Don’t just climb the ladder, explore the world!

 

I have been blessed to join H+K Strategies, one of the leading global PR agencies. I am a part of the India team, based in Mumbai. I am a Management Associate there, handling clients of great repute.

I started my blog saying I am blessed, here is one of the reasons why.

Globally, H+K Strategies organises an exchange program called “Be my Guest”. This is a 2 weeks Exchange Program where H+K employees get exciting learning opportunities by being the guest of one of their colleagues from anywhere in APAC countries as well as hosting them in their own city.. It is a unique opportunity to discover diversified cultures. This was the 2nd year of this program and I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the employees who would be travelling as a part of this program.

I was paired with a colleague in Seoul, my buddy, Miriam Soo Young Lim. A few months ago, Miriam visited India and we had a wonderful time together. She spent time with me in Mumbai and we later also took a trip to Goa. By the end of her two weeks in India with me, she felt an unparalleled vibe she felt about the country with it’s a compact mix of modern and traditional values. You could also read about her trip here: http://bit.ly/2y6YqFb

Now, it was time for me to leave the city of dreams for two weeks in Seoul, literally the future (being 3.5 hours ahead of India). I was going to stay with Miriam, and explore South Korea with her. This was going to be my first time to Seoul and my first solo trip.

Seoul is a beautiful city; tall building, wide roads, exceptional commute system, delicious food and pretty people.

The work culture is very different to that in India. “The nail which sticks out will get hammered”, a Japanese proverb that encourages conformity. And this is what the South Koreans follow too. You would experience a pin drop silence at work; no one shouts across the room, people only wear shades of black, grey, white, blue; none with bright colours,  very formal dressed for an agency and communication happens only on e-mail; the only sound you can hear is *type type type…..*. It is quite surprising how Koreans manage to work so efficiently with such minimal verbal communication.

They are also extremely hardworking and punctual in everything they do (even trains, buses come on time, unlike those in Mumbai). Somehow, I liked the silence at work. I feel it gives each one more space and others seem less intrusive. Team meetings are held every month along with frequent team lunches where the team interacts over a vast buffet.  And when stress get to you, Koreans have this amazing concept of Karaoke booths where people (not only in groups, but even alone) go and scream their lungs out on English/K-Pop songs. I wish they had it in India too. Imagine doing a 10 min Karaoke after lunch!

Koreans, just like Indians, shower guests with the most delicious food. I tried all kinds of dishes-the traditional Korean meal (very similar to a Goan meal), Mexican food, Vietnamese food, the famous Korean BBQ and Fried Chicken, the local street food, homemade regular Korean meal, even an Indian meal. I must say that Koreans take a lot of effort to match the taste of the authentic cuisine.

I also experimented with their traditional wear – The Hanbok. It is worn at both formal and traditional occasions, also as the second dress on your wedding day. It is has a wired skirt so that women can walk freely!

Apart from our daily office schedules and trying the mouth-watering food, Miriam showed me around the city. From shopping streets like Myeondong & Hondae, wearing the traditional Korean outfit and walking around the city to watching the city lights from the top of a mountain, visiting the B2B wholesale shoppers street, I did it all!

And just to list down 3 of my favourite experiences here:

The Korean Demilitarized Zone

DMZ (Korean Demilitarized Zone)- the #DMZ is a buffer zone ceasing all military and hostile actions by South and North Korea. The zone divides the Korean Peninsula roughly in half; was the original boundary between the United States and Soviet Union’s brief administration areas of Korea at the end of World War II. Upon the creation of the North Korea and  South Korea in 1948, it became a de facto international border and one of the most tense fronts in the Cold War.

My trip to the DMZ was scheduled just after the day North Korea fired the 2nd ballistic missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Apart from being nervous & scared, I was extremely excited to visit the world’s most dangerous border.

The Dora Observatory: The point from where you can get an overview of the DMZ. From here, you can see both North Korean and South Korean flags held high.. Also, if any of you’ll have visited the Wagah border must know that the Indians and Pakistanis gather on either side to scream in favour of each country. Similar to this, North & South Korean play music from each end.

The 3rd Infiltration tunnel: This tunnel is the 3rd secret underground tunnel created by North Korea to get closer to South Korea’s capital, Seoul. This tunnel is about 300m underground. The tunnel wasn’t made by digging/slicing rocks but by the use of dynamites.

Dorasan station: The last station in South Korea before the train entered North Korea (no train goes past this station at present). However, this station will be one of the major stations along the intercontinental rail route.

MAC Conference Room: This is the room: This room is where most important discussions/agreements are taken. Allies of both North & South Korea get together and make decisions. The North Korea allies sit on the other side of the MDL.

Sometimes, you wonder: Why hate? Why separate? The South Koreans do believe that one day there will be unification of the two countries. I wish India & Pakistan, one day think about it in the same way. One day!

The H+K certified Octave Training

H+K’s most popular course to date, Octave helps you engage better with clients and improve relationships with peers. Offered to all client-facing employees, it focuses on discussing and refining skills and tools needed for being a trusted advisor.

I always wanted to attend an Octave training and it was a great experience that I got a chance to be trained in Seoul by Merrick Laravea, one of the best trainers in the region.

This training has helped me hone my listening skills, improved my ability to engage with clients, deepen my understanding of Public Relations and most of all, become an advisor and partner to the client.

LG Meeting-Lunch +Client+ internal

LG being H+K Strategies’ client for a long time, I had heard a lot about them. I hoped that I would get to meet one Korean client to see what a client-agency relationship is like in Korea. And thanks to Miriam, I got a change to meet Ken Hong, LG Electronics Global Communications Director. It’s amusing to find similarities between the work cultures in India & Seoul; even more amusing to point out the differences. I was quite lucky to witness a client-agency meeting as well as an internal team meeting on the same client.

Seoul is a city for the gen-next. This city is a great example of the concept ‘glocal.’ If you’d visit you would know that most of them dream big, think global, but react/act local.I believe, travelling increases knowledge and broadens people’s perspective. To view new customs, different ways of living is unbelievable for the mind. It gives us a new viewpoint about life and particularly our life, it can help us change some of bad habits or even create new ones. It is never about the destination, but about the experiences one has that builds you into a preferred professional. And with this trip to Seoul, I have surely grown richer by experience.

Kam sa ham ni da!