11 December 2007

cultural differences

perception of self (german v. chinese).

last week at work was unfun. boss is overworked and this is the busiest time of year. typically, when a boss is busy, the staff are neglected and negative energy, being the organic creature that it is, grows like a weed. knowing this, she tried to give me and my cohost some face time on wednesday. the much-needed check-in, however, turned out to be a 45-minute thinking-out-loud monologue. in it, i learned that one coworker's marriage is a sham and that another one might be out of a job if he doesn't shape up. totally none of my business.

i also learned that while that day's show was very good, my previous ones were very bad. when asked why, she couldn't explain. this kind of feedback falls outside the boundaries of "helpful". in any case, today is my last one at kbs... at least for now... i think. as mentioned previously, last week my boss took sudden issue with my pre-approved 6-wks in the usa and intimated she might give my show away to someone else. as of 4 pm on friday, she says i will host 2 days per week upon my return, but who knows what will happen come february. what i do know, however, is that my replacement has a lisp. "welcome to 'theoul calling' on k-b-eth world radio". should i be relieved or insulted?

queuing (german v. chinese).

my coworkers and i are at a loss for how to predict boss' reactions. it's unclear what inspires her arbitrary declarations of what is good, bad, or what "almost killed [her]". the latter was how she described her reaction to a story i wrote about a south korean man whose LG cellphone reportedly exploded in his pocket, (literally) killing him. the next day everyone (local, national, international, associated press, etc.) reported the same thing. in our broadcast, we used the appropriate disclaimers, like "reportedly" and mentioned that it was too early to draw definitive conclusions. we cited a national university hospital examiner who said the cause of death was the exploding phone, and for background, i referenced an earlier recall of 50,000 LG phones due to fire-prone counterfeit batteries, some of which had injured their users.

the next day police determined that the man was run-over by a coworker who concocted the cell phone story to cover his butt. like good retractors, that same day we reported the development on air (btw, much faster than most other media). but a coupla days later boss tells me how journalistically unsound it was to air the original story, that it risked her job, and... that we shouldn't make LG, which is one of korea's largest companies, look bad. she cited this as another example of the "cultural differences" that i must overcome in order to work here.

shower time (german v. chinese).

my cohost and i have oft-bemoaned the not-so-subtle propaganda scripted by our show's korean writers. it seems that every korean musician, computer chip, athlete and vehicle is the world's best!! i suggested that at the conclusion of every story, regardless of topic, we should always add, "wow! isn't korea AMAZING?!"

clearly the "cultural difference" to which my boss referred is that its uncouth to air korea's dirty laundry, especially anything that might blaspheme one of its holy trinity of companies: samsung, LG and hyundai. the "cultural difference" is that i take america's ubiquitous presence for granted, whereas korea tries to convince the world that it matters. i know that my country holds great influence in the world while korea feels minimized by a long history of aggressive neighbors: china and japan.

while i understand where it comes from, i'm frustrated by the shameless booster-ism that pervades korean "news". saying that a bmw is better than a kia doesn't (alone) make me an arrogant westerner. as korea's #1 fan, i already know that korea is amazing. but the predictable stream of obnoxious propaganda by korean media undermines this special nation's credibility.

(the slightly interesting, kinda lame images are taken from chinese-born german designer yang liu's infographic cultural comparisons project.)

No comments: