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

It was the winter of 2009. I was 23 years old. The mobile division of the St. Petersburg branch of Motorola, where I worked then, was cut. I had to go to various interviews. As a result, I received an offer from the Korean Samsung. And two.

Job interview

The interview in Samsung is still the most unusual in my life.
The most difficult thing was to make a presentation about yourself, and then it only remained to put on a jacket, answer “Yes” to questions about working in overtime and be polite.

On the appointed day, I did just that, but in addition to a couple of Koreans who arrived in the St. Petersburg office, there was also a monitor for video conferences with several remote Koreans.

At first I successfully gave a presentation about myself. But then the remote and direct communication didn’t make much sense - the Koreans did not understand my Russian-English, and I, in turn, corresponded English. Only one of the technical issues was sorted out: “What is Dalvik?” Fortunately, a year and a half of development experience for Android helped me deal with this issue, but in a compartment with a good report about myself, I felt that the offer to the DMC (TN) department in my hands. This is exactly the department that is developing Galaxy smartphones.

Imagine my surprise when I also received an offer from the LSI division developing CPU + GPU + RAM sandwiches.

I remember that their remote group asked me some questions about low-level development, and I honestly admitted that in this matter I have absolutely no knowledge or experience. Apparently, they liked my honesty.

Offer Features

The second revelation for me was that in this company my experience, knowledge and skills are evaluated in a very specific way: in years. Those. if I am a software engineer with 4 years of experience in the specialty, then in Samsung, regardless of the results of the interview, I get the position of an engineer (선임, synonym).

A week after the interview by e-mail, congratulations on the successful completion. Then they asked by telephone which of the units I want. Of course, I chose something that I knew nothing about - I was hoping to get a new experience. All the same, the salary is the same everywhere.

A few days later I received a form in English-Korean languages ​​with a short description of the tasks and a couple of suggestions about who I can become in the long run (to be the technical manager of some features). They also asked me to confirm that this is exactly what I want to do, to send a bunch of documents from work to diploma with translation into English and disappeared for a couple of weeks.

Then, finally, he received the job offer. However, among the heaps of obscure English-Korean text, it clearly spelled "E3 사원" (Savon), which means an assistant engineer. Having read a well-known forum (, I understood the catch and tried to resist such injustice. What the previously friendly Korean HR clearly marked the line:
"I know you have serveral years of experience as an engineer, but we only count your experience that was done after your master degree. If you join in 2010, you will be the last year of E3 and will be promoted to E4 in 2011.3.1. ”

I tried to write in response an angry letter about the injustice of my new rank and that the promised $ 2,200 a month did not particularly exceed my motor salary at that time. But this is a different country with different prices. And anyway - I leave my family and friends here.

As a result, I did not receive an answer to my angry letter, but only a call from the eycharch with hints that there is no point in bargaining - we set the conditions, and you either accept or not. Experience is not taken into account in parallel with the institute, as either I studied poorly or worked poorly.

However, Samsung appreciates my diploma, equivalent to the international qualification of the master, so I am ready to count it for +2 years of experience. In total, taking into account 1.5 years after graduation, 3.5 years were accumulated, and 4 were needed for the synonym (E4 선임). Also, the contract was for 2 years, and not for one, as I expected. I reluctantly wanted to rewind such a period in an unfamiliar country, where dogs are also eaten with St. Petersburg salary, but I was reassured that I can terminate the contract at any time, and the penalty will only be that you have to buy a ticket to your homeland at your own expense.

I decided that even a couple of months to stay in a mysterious country (an hour's drive from Seoul) would be interesting and hit the road!

I want to note one more point about the offer: look not only at the net salary, but also at the bonuses. I initially did not believe in them, but in vain - they are paid in Samsung quite stably (unless, of course, the company itself shows normal results) and in total can make up more than half of the annual salary.

Accommodation, food

So, they eventually settled me in a hostel and, as promised in the letter, it looked like a real apartment with 3 rooms, 2 toilets (one completely electronic)), a shower room and no neighbors. I did not know only one thing: the territory is fenced, the entrance is only for Samsung employees and only for males.

It turned out that in such an environment it’s rather boring to live (especially at the age of 23) and even playing tennis in the local gym did not bring much joy.

The first thing that really struck me in this hostel was the food. I haven’t eaten worse in life: most food has only the taste of red pepper, and the rest is either algae or tofu. But this issue was easily solved - I bought the usual products in the store and began to cook different soups for myself. At prices, our usual food is not very standard for Koreans, but it is present in large stores such as Lotte at prices 1.5-2 times higher than St. Petersburg.

At work, the food was a bit more decent (especially if you rinse red pepper in a glass of water).

I must say right away that Samsung soon, for the first (and far from the last) time, violated the promises made to me when I was in Russia - and hooked up two neighbors. All my indignation and references to the written agreements that I had had reached nothing - Korea is a collective country and it is not customary to argue with the company there. I was just firmly told that now they have a shortage of places for new workers and I must understand this. So you need to be prepared for the fact that for some little things Samsung may not particularly scrupulously follow the letter of the contract. I didn’t have such a salary, but I heard, for example, that recently Russian engineers in Korea were given new contracts for signing without specifying specific salaries. In the end, no one was deceived, but for our mentality - this is a little indecent.


At that time I was young, active and for the first year struggled with a soulless colossus in the form of a local HR, wrote letters to different levels and, finally, by the second year I was moved to separate apartments. In Russian, this is an apartment in a large high-rise building (20-25 floors) with 3 rooms (I was single and therefore they were all very small - the entire area is about 50 meters with a few meters). For family people and also in accordance with their position, large areas are issued. But then everything was completely furnished. There was also a bunch of equipment: a completely new music center, TV, vacuum cleaner, fridge, microwave, stove (truth without an oven), rice cooker, air conditioning, washing machine. There was utensils, a bed, Internet access (for which I, however, did not pay - I had enough for all the fast Korean 3G). There’s even a balcony but since Korea is a country of security (more on that later), unfortunately, its glazing was covered with bars, especially in those places where the windows opened. The skyscrapers are usually combined into large apartment complexes, where there is a parking lot, places for garbage (there is a distributed system, which adds a bit of inconvenience) and a small indoor park for walking with small children.

In general, if you don’t worry about the fact that most of the apartment complexes are terribly monotonous, they look just like big gray boxes and there is no creativity, then Korea is an ideal place to live both alone and with children. Security especially struck me: I often walked at night and went to the most evil places, but even there I felt safer than in the evening in a residential area of ​​St. Petersburg.

In general, they try to improve everything. Sometimes even unusual facades are built, and in modern Korean buildings people and cars are completely isolated: parking is only underground, and above it is a beautiful small park.

Major issues

The main thing I encountered was the difficulty of living without knowledge of the Korean language. In principle, Samsung offers courses for those wishing to study it, but I did not like them, and there was no particular incentive to teach it, since from the very first days I realized that I would not live long in this country.

A language barrier was also present in communication with colleagues - many of them were literally afraid to speak English, constantly hanging in their attempts to find the perfect English word for this context. The corporate site was also translated only in places and all bonuses such as cheap tickets to a local water park (one of the largest in the world) were difficult to buy without the help of Koreans.

Most of all the rallies were killed, to which foreign workers of our group were invited, which did not in the least prevent the Koreans from quietly broadcasting for several hours on their own and great.

Even on the streets, I felt a language barrier when people sometimes almost jumped away from me, when I tried to ask them something in English. It happened that the Koreans asked to change places on the plane, seeing that a foreigner was sitting next to them.

Of course, the stories were different, but in general, Korea every day reminded me that I was a white monkey. But it was very nice to note that all the foreigners here seemed to be from the same country (in Korean we are all called Wikugins 외국인) and even greet each other on the streets when they see each other.

The next problem for me was the inability of Koreans to treat colds. It looks like this: you go to the doctor, say the symptoms, he finds them in the excel table and writes you the antibiotic indicated there. No one is soaring with analyzes. In addition, there are no hospital rooms there, so everyone goes to work sick, eat antibiotics, the viruses mutate and it is no longer possible to recover from them by other means. In general, I was sick in Korea very often. Although in the end I discovered for myself that quite good alternative medicine is quite good in this country. And I was even cured by some secret herbs from another terrible catarrhal virus.

Unfortunately, the inability of Koreans to use air conditioners also adds oil to the fire. It looks like they were just invented there and they are very proud of this outlandish thing. Therefore, in the summer, the temperature is always set to +18 in buses, while restaurants also, however, are usually a little warmer at work.

Unfortunately, there is no peace in winter either - the numbers +30 also proudly flaunt on buses.

Interestingly, in private cars, most Koreans also set extremely extreme temperatures.

In the next part, I write about leisure in Korea, the Russian-speaking community, the features of the work in Samsung itself, and finally, I summarize, explaining under what circumstances it is still worth going to work at Samsung, and when it can turn out to be a rather sad experience.

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