Q: How do you manage a work/life balance in Korea?
Korea has a very fast paced, demanding work culture (especially in places like Seoul). Work can include long hours (sometimes cutting into your weekend) with no overtime pay, unpredictable schedule changes and demanding workloads. So how does one properly balance having a life and a job in this kind of situation?
I asked many of my Korean friends how they dealt with the demands of their work. Some say when they can they turn off all work notifications and don’t even bother looking at their computers or messengers when they get off of work, others said that they work extremely hard during the week to try and get everything done so that they didn’t have to give up their weekends, but all admitted that it’s sometimes impossible to get away. After hearing their confessions, I was extremely grateful for my job. As a foreigner teacher, my personal experience is a bit different since my job isn’t as demanding as some others out there, but it still counts right? So, I decided to list a couple different things that try to do to not like my work overshadow my life or passions.
I’m the kind of person that works best with goals, plans and loose schedules. So, I try to plan my day accordingly to make sure I am my most productive self. At work, I have daily teaching goals, weekly teaching goals, monthly teaching goals and yearly teaching goals that I try to accomplish. However, due to life complications with corona and all, my work schedule is constantly changing. Though this causes me a bit of stress and anxiety, I try to stabilize my world by mainly focusing on daily and possibly weekly goals/plans.
# 2. Adaptability
Also, since communication isn’t as great here, (as in last minute changes or adjustments that were not made clear until the last minute) trying to maintain an open mind and learning to be adaptable has helped me a lot. I try to make my classes viable through multiple platforms so when changes come I don’t have to change the course, just the medium. Personally, my experience at the school I’m working at has been pretty decent compared to some of my other foreign friends, but sometimes, things happen and you realize that some major issues were decided and you didn’t know about it until right before it happened.
Honestly, seeing how hectic things can get it made me wonder how my Korean friends found time to hang out with friends and maintain a life outside of work and cope with the stress. They told me that most of the time, the time they spend with their friends is their stress-reliever. They go out for drinks, shopping, hang out with their boyfriends/girlfriends etc, and that time is how they cope with their stress from what. But what I noticed, is that most of my friends don’t necessarily have a passion project, or something that they work on outside of work. Maybe time doesn’t permit it, maybe they are already working in a field that they are passionate about, or maybe they don’t have anything that they are passionate about, I don’t know, all I know is that my experience, in this aspect, is once again a tad different.
#3. Passion Project & Personal Goals
As I said before, I like to have set goals and aspirations because it helps me mobilize and feel like I’m living more intentionally. With that being said, I feel like the reasons my passion projects that I’m currently working on now emerged, may not be the causation of, but in correlation to the fact that I’m living abroad in a foreign country and spend most of my time alone. It helps me cope with loneliness and do something productive all at the same time. At the moment, I don’t have to worry about these projects interfering with other aspects of my life because of the virus so for me it was a perfect time to pick up the things I’ve always wanted do and work on it. I tend to make time for these projects after work, on the weekend, or whenever I have some down time.
Building and maintaining relationships is a bit difficult now as an adult, but I think it is important to make time for the people that matter. I tend to hang out with most of my friends or meet new people on the weekend whenever I have time. We hang out, eat food, go rock climbing and try to make the small amount of time we have together count. However, since most of my friends and family live far from me, I try to shoot them a text or call to catch up with them that way. But that’s just me.
I have no idea how long this current life/work balance will last, but for right now this is how I balance my blooming years into adulthood. The fast paced nature of this society, but striving to keep sanity and live my life intentionally and with some purpose without falling into the rhythm of “eat, work, sleep, repeat” is my ultimate goal.
What about you guys? How do you balance your life between work and play so that one thing in life doesn’t overwhelm you?
I’d love to hear some thoughts!
Until next time,
See ya around, friend~~