of doubt, they said to me at the entrance: "Only for Koreans."

    In general, all this Korean people quickly got me and after a couple of months I began to get home ...

    But then, as I already wrote, I met various interesting people. They explained to me that I really can relax, enjoy life and do almost nothing. Because Samsung in the whole history fired only one person before the expiration of the contract, and even then they apologized to him for a long time and paid in advance all the money put under the contract. I also managed to gather colleagues for football games in the middle of the lunch break, spring came and life slowly became more fun!

    Sometimes the boss’s efforts unsettled me to come up with some kind of task for me, like “please analyze the rendering in the latest version of WebKit and prepare an analysis of how you can speed it up”. At that time, open-source developers around the world, as well as companies like Google and Apple, were engaged in this task. I did not believe in my abilities as an assistant engineer so much that I dared to take this task seriously. But he prepared a presentation and even tried to bring some kind of idea.
    In a word, the work for me fell into the 10th plan, and I was interested in communication, mma, football, snowboarding, swimming, swimming in the sea, traveling and other interesting things.

    Processing was not in vain. I note that my boss three times in 2 years ended up in an institution similar to our psycho-hospital, so I tried to bother him less and catch my eye. Koreans also did not use the required vacation, on average, spending 2 days a year on vacation out of the allowed 3 weeks. To my naive inquiries of the first days, the head answered something like: we need to leave in reserve - suddenly the child gets sick. But even in this case, they did not take a vacation, but they themselves were sick right at work.

    The reason was in the tradition. From conversations with young people, I realized that this is not a voluntary desire, but the remnants of the recent military dictatorship. Although Work Smart posters were hilarious everywhere, the recent Work Hard also hid under them.
    And the Koreans worked hard. So they worked that sometimes they died without going home. No kidding, when I got a job at a DMC department, my acquaintances were shown “Samsung Widow Stores”. They belonged to wives whose husbands died at work. Once again, a new feature of Korean culture shocked me, and I became even more firmly convinced of the idea that you should not particularly strain here.


    And yet, in my opinion, there are cases when it’s worth going to Korea:

    1. I would like not to bathe, but to get good money calmly, relaxing my body and soul. On this subject, my colleague from St. Petersburg, who has been working in the Android division of Samsung for 4 years, does not cease to amaze me, while he does not know and is not interested in such a thing as programming in general and android in particular. He simply redirects tasks to Samsung’s third-party contractors, goes to weekly hveches (team building dinners with mandatory alcohol) with his Korean colleagues and enjoys life.
    I remember, after a year of work, he suddenly had a fear that the Koreans would find out that he did not know how to program ... But soon the fears were in vain.

    2. Purposeful and proactive person (proactive in the sense of Stephen Covey 's book “7 Skills of Highly Effective People” ).
    I know many examples when Russian-speaking engineers in Samsung achieved both responsibility and interesting tasks. The only thing that seems to me - if all this proactivity was applied somewhere in the USA or even some good CIS company, it would bring even greater success than in Samsung.

    3. An engineer with an unusual specialization. For people like R&D Engineer at the Semiconductor, for example, it’s sometimes difficult to find jobs with decent salaries and interesting projects in the CIS. In Samsung, there are a lot of diverse research projects of truly world-class level and significance.

    Accordingly, if you want to build your IT career, and prove to others that you are an intelligent and capable person, this is not the most interesting part of your dream job, then, in my opinion, Samsung is not for you.
    But, for example, it may well be nice to leave for this safe country at the end of your career, have a decent salary and maybe even get a residence permit in the end (F5 visa, by the way, this is quite real ).

    Finally, I want to give a link to a short note that I wrote on the same forum 3 years ago on the last day of my work in Korea: “Korea. 25 months. 80 Why? "

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