Welp folks, I just about s*** my pants this week when I received an email from AT&T stating that I've racked up charges "exceeding $200.00" in international data roaming charges. Since I didn't even have a data plan at home, I found this very odd. I was also curious as to what the word "exceeding" involved.
Step one in solving this world class problem was taking the battery out of my damn phone, so as not to continue this "exceeding" pattern. Step two was to call the AT&T International Help Line to get to the bottom of this mystery. Now, I've always believed that when dealing with people in the customer service industry, especially telecommunications, kindess is the road to walk down. Having been there, done that, I know that a little bit of patience and good humor can get you miles.
So, when I got ahold of Clarissa at AT&T, that is just what I did. She explained to me that my phone has been, most likely, searching for wireless networks the entire time I've been in Korea, thus creating the data charges. I needed to turn my phone's wireless off and then all charges would cease. Problem solved. Maybe this is common sense to some, but I was clueless. But what about that $200?? She dropped it to $30. Thank you Richard Wilson, you've trained me well.
But in relation to my little cell phone misadventure, the customer service I've experienced here in Korea has been unparalled. Obviously, the communication barrier makes things difficult, but I've yet to meet a Korean who wasn't willing to go out of their way to help me out. Whether it is the teachers at my school, or the cashier at the store down the street, or at the Korean barbeque place I went to last night (see picture), everyone is so nice and understanding.
Many of the English teachers and I all went downtown last night after work for some food and drinks. We settled on this Korean barbeque joint in which not a single employee spoke English. When the first waitress couldn't figure it out, she brought another waitress, and then another waitress, until there were five employees standing around us trying to help us order. We are still not positive that we got what we wanted, but it looked good so we just started eating.
In Korea, eating out with friends is a little different than back home. Everything is served in dishes to share among the group, so nobody orders individual meals. Barbeque is even more different. After much confusion with the waitress, she finally just brought us a plate of raw meat, and we cooked it ourselves on the grill built into our table. After the meat is cooked, you wrap it up in a lettuce leaf, add your fixin's and shovel it into your mouth. Messy at times, yes, but so flippin good.
As many of you may know, I had been doing the veg head thing before I left, but in Korea, you're really missing out if you're not eating the local cuisine, which 9 times out of 10 will involve some kind of animal. And while it bums me out a bit, Koreans are very supportive of buying food and other products within Korea to support the local and national economy. Even the kids at school comment on buying Korean raised food and Korean built products. So in a way, I'm just supporting the people, and I can live with that. After all, they've been so nice so far.
So this week what I've learned is that it doesn't matter whether you are in the United States or Korea, or anywhere in between, being nice to people is what is important. Take a note from the Koreans: It is all about working together. They order their meals to share, they support their local businesses, and they treat one another kindly. Nobody ever went to bed happy after screaming at somebody about something that they'll never remember anyway. And nobody ever went to bed happy after getting yelled at about something somebody was worked up about for five minutes. Take a deep breath, remember we are all in this together, and try being nice first. :)
"Life is life, Kind is kind." ~Jack Kerouac