Thursday, April 17, 2014

The journey of a professional blogger

Why did you start your blog?

I started blogging in 2006 to spread awareness about the technical communication profession, which seemed like an uncharted territory for many Indian graduates or working professionals. Back then, I was disappointed to find substantial information on the web for someone wanting to break into this field. People wanted to know the real deal, you know, not the usual beaten-up fluff you read in books! Also, traveling so much and meeting like-minded folks from all over the world did it for me, since everyone whom I bumped into during this time asked me to write about what I did.

Guess a blog was long overdue!

How long have you had the blog for?

It has been eight years already. My first blog post was published on February 21, 2006. I have written close to 50 blog posts. A good hard look at all these years would reveal more. Like I inflicted a self-imposed exile from 2012 to 2013, a period of time when I thought I hit the writer's block.

Do you see yourself still blogging in 5 years? 10 years?

Abso-fucking-lutely. I wouldn't mind becoming an old fart but still not give my right arm for anything else in the world. I blog because I care to provide a voice for issues that concern. I might not be blogging often, but each blog post of mine is a goldmine. No kidding!

Generally, I spend more time in researching, writing, and editing my blog than I would be in doing an article or a story for a publication.

How does your blog make money?

I don't blog for money. Period. I loathe posts that are laced with advertisements. That's clearly not the motivation. Besides, I was living and working in Korea from 2005 to 2012, a time when blogging seemed like the only way to connect with the folks in India and let them know about my travel exploits. I do acknowledge that as a result of blogging, I have been invited to special events like product launches or celebrity talks. Some of my best friends are bloggers, and it's very obvious why.

How do you get people to come to your site?

That is a very good question. When I started to blog, I didn't potentially realize the reach, relevance, and resonance of the content that I was producing. A lot of bloggers were leveraging the social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to promote their content. I realized quite late that in order to make everyone read the stuff I produce, it was important to get the word out first. Marketing was the game changer, so I actively started to socialize online and allowed my network to get access to my content. I am more like a content curator now, who cherry-picks the best content to share with the community.

How do you decide what content to produce?

Some ideas to write would directly come from the community. Others would come from life experiences and such. For example, a lot of people who stumbled on my blog requested if I could do a post on working in Korea, more specifically, working for a Chaebol like Samsung. A lot of the blogging that I do centers around telling the plain effing truth. What the traditional media publishes may sometimes be a contorted version of the hardcore reality. I don't like that, and obviously, don't want to stereotype my blog.

How many hours a month do you put towards the blog?

The muse strikes at least 3 to 4 times a month, but I am hoping it will be a thing of the past this year. I spend at least 4 to 5 hours in researching and writing a blog post of about 500 words. The editing may take an additional hour, depending on the length.

What's the best part about being a professional blogger?

Blogging is addictive. Your content resonates with people almost instantly. Even if they don't like what you've published, you will still get an opinion. And I think that is important for growth! I consider the audience of my blog as my best critique. The part I like the most about being a professional blogger is that there is never a dull moment.

What's the worst part about being a professional blogger?

The flip side about being a professional blogger is the time and effort it takes to write and maintain a blog. Because you have to research, write long blog posts with photos, captions, and such, editing is required. Not just any editing but extensive editing. Also, blogging cannot provide immediate results. I find that taxing at times.

Would you recommend that people try their hand at becoming a professional blogger?

Give me a reason why they should not, and the drinks are on me! Everyone has a story to tell, and they should do their own bit in contributing.

Do you have any advice for someone who is trying to start a blog?

Take a methodical approach. Choose your topics wisely, and ditto with your audience. Also, don't undermine the power of reach, relevance, and resonance.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Real Story of Seoul

Nine years ago, I transcended the physical boundaries to call Seoul my second home. Little did I realize, I was embarking on a beautiful journey of self-discovery.


Ajit, Cho, and Moi

For the outside world, Seoul might present itself as a sprawling, unique metropolis -- home to over 10 million people -- and undeniably, Korea's major economic, political, and cultural hub. However, for me, Seoul means all this and much more ...

Through this blog post, I'll share my perspective on Seoul.

Like most first-timers to Seoul, I too was awestruck by the sheer modernity of the city. Few could've imagined that the modern-day Seoul, as we know today, was at the verge of destruction during the Korean War. Its resurgence is symbolic in many ways.

A photo from the Korean War (Image Courtesy: Boston.com)

The real story of Seoul is not hidden in the tall skyscrapers or the ancient Buddhist temples that encircle them, but in a few important landmarks that are historically significant.

Jongno - The Bell Street



Jongno Tower (Image Courtesy: http://www.panoramio.com/)

Take Jongno street for instance. Better known as the “Bell Street,” Jongno is famous for Bosingak, which is a marquee with a large bell. It is said the bell signals different times of a day and controls the four main gates to the city, and is usually rung thirty-three times at midnight on the New Year's Eve. 

Bosingak (Image Courtesy: http://english.seoul.go.kr/)

When former Korean president Kim Dae-jung took office in 1998, the bell was rung in the midst of an intense economic crisis that had hit the country. Every Korean worth his salt knows that Kim opened a new chapter of economic transparency and played an even greater role of steering the country on the world map by hosting international events such as the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The melancholic yet inspiring sound of the bell has definitely struck a chord with millions of locals and expats living in or across Seoul.

Namsan

Somewhere in the heart of Seoul lies a mystic mountain called Namsan. On the top of this mountain, a tower has been resurrected to help the onlookers view the complete city.

Namsan Tower (Image Courtesy: http://namsan.files.wordpress.com/)

Close on the heels of the tower flows the Han River, which has seen the city go through several ups than downs for over 2000 years.

Han River

Sungnyemun - The Gate of Exalted Ceremonies

Any reference to Seoul would remain incomplete without the mention of its diversified cultural heritage and treasures. As you'd probably know, most original Korean artifacts were either destroyed or burned by the Japanese and the Chinese. Few that are left survive to tell the tale of Korea's long-lost and stark history.

Sungnyemun or "the Gate of Exalted Ceremonies," which was built by the King Taejo during the Chosun dynasty, stood tall as the front gate of the capital. The locals still refer to it as the symbol of Seoul. Imagine how distressing it must've been for them to see the gate burn in front of their eyes.

Sungnyemun (Image Courtesy: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/)

People of Seoul are characterized by a strong sense of strength and hope. I can quote several instances from the history books, where Seoulites have stuck together and remained calm during adversity -- be it the hostage incident with the Taliban militants, the oil spill mishap in Taean, or the collapse of Sungnyemun – all are all living testimony to their undying spirit.

Walk down the nearby alley, and you'll find in the hustle and bustle of Namdaemun market -- a traditional 24-hour market -- that the hallmark of Seoul remains in tact.

Namdaemun Market (Image Courtesy: http://www.travelblat.com/)

Seoul is also a popular financial and commercial destination for some of the most prolific conglomerates the world has ever seen, such as Samsung (my ex employer), LG, KIA Motors, and Hyundai. Some locals call it a “Miracle on the Han River”.

Clearly, the fifth largest city in the world has a lot to offer – be it a free concert at the Namsangol Hanok Village or a cable car ride up to the North Seoul Tower, be it a peaceful protest at the City Hall or a field trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), there are plenty of things to do for everyone.

Seoul might seem intimidating at first, but it is truly a place to grow. The city is reminiscent of an unimaginably rich culture, mirroring ancient and western values. If you are excited about living in Seoul, come explore and enjoy Seoul – the soul of Korea.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Serving In A Fab Style This Holi

I cannot believe that Holi, the festival of colors, is round the corner. For me, the vivid memories of children, mostly boys, running helter-skelter with their pichkaris still linger on. As a kid, I could not wait for the Holi holidays to be announced at school. Just thinking of the bright colors of gulal and abir filling the air would bring a twinkle to my eyes. Me and my motley crew took turns in pouring color water over each other. We then refilled our pichkaris to repeat the ordeal. Not only that, we threw zillions of water balloons at passersby, making them wet in a fraction of a second. A hilarious sight to watch, though not so much for our unassuming victims!

Holi, for many, marks the beginning of spring. But for me, Holi was - and continues to be - the season of mischief - where people of all age groups indulge in throwing colored powder at each other, knowing that no one would object or mind in the true spirit of the festival. In fact, Holi unites the entire nation, bringing everyone onto the streets to celebrate.

That said, it is not uncommon to socialize on Holi. Many form groups or "tolis", move from pillar to post, apply colors, and exchange pleasantries. Another highlight of the festival is the Holi songs or dance ritual - be it the rhythm of dholak or the more popular Bollywood tracks like Rang Barse (or the most recent, Balam Pichkari).

Holi is also considered a festival of love, and not without a reason. It is believed that Lord Krishna started the trend of applying colors to his gopis (milkmaids) of Brindavana, including Radha, which gained popularity afterwards.

If you are in India during Holi, make sure to frequent the nearest markets, as even days before the festival, heaps of gulal can be seen along the roadside. You will also find frenzied shoppers displaying pichkaris in all shapes and sizes - using innovative design to lure all and sundry.

Think Holi is all about colors and collecting memorabilia? You are probably just getting to know our unique culture and traditions. Many Indian women take Holi as an excuse to prepare mouth-watering delicacies - thandai, dahi bhalla, gujia, malapua, mathri, papri chaat, and other snacks.

Wifey too, in full festive flare, ordered a set of porcelain bowls from FabFurnish.com - India's largest online home store. I cannot wait to relish the thandai and other delights in this set of 6 piece bowl set.

Alfresco Jagson Galaxy Bowl Set of Six Pieces
If you are not consuming Bhang on Holi, you will never know how it feels like to go all the way. Just kidding! I've seen the most sober folks make a clown of themselves in full public view after downing a few glasses. All in the spirit of Holi!

Wifey recommends a wonderful product to gift this season from the house of Pasabahce. Absolutely apt for the occasion!

Pasabahce Garden Water Bottle Blue & Yellow Set of Seven Pieces
Last but not the least, enjoy Holi this year and ensure it is a fun-filled, yet memorable day. Happy Holi to all your loved ones, peeps!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Skyscanner plays a gracious host at the 17th IndiBlogger meet in Delhi

Yet another IndiBlogger meet has just culminated. Beyond the usual hoopla of introducing a new client and their product or service offering every time, IndiBlogger scores pretty decent in engaging the blogger community in India.

It's a win-win situation for at least three parties, including:
  1. The sponsors: Usually the company sponsoring such events is looking to strengthen its PR and online marketing initiatives via word-of-mouth publicity on blogs or social networking sites like Twitter (as a matter of fact, the live tweets and the trending on Twitter using specific hashtags have proven to be such brilliant tools to get the word out!) 
  2. The folks at IndiBlogger: Obviously, someone will end up raking in the moolah ;)
  3. The local blogging community: Who meet and trade ideas from time to time in the hopes of getting out of the everyday rut (don't get me started on the unabashed networking, which evidently gets into full swing each time a large-scale event is organized; plus the usual cream of the crop that turns up to win freebies and occasional expensive gifts.) 
Everyone has good fun apparently, and that's the whole point.

Plus what wonderful hospitality! Anyone who has frequented the last few IndiBlogger meets in Delhi would tend to agree that the venues (read "chic 5 star hotels") are best in class ... and no-no, that's not the foodie in me talking!

Take Le Meridien Hotel for instance. On March 1, the Sovereign ballroom housed over 400 of Delhi's finest bloggers. That's a crazy number by any standard.

Sovereign - The largest ballroom in Le Meridien Hotel, Delhi
The "biggest" IndiBlogger meet was sponsored by Skyscanner - a passenger flight, hotel, and car hire search engine. Since I also work for a leading travel company, I was intrigued to hear their success story. 

Skyscanner offers a multilingual site and app that allows users to browse for flights, hotels, and cars in over 30 languages, including Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Polish, Spanish, and Japanese.

Skyscanner App
After downloading the app from the Play Store, it took me awhile to figure out that Skyscanner does not sell flights directly; however, you can find the cheapest deal for a desired route, after which you are automatically redirected to the airline or travel supplier’s website to make a booking. Pretty neat!

Agenda for the Skyscanner IndiBlogger meet
Post registration and lunch, we were introduced to Kavitha Gnanamurthy, Senior Marketing Manager at Skyscanner Singapore. We got to know that the company was headquartered in Scotland, United Kingdom, with offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Singapore, Beijing, Miami, and Barcelona. In fact, Singapore is their headquarters for Asia-Pacific operations.

Kavitha Gnanamurthy
Kevin Foo, who is the Head of Communications APAC at Skyscanner, urged us to travel smarter and make easier travel decisions by using Skyscanner. He seemed genuinely interested in hearing about our travel exploits, so the folks at Indiblogger obliged. Like how? By sharing travel pictures tweeted by fellow bloggers :) 

The deal was: if you tweet your favourite travel pictures with you in it, you could end up winning a return flight ticket to any domestic location of your choice. It was mandatory though to use the #skyscanning hashtag in the tweet. One winner was randomly chosen from the several who managed to send in their pictures in time.

My Favorite Travel Picture
The fun quite didn't end there. We were asked to click selfies with another blogger at the venue, whom we thought made for a great travel companion. There were domestic flight tickets at stake again. Any guesses who won?

Khusnud and Moi
No, it wasn't moi, even though my selfie was sort of cute ... heartiest congratulations to Sugam and his bestie :)

The Selfie winning entry - "bromance"
Then came the stage fight, where six teams were divided and leaders from each team were chosen. The task was to find out the names of cities or countries from a deck, and come up with the cheapest fare for the entire route/itinerary (to and fro).

I volunteered to become the leader for Team #3 (Skychainers). We put up a great show and were the self-proclaimed winners :)). The winning team (#5) came up with the cheapest fare of INR 4+ lacs, which was much closer to the real deal.

Team #3: Skychainers
The mic was later passed to enthusiastic bloggers, who narrated their travel stories one by one. I couldn't help but talk about my South Korean escapade. For the uninformed, I spent seven youthful years of my life (from 2005 to 2012) in the Land of the Morning Calm.

The Gatecrashers
Post hi-tea at 4pm, an open panel discussion was held, wherein hot topics like the safest countries for women to travel were discussed.

Finally, in the true tradition of all IndiBlogger meets, a group photo session took place and freebies like T-shirts and bags were distributed to all and sundry.

Group Photo

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Take on Winning

Winning is the theme of the latest edition of the India Today Conclave, the country’s best known global thought platform. The festival of ideas brings forth winners and visionaries from every walk of life, who come forward to share their human experience to make the world a wiser and brighter place to live.

The past 12 Conclaves were widely acclaimed for the quality of thought and discussion.



Through this article, I am going to share my own thoughts on winning.



Winning is important, but trying is even more important

I believe that there are no shortcuts to winning. If you do not have a clear-cut strategy drawn out on a chalkboard and if your efforts remain substandard, it will be hard if not impossible to experience winning.

A lot of people emphasize on winning alone, forgetting that regardless of the outcome, you’ve got to try first. Pour your heart and soul into whatever it is that you’re trying to win.

Winning can be at times a slow, arduous process

Contrary to popular belief, the road to winning can be long and uncertain. As part of the journey, you must encounter and experience pain, frustration, and loneliness.

Even if you are not guaranteed of a win, you will still be able to cover enough ground through your hard work and effort.

You cannot win unless you overcome adverse circumstances or obstacles

Remember that the roadblocks you may encounter are there for a reason. If you want something badly enough, you have to try a lot harder than those who don’t.

Do not allow your personal challenges to bring you down in your quest to win.

Winners rarely quit

When the going gets tough, don’t whine or give up; instead, just work harder! Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson, the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball, never complained … even if the fans spit on him.

The bottom line is you can spend your time cribbing or playing like a pro. The latter is likely to be more effective.

It’s okay to lose 

Talk of women’s figure skating and there isn't a better contender than South Korea’s Yuna Kim. As a brand ambassador for the sport and the Olympic Committee in Korea, she was touted as a clear favorite to win gold at this year’s Sochi Winter Olympics. This was supposedly her final outing before retirement.

Unfortunately for Yuna, her dream of winning back-to-back Olympic gold medals was dashed by Russia’s 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova, who handed over one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport.

Only Sonja Henie and Katarina Witt have accomplished the rare feat.

Kim, the sport that she is, stood relieved that her illustrious figure skating career was over.

The learning is: you can’t win them all.

Winning as a team

Sometimes you may have to sacrifice your personal goals or accomplishments in the larger interest of the team. You can’t win alone every time.

Don’t let winning get to your head

Finally, winning shouldn’t become an unhealthy routine. As Randy Pausch said in his last lecture, “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.

I couldn’t agree more!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Your wish is my App II: Nokia plays Santa at the year's first IndiBlogger meet

Being a technology blogger has its own set of perks. You get invited to local events, meet interesting and like-minded folks from all walks of life, and win freebies.

For me, the biggest incentive to attend a blogging event is to network and see what's abuzz in the world of gadgets and gizmos.

Last month I received an invite to attend Your wish is my App II, a Nokia IndiBlogger meet. This was the 16th IndiBlogger event in Delhi (the city has hosted the maximum IndiBlogger meets along with Mumbai). I was quite excited to meet the likes of Rajiv Makhni (twitter handle: RajivMakhni), Vishal Gondal (twitter handle: vishalgondal), and my all-time favorite, Vikas Khanna (twitter handle: TheVikasKhanna).

Being the first Indiblogger event of 2014 and the second edition of the Nokia IndiBlogger meets, the organizers had planned to perfection. A chic 5-star hotel (The Oberoi) to host the event, exclusive media coverage from NDTV, and more than 300 of Delhi's finest bloggers under one roof. Could you ask for more!

I entered the Ballroom and quickly registered myself. It was a matter of time until the crew from NDTV started looking for some insights into cool, futuristic Windows apps. Not surprisingly, there were Nokia Lumia phones on display, so one could see how Windows phones were pitted against competition, that is, Android or iOS phones.

Getting interviewed by NDTV
The evening kickstarted with a brief presentation from P. Balaji, Managing Director, Nokia India. Here are some statistics thrown in for consumption:

  • There are about 160 million people who use the Internet; Nokia reaches out to 70 million among them.
  • 90 million of these people access Internet on their mobiles.
  • 25 million of these people access Internet on their PCs.
  • The smartphones sales went up considerably in 2013, with 1 billion devices sold during the year.
  • Around 1.6 billion apps were downloaded last year.
  • 60% of people in the age group of 15 to 30 years engage on the Internet via their mobiles, mostly through social networking.

It comes as no surprise then that Nokia hails as the largest social media brand in the industry.

Other thing that was very apparent from Balaji's presentation was the urge to feed and reward the Developer community. In the DVLUP event last August, there were around 15,000 participants and close to 10,000 apps that were conceptualized. INR 3.5 crore was showered on developers in the way of rewards.

There are nearly 200,000 apps on Nokia Lumia phones alone powered by the Windows platform. Most of these apps are locally relevant, for example, Spicejet and Sun TV apps were first on Lumia devices. Nokia has its eyes firmly set on gamification, retail, and digital marketing.

Post Balaji's presentation, the focus shifted to the new season of app reality TV show, Your wish is my App, which is going to premier on NDTV Prime starting mid-March. The swashbuckling hosts (Rajiv Makhni, Vishal Gondal, and Vikas Khanna) were greeted with a rousing fanfare.

Vikas Khanna and moi
The last season saw close to 38,000 ideas being submitted, and top 40 among those made it to the reality show. The participation was not only limited from India alone, with entries from US, Japan, and Italy also making it to the show.

The audience was unrestrained with some crazy app ideas. One lady wanted an app that could locate loo for females in the city. Ha! Someone wanted an app for organ donation.

The hosts enthralled the crowd with their slapstick style of humor. Some folks were also invited on stage to role-play that kept the momentum going for awhile.

300 of us
So there, what is my wish for a futuristic Windows app? Here goes:

Admit
After relocating to India in 2012, I had to go through the harrowing experience of getting my 4-year-old son admitted to a local school. I had to run around for admissions, collecting forms, meeting teachers and other school staff, enquiring about school buses, etc. I longed for an app that could have saved from all the hassle. 
It would do a world of good to parents if an app was devised to search the nearest schools in a given locality, allow the admission forms to be filled online via the app, and allow the teachers or school staff to be contacted for further assistance. The same logic could be applicable for college admissions as well.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

2011 - The Year That Was


So here we are again. Yet another year has passed. Honestly, I could have done a lot more justice to my blog this year, but simply put, the drive was missing. My new job is demanding, actually, much more than I had anticipated. Besides writing a blog is no joke; it requires a lot of concealed effort and dedication.

Alright, I'll cut to the chase and fill you in on both my professional and personal fronts.

Professional Highs:
  • It's no longer a secret. I joined Lionbridge Korea as a Documentation Project Manager in November 2010. Within a few months, I was promoted to the position of a Solution Architect, primarily because the management acknowledged my contributions in active presales. Under my leadership, Lionbridge Korea has secured many work orders for their Global Content Development (GCD) business unit. My team also reported a double-digit growth in annual revenue this year, which is freaking exciting to say the least.
The Top 25 Most Influential Bloggers in Technical Communications
Personal Highs:
  • Some of you probably know via my Facebook or Twitter updates that I was interviewed by tbs TV channel. It wasn't a planned interview though, since I had sneaked in to attend a weekend event called “Explore Seoul”, organized by the Seoul Metropolitan Government. There I was - with my family plus a bunch of unknown foreigners - visiting famous tourist attractions in the city like Gahoe Museum, Samcheong-dong, and Coex. You can see a short clip here.
Explore Seoul
  • Following the success of the "Explore Seoul" event, RJ Henry Kimm invited me to share my travel exploits on his show "Primetime". The show was aired live on tbs eFM (101.3 MHz). You can listen to the recording here.
  • For a change, this year I was keen in exploring some of Korea's best performing arts, which meant making time to see Drumcat Percussion Performance at MyungBo Art Hall and 2011 Korea In Motion's Hot Stage (Dulsori's Well-Wishing BINARI).   
Drumcat
2011 Korea In Motion's Hot Stage (Dulsori's Well-Wishing BINARI)
  • Talking of music, I was totally high on K-Pop throughout the year - be it attending the 2011 Incheon Korean Music Wave or taking a day off to greet 2PM and missA in person.
2PM and missA
  • A visit to Boseong Green Tea Plantations was long overdue, and this year I could finally plan a road trip along with my wife and son during Korean Thanksgiving holidays.
Boseong Green Tea Plantations
2011 was an excellent year for me on many different levels. My best wishes to you for a peaceful but productive new year.

Friday, October 08, 2010

How to Network When Living Abroad

[Claudine Williams wrote this guest post on behalf of MNUI, a travel insurance company. You might also want to check out her blog, "Korea-Diva".]

When living abroad for an extended period of time, it's a good idea to have a solid network of friends. You need people with whom you can share your experiences, laugh, or simply relax. However, because you are new to the country, finding new friends can be a challenging task. That's why you should try to network as much as you can, before you leave your home country.

Make friends in the new country, before you even leave home. This is a possibility, thanks to the Internet and social networking. You can find groups of people who are also traveling to your new country, or you can meet people who are already settled there.

I highly recommend using Facebook Groups on http://www.facebook.com/ to meet friends with your interests who may be living abroad. You can find groups for just about everything on Facebook. If a group does not exist that meets your interests, you can create the group and see who joins. Your best bet, of course is joining an established group. Be as active as possible in the group. Answer questions. Post your own questions and form connections with people. People will eventually ask you to friend them or swap contact information for sharing additional information. Of course, be careful about sharing any personal information on the Internet. You may only feel comfortable with sharing an email address, not your home address or phone number. You may decide to keep all contact limited to Facebook. Be as cautious as possible when interacting with people you don't know, but get to know them. It is definitely possible to safely make friends on the Internet.

To meet people in person, try using http://www.meetup.com/. These groups have in-person meetings, so people can connect. While in your new country, for example, you may join a meet-up group for going to movies or taking adventure trips. You may join a meet-up group for people who are learning the language spoken in your new country. Just like in Facebook, there are a variety of meet-up groups. With meet-up, you can meet a large group of people in person, depending on the size of the group.

Of course, you can go the traditional routes of meeting people in bars or at parties. Bring business cards with you or create name cards with your name, email address, and cell number. You can also opt to add the person to your cell phone while you are at the venue. I've had people ask me to call them, or they will call me, to exchange numbers during social events. When attending social functions, be prepared to meet new people, and be approachable. If people are not approaching you, approach them. If you are introverted, make a goal of approaching at least two or three people and introducing yourself and chatting for at least four minutes. Don't be tempted to simply say hello and move on. Ask the people about themselves. Getting them to talk about themselves is a great first step to starting a conversation and increasing your network.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Balancing Hobbies and a Full-time Job in South Korea

[Claudine Williams wrote this guest post on behalf of MNUI, a travel insurance company. You might also want to check out her blog, "Korea-Diva".]

While working in South Korea, you may find that you still want to continue hobbies that you'd begun at home or new hobbies that you'll acquire in your new residence. It can be difficult to balance your home life with your work life, particularly in this country, where workers are expected to participate in extracurricular activities with other employees. You will find yourself in the middle of a balancing act, trying to complete what is expected of you on the job, while trying to do things that you enjoy. Don't end up giving up all things that enrich your life. You can balance family, friends, and your personal time if you set specific boundaries.

Although culturally, Korean people often go out for drinks, hiking expeditions, or travel with co-workers, I have seen Korean people bow out gracefully from these requirements. I'm not saying that you should refuse to attend any outings with your co-workers, but it may be okay to miss a few or, at least, leave early. Attend most of the activities, but don't feel stressed about attending them all. You can also try to skip a particular type of event. For example, if you are a non-drinker, you can try to skip a few of the events that center around drinking. If you are allergic to seafood, perhaps you can try to skip visiting a seafood restaurant with your co-workers.

Try to incorporate your new Korean friends and co-workers with your hobby. If it is feasible, you can try to teach your Korean friends your hobby or invite them to participate. This will go a long way in solidifying relationships in your new country. You are also combining time spent with your Korean friends and co-workers with time spent doing what you enjoy.

Set aside time after work to do what you enjoy. Set aside some time so that your time is not swallowed up by work. You can spend an hour a day or an hour a week. Setting aside just a little time can go a long way towards making you feel more balanced and enriched. Try not to talk yourself out of the time that you've set aside. In short, don't deviate from your schedule.

If your schedule fluctuates, create a "to-do" list with time set aside to work on your hobby. Therefore, you are not obligated to work on your hobby at a specific time, but anytime during the day or week if you make a weekly "to-do" list. You can also create a list that divides your tasks between things that you want to do and things that you must do. For every few tasks that you must do, you can reward yourself by doing something that you enjoy.

Use a timer to help you manage your time if you are seriously under a time-crunch. You can set your timer so that you complete a task within 30 minutes, giving yourself another set period for working on your hobby.

Dealing With Culture Shock when Working Abroad

[Claudine Williams wrote this guest post on behalf of MNUI, a travel insurance company. You might also want to check out her blog, "Korea-Diva".]

Culture shock is a common experience when moving abroad to work. Some people experience feelings of unease, homesickness, or have trouble adapting to their new environment. The feelings stem from being placed into new surroundings with different expectations, which may vary considerably from your own culture. Therefore, the social and business norms may differ in your new country, making you feel uneasy.

You may also miss your family or friends, your favorite foods, or your car back home. In countries where your native language is not spoken, you may miss the ability to speak fluently in your own language anytime you wish. Some people simply experience a general feeling of unease. They can't communicate what they don't like about their new surroundings. They simply have misgivings.

The first step to overcoming culture shock is identifying it. When you understand that culture shock is a normal state when moving to an unfamiliar land, you are a step closer to dealing with it. Sometimes, due to the thrill of living in a new area, culture shock is not immediate, when settling into a new country. You may feel elated, and everything around you may appear to be bright, shiny, and new. Even commonplace activities take on a new brilliant appearance to some people when they first settle into a new country. Along with the demands of your new job, organizing a new home, and meeting new friends, you may be under the assumption that you have escaped culture shock.

However, in this case, when the feelings of newness disappear, and you attempt to settle into the new environment, you may then experience culture shock. Culture shock may or may not be immediate. You may have a delayed reaction. Once you realize that you may be experiencing culture shock, it is helpful to talk about your experience with people of your own culture who are also living abroad. Therefore, it's a good idea to have a network of friends or people from your own culture around you. If there is no such community, reach out to other foreigners in general, or make phone calls home. Communication with people who are familiar will go a long way to cope with culture shock. Talking with other new residents will help you to understand that you are not alone, and that others have had many of the same experiences as you.

Be careful not to totally immerse yourself into life back home or with your friends. If you spend more time with other foreigners or talking with friends back home, you miss out on the pleasure of living in a foreign land and spending your time learning about a new culture. Try to balance time spent exploring and settling into your new environment with time spent with people and things that are familiar to you. For example, eat foreign foods sometimes, but also visit restaurants that cook food from back home, if those places are available. Explore your new surroundings. Spend some time making new foreign friends from your new environment, but also spend time with people you know from back home through Skype calls.