Today, dark clouds make up the sky above Seoul. The weather has been shit the last few days here. While we had almost 30 degrees this weekend. It almost feels like the weather in the Netherlands. Where are you sunshine?!
Two weeks ago I finally finished all my data collection. YES! Now the only job to be done for my thesis is writing, writing, writing. How exciting. Luckily, I planned some fun days around typing on my laptop. Kingsday is around the corner, and we plan to celebrate at Hangang Park. That place quickly turned into our favourite place in Seoul to drink some beers and chill.
Time to chill out and relax is needed after turning into a Korean workaholic. The working life here is quite stressful, with working from 9 to 9 at the university, early meetings and weekend meetups for translations. For some reason, you adapt to their way of working quite fast. Last weekend, I had an appointment with a friend we met at our hike in the DMZ. She was so sweet to help me with my translations since her English and Korean both is superb. But she is so freaking busy; she even worked on Saturday evening. I didn’t mind, because I usually don’t work on Saturdays, so one time is not a big problem. But for Korean students, Saturdays are normal to work on. Especially in the midterms. I was amazed by their work ethic, it is insane, and the motivation to reach for the best is admirable in some ways. It is not unusual to see people still studying or working when we are on our way to go out.
I knew the pressure on Korean students is high. I did my research on the topic because my thesis subject is similar. But seeing the pressure in real life is crazy. I am aware that it is normal to work your ass off here and as I said, in some ways it is admirable. But people work themselves to insanity here sometimes. It pains me to see that some fall under the pressure that is put on them. When I ask about how people deal with this pressure to perform here, the answer is simply: you work (literally keep working) through it, or you end it. This gave me goosebumps. I am aware of the sensitivity of this topic, but I still find it important to speak about it. The concept of a burn out is non-existent here, and depression or anxiety is a big taboo. It is getting better, and more and more people start to speak up against the pressure of society. However, the problem here is nowhere near solved.
I wanted to discuss this problem because I believe the pressure you feel from society is never something you should be controlled by. All people feel it, some more than others, but be aware that as long as you are happy with what you do and how you do it, you are doing things the right way. As one Korean student said beautifully in one of the interviews of my research: ‘The phrase that we hear often is “다잘되라고하는애기야”(This is all for your good). But this phrase is actually strange since, in reality, there are many paths to lead a good life.’
(I know wisdom doesn’t solve any issues. If you read this and you feel pressure or experience mental issues that affect your life, never be scared to reach out and talk about it to a close one or a professional.) ❤