Wednesday, July 04, 2018
South Korea: The Anti-Italy
I love Italy. I mean I love Italy. Everybody knows this. It is quite possibly the most beautiful country in the world. But...it is not always easy to get things done there, even for americans who work or are stationed on one of the bases there as the extreme bureaucracy extends there as well. As much as I enjoyed my time there, the problems I had getting stuff done are well documented. Arriving in Italy and leaving Italy can test even the most patient person as nothing ever seems to run smoothly. Trying to in-process or out-process can be frustrating as everything is spread out and then you try to do something that should be simple but then you find out you can't do it until you go to this other place and take care of that first, and then you go back to take care of the first thing you were trying to do only to find out that you were also supposed to do this other thing as well which nobody told you the first time so now you go back to take care of that and OOPS...now it's lunch and everything is closed for the next three hours so you have to wait and then start the process all over and there's a good chance that at some point in your struggle, you will encounter an Italian telling you "Domani...domani..." (We'll do it tomorrow) which is sort of the unoffical national motto. In fact, there's a popular joke among Americans that the real reason people stationed there don't want to ever leave is because it's just too difficult. Anyone who followed the constant hi-jinx that affected everything I tried to do the past couple months knows a little of what I'm talking about. It is a common occurrence for Americans to apply for jobs in Italy and head there all excited with visions of eating gelato and riding in gondolas in their heads and then after a couple months of trying to get their internet hooked up, dealing with non-existent customer service, people who never stand in line for anything...they start hating Italy and regret ever going there. I was one of the lucky ones who fell in love with the country and the culture despite the constant bureaucracy and difficulty getting things done. After all, I found out during my short stint back in the US that things don't seem to be much better there these days.
South Korea though, man...
What a difference! Whoever designed this base deserves an award. You realize right away that things are different here. It all starts with the in-processing; they put just about every single office that you have to in-process in ONE building and called it, appropriately enough, the One-Stop Building. ID cards, vehicle registration, security, passports, housing, etc....all in one building. I've never had such an easy time in-processing in my life. It might be different for soldiers who come here but for me as a civilian, what a difference from Italy and hell, even Germany and the US. There are Koreans working in just about every office and they can't seem to do enough for you, it's the complete opposite of the Italians working on the bases there. The biggest difference? Without a doubt, the housing. I'll be penning (well, typing) a separate blog post about the differences in housing between here and Italy so I won't go into details here. Suffice to say, it is night and day.
It is no small thing to say that in my first week here, I have not been frustrated once. Not one time, by anything...those who know me are probably shocked by that!
I've traveled around Asia a decent amount and I've found the culture here to be different than in the west. In countries like Japan and South Korea, they are workaholics and it's normal to go above and beyond in just about everything they do. It's no accident that South Korea currently has the 7th largest economy in the world despite its small size. They are industrious here, they figure out how to get things done and usually in a very efficient way. I realize it's only been about a week but so far I am finding it exceedingly refreshing...