No personal days. Forty plus hours a week, five days a week. Three sick days. Absent more than three days in a year? It gets taken out of our paycheck. Oh, and if we’re sick, we must bring in a doctor’s note to prove it.
My coworker last year had strep throat and tonsillitis at the same time. Pain, high fever, highly contagious, very low energy. She missed work for two days. The doctor said she shouldn’t come in all week. Our supervisors sent her threatening text messages to come in, telling her that it was not okay that she was gone. They asked for the doctor’s phone number because they didn’t believe she was sick (Believe me, she was.). Invasion of privacy much?
My coworker this year had pneumonia. She was pressured to come in, made to feel lazy. She had pneumonia. One of our supervisors asked her why she wasn’t in the hospital if she was so sick. She had gone to an American doctor, who gave her antibiotics and told her to rest and stay home. In Korea, when people are really sick, they go to hospital for a quick fix. Get an IV for a few hours, stock up on meds, and off to work they go, even if they feel horrible. Showing up sick in South Korea is a sign of true dedication and loyalty.
Want a personal day? Feeling exhausted? Need a mental break? Suck it up, drink some caffeine, and put on a happy face. No fooling around here. This is South Korea, where the word “hustle” is brought to a whole new level.
I get it easy. I’m a foreigner. By law, it’s illegal to overwork me. I also get five days off in winter, and five days off in summer. Most Koreans don’t get that kind of vacation. Most Koreans work way more hours than I do. It’s common for businessmen to work 12-hour days from Monday – Saturday. And then they sleep all day on Sunday. Wash, rinse, repeat.
How’s that for a cultural difference?