Tag Archives: Korea

South Africans in Korea on the increase!

Seems like more and more South Africans are on their way to Korea. I just came across a recent (ok, it’s a month old) article on the increasing numbers of us out here. Still not as many as the Americans or Canadians, but certainly quite a few.

To quote the article, “the number of South Africans on E-2 visas increased from 709 in 2006 to 1,131 in 2007, and currently stands at 1,412.” Wow! You can check out the full article here: http://www.rjkoehler.com/2008/12/15/south-africans-on-the-increase-in-korea/

I wonder what has caused this increase? All that I can think of is that when I started doing research on coming to Korea back in 2007, there was very little information specifically for South Africans. But now there’s quite a bit, and it has made the whole process a lot easier. Also, at least one South African recruiter has stopped charging a ridiculously high recruitment fee to place people in Korea. This has certainly helped make it easier to get out here.

Apple MacProblems

Last year my wife and I splurged and we each bought an Apple MacBook. These are beautiful machines, and a hell of a lot more user friendly than the PCs that I’ve been fighting with over the last few years. Everything has gone swimmingly with our Macs – until we came to Korea.

The first inkling that there might be problems was when I had to connect my MacBook to my school’s network. The school called in a technician to sort out some problems with the network, and they promised that the guy would set my computer up at the same time. The guy walked in, sat down at my desk, and then didn’t move for about 3 minutes. I think he didn’t realise it was a Mac until he sat down, and now he had to somehow extricate himself without losing face. He waited until no-one except yours truly was watching, and then he scooted over to the desk alongside mine, without once actually touching my Macbook. He was very smooth, I have to say, since no-one else noticed.

You see, Korea is the land of PCs, not Macs. The computer guys here have no idea how to work with Macs, and will do anything to avoid them. So this technician, for example, worked on ALL the computers in the office, except mine. I assume he told the powers that be that there was something wrong with my MacBook, or that it won’t work on the school network. Something along those lines. This is the acceptable answer for any situation that involves a Mac.

A similar thing happened when we arranged an internet connection at home. The technician set everything up, but when it came to connecting our computers to the internet he almost bolted for the door when he saw our Macs. Instead of sorting the problem out, he said that our Macs won’t work with the connection and then he left. Just like that.

The funny thing is that Macs work on the same principles as PCs, but the computer guys here assume that they don’t know how to work with them. So I’ve had to take a crash course in basic networking to sort my internet problems out. And you know what? My MacBook connects just fine to the internet at home, and to the network at my school. And it was as simple as finding out some network codes and typing these into my MacBook’s network settings. Easy-peasy.

I don’t blame the Korean technicians for avoiding Macs – especially ones with English settings. Macs look unfamiliar, and they aren’t used to working with them. But this does make it really hard to get fix any problems, since they assume they can’t work wit Macs.

Generally we have been ok, but the latest problem is going to cost us a bundle. After we returned from China, my wife’s MacBook refused to start. We tried all sorts of fixes, but nothing worked. So we had to take it into a service centre. Of course, the nearest service centre is in Seoul, a good two-hour trip away. I ended up having to take a whole afternoon off to take the MacBook to UBase, an AppleMac service centre near Coex Mall.

After much misunderstanding and translation, they said the problem was a failed hard drive. But, to replace the hard drive, WE had to purchase one and take it to them. This was just plain weird. So we had to make a two-hour trip to Seoul just to purchase a hard drive in Coex Mall, and then walk across the street to give it to the technician at UBase to install it. He quickly put it in, and then reinstalled OSX, and we took the MacBook home. It worked fine that night, and the next morning, and then it conked out again. Same problem as before. So this meant another trip to Seoul to take it back. This time, the problem seemed to be the logic board, which would cost us 900,000 won to replace. For some perspective, a brand new MacBook costs 1,390,000. Almost as much. Great. This is after we already spent 115,000 won on a new hard drive, and over 50,000 won in travel costs to get to Seoul and back home. And at the end of the day, we still don’t have a laptop that works.

We now have to decide whether to buy a new MacBook or not, since it will cost too much to fix the old one. Sigh.

If we had a Windows laptop, we probably wouldn’t have had so many problems trying to fix it. PC stores are a dime a dozen here. So even though I’m a fan of MacBooks, these are a problem in Korea. Trying to sort out even the smallest problems keeps on becoming a major hassle, just because no-one knows how to work with them. And if you don’t live in a major city, then trying to get a MacBook fixed can become a financial and logistical nightmare.

Not that this means we’ll be going back to PC. Never! But I do wish Apple was more widespread in Korea. I can keep dreaming, can’t I?

Back from China

Coca-Cola with Chinese characteristics

As you might have guessed from the title, I’m back from a fantastic trip to China. My wife and I spent about nine days there – six days in Beijing and three days in Xi’an. Beijing was buzzing with pre-Olympics high-spirits, and it was wonderful to experience it. Everyone was wearing “I love China” t-shirts (including some not-to-be-named South African tourists), and Olympic flags, posters and souvenirs were EVERYWHERE! I got a good idea of what South Africa will be like before the 2010 Soccer World Cup. I think we might want to make a plan and be there for the atmosphere.

There were some downsides to the pre-Olympics buzz. Prices were definitely higher than I remember from my last trip in late-2005 (though this was offset a bit with my highly improved bargaining skills). The number of tourists definitely increased while we were there, so some of the friendliness of the locals seemed to dampen as the week went on. But there weren’t anywhere near as many foreign tourists as we were expecting to see, and we had to deal more with Chinese tourists than with people from other countries.

We got to do all the touristy stuff I missed last time I was in Beijing. We spent most of a day in the Forbidden City, we checked out Tiananmen Square, Mao’s Mausoleum, and I finally got to hike the Great Wall. Fantastic! Amazing! I’d do it again tomorrow! I also had a blast bargaining with people for souvenirs, handbags, t-shirts and all sorts of trinkets. I used to be all shy about this, but now it’s loads of fun!

We took an overnight train to Xi’an, which was very comfortable and I think way better than flying. It only cost +- RMB410 for a softsleeper ticket, and we saved on accommodation. Xi’an was definitely worth the visit, though the only thing I wanted to see was the Terracotta Army. I’ve been interested in seeing that for years. The rest of Xi’an was a bit of an aside for me, though there is plenty to see and do. My wife and I ended up checking out the city walls, which were pretty interesting (though a bit of a letdown after seeing the Great Wall), and we unfortunately missed seeing a Tang Dynasty dinner show. Our timing was all wrong. Oh well.. Maybe next time.

All in all a great trip. Now, however, it’s all back to business for the last stretch of our time in Korea. We have about four and half months of teaching time left, and we’re already planning our next trip. Hmmm… Japan or Southeast Asia? Choices, choices, choices…