“I bet it felt like you arrived in the new world, like Christopher Columbus,” I jokingly said to Jun Keun. He laughed as he told me about his first experience with road kill. “Is this Savannah, USA or Savannah, Africa? I’ve never seen so many animals… armadillos, upside down, with these giant eagles picking at them, and a few miles later, a deer on the side of the road.” I assured him that will certainly not be the last time he sees that scene and offered a polite correction in bird species.
When talking about coming to The States, he references himself and his fellow teammates as “deployed.” He shares the basic details of the mobilization plan in terms of the employees who will be assigned to bring the Hyundai knowledge to America in various phases as they begin to build out the new Metaplant America facilities. This includes Hyundai Mobis, which we recently learned will be located in Richmond Hill at The Belfast Commerce Center off Exit 82.
There was obviously a lot of extensive research done prior to Hyundai choosing Bryan County to locate its 5+ billion dollar investment and not just in terms of the business. “Headquarters investigated the area to learn where our people would live, how they would live, what it would take financially to live, how we would get our food… They analyzed the cost of rice, chicken, pork, beef, and other living expenses; the choices for educating our children,” Jun Keun explains. I learned their work visas are good for five years and most likely only 50-60 percent of those being relocated will bring their families over to live here.
He tells me several stories about his short time here so far. We laugh to keep it light, but the truth is, I left feeling a little stressed for my new friend. I realized just how many little things differ between our cultures. The very real lessons he has had to navigate and try to understand so that he may teach his foreign colleagues are vast, and as much preparation as Headquarters tried to do, there is so much more to be done. Jun Keun says the frontier team took note of as many cultural differences as they could so that those in the first wave of transfers could study and prepare for life here, but as you’d probably expect, there were many things that didn’t get noted and a few lessons learned have been interesting to say the least!
Take tipping your waiter for instance. In Korea, you don’t have to tip. The price on the menu is the total, all fees included. This cultural difference was not realized until members of the frontier team began expensing their food. “Headquarters did not understanding the additional costs! Everything has been corrected now!” We laugh again.
The next story was about the day one of his co-workers got a double speeding ticket. The gentleman did not know he should pull his vehicle over upon seeing blue lights in the rearview mirror and then, when he finally pulled over, he made the mistake of getting out of his car and approaching the officer’s car. “It was an honest mistake, but something that could have become dangerous,” Jun Keun says. “Rarely do you see a police car in Korea, and you never see them pull someone over on the street.” He was delighted to share that Sheriff Crowe was awesome and very responsive in their efforts to understand and prevent this kind of situation from happening again. “He has scheduled a seminar for us in January, when our next wave of staff comes over, to help them understand the differences in our driving laws right away.”
When I asked about his wife and children, he was excited to talk about them, and I could tell he is missing them badly. He has two young boys in elementary school. They are eight and five in Korea (seven and four here). Are you feeling confused? I certainly was. Jun Keun explained that birthdays begin at one and not zero in Korea, so we will recognize their children as a year younger than they are in their culture. Another interesting cultural difference to note, and one I am unsure of how it will be dealt with for educational purposes.