Monthly Archives: December 2011

Gradientes de frío

Análisis de temperatura, tras varias experiencias invernales en Seúl:

+5ºC … mejor mete las manos en los bolsillos

0ºC … si no te pones el gorro, se te petrificarán las orejas

-5ºC … toca cubrirse parte de la cara, o tu piel sufrirá un lifting acelerado

-10ºC … ponte los guantes, con las manos dentro de los bolsillos

-15ºC … respirar DUELE

-20ºC … ni se te ocurra salir al aire libre

Por suerte, este invierno parece que no está siendo muy duro. Aun no he llegado a ponerme los guantes en los bolsillos. Ni tampoco ha nevado (copiosamente). Aunque en parte se debe a que el invierno coreano es seco. Muy muy seco. De hecho me estoy convirtiendo en una especie de pila andante. Acumulo un montón de energía estática, y cuando toco algo de hierro ¡pega un chispazo tremendo!

Tratados de libre comercio. Dinero vil.

Demostrators in Seoul City HallA los pocos días de llegar a Seúl, estuve paseando por el centro y acabé en una pequeña manifestación contra el TLC. Esto es, el Tratado de Libre Comercio entre EEUU y Corea del Sur.

En Corea, al igual que en España, existe un bipartidismo, con mayorías absolutas. Así que, básicamente, el partido en el gobierno hace lo que quiere (o lo que quieren los grandes bancos). En este caso, el gobierno decidió establecer un Tratado de Libre Comercio con Estados Unidos, con la idea de reducir los aranceles aduaneros de ambas partes. La oposición y los partidos pequeños se pusieron en contra, y hasta se montó una buena en el congreso, con granada de gas lacrimógeno incluida. Para más detalles, leer el post de Felipe sobre el tema.

ARP Axxe & Moog MinimoogUna semana después, fui al mercado de instrumentos musicales de Nakwon, y al ver los precios de los sintetizadores americanos, más caros que en Europa, volví a pensar en el TLC. A pesar de que me gustaría haber visto mejores precios en aquellos teclados, llegué a una conclusión: los aranceles aduaneros aun tienen sentido en un mundo globalizado.

Corea es una gran potencia debido a su mercado interior. Los coreanos son los mayores consumistas de sus propios productos. Y gracias a eso, las grandes empresas (LG, Samsung, Hyundai, etc) se han lanzado al mundo desde un nido bien nutrido. Pero si ahora llegan otros al nido, existe el peligro de hambre. Es decir, el asunto no es que LG pueda vender más barato en EEUU, sino que tendrá que preocuparse mucho más de su mercado local. Aparte, tampoco hay grandes demandas de productos extranjeros en Corea, porque ya han desarrollado un mercado interno variado. Así que el tratado podría acabar siendo más perjudicial para Corea que para EEUU. Aunque, como siempre, el tiempo dirá.

Por otro lado, en Europa tenemos una economía común, y también una libre circulación de personas. Lo primero ha acabado siendo un lastre. Todos los países de la Eurozona dependen del Banco Central Europeo, y al final los países pobres acaban siendo controlados por los ricos, con la excusa de la economía. Véase los golpes de estado encubiertos en Italia y Grecia (donde los nuevos jefes de gobierno NO han sido elegidos democráticamente). Sin embargo, la libre circulación de personas, ha sido todo un éxito. La gente encuentra la libertad de moverse y vivir donde realmente encuentra interesante, o donde hay trabajo. El visado si que es algo que deja de tener sentido en un mundo globalizado, en donde en menos de 1 día puedes volar al otro lado del mundo.

Personas vs. economías. ¿Quién ganará?

How to move to Asia without stress

Ok. That’s a stupid title. It’s impossible to do a moving without stress. And if you are moving to another continent, the thing is worse.

Said that, I have been thinking about making a list of some of the problems and unexpected things I found while moving from Barcelona to Seoul. 9500Km far away. Into another world. Another culture. Another language (that I don’t speak yet).

Sinchon at nightVISA & LANGUAGE
Unluckily the world still have frontiers for people. That means you have to ask for a visa if you pretend to live, instead of being just a tourist. In my case, I found out that getting a student visa, joining a Korean course, was the easiest option. Anyway, I expected to learn the language, to be able to communicate with local people. Of course, nowadays you can live in any place in the world just knowing English, but it’s better to learn the local language. So, joining a Korean course you get a visa that lasts a bit more than the course itself.

I joined level 1 course in Sogang University. Apparently, everybody say this Korean course, compared to the one in other universities, is really focused in speaking. And that’s true. We practice speaking from the very first day, which was overwhelming but funny at the same time. The course lasts for 3 months, and it’s 4 hours every day. I paid around 1000€ for it.

MONEY & HOUSE
Here there is a clear rule: you are going to spend more money that you expected, even taking into account this rule. The course was 1000€, the flight was like 600€, the first week in a hostel around 200€. And the house, a huge amount of money.

In Korea, in the past, they used to have a curious way of renting houses, called “jeonsei”. Basically you pay a lot for the “key money” (more than 6000€), and later you don’t need to pay the monthly fee, because actually the owner subtracts it from the key money. However, nowadays they rent houses using the Western style, paying monthly. But they still have in mind the old style. That means they will ask a lot for the key money. In my case I was really lucky, and got the house just with 3000€ of key money.

The monthly rent in Seoul is cheaper that in Barcelona
. But there is a big difference between prices. In my case, I really wanted to live near the university, so I have to pay an extra, because it’s a “cool” area. With the help of some Korean friends, I found a house that matches most of my wishes. It’s a one-room, 24m2, plus a 4m2 bathroom. It could be small for Western standards, but it’s pretty big and new for local standards. The house-room is basically 4 walls: 1 wall with a desk, another with the kitchen, another with the bed and closets, and another with a big window with a nice view of the area. I pay around 550€/month, without bills. Moreover, I had to buy a lot of house stuff, from dishes to a office chair.

Funny enough, you don’t need a foreign ID card to rent a house, just the passport. But you can’t open a bank account without a foreign ID card. A Korean friend told me that they consider a bank account a more important thing than a house!

Summing up, if you want to move to Asia, and pretend to have a normal house, be ready to invert at least 5000€.

Extra thing: it’s not really easy to move money from one continent to another. It’s better if you go with (at least) 2 credit cards, from different banks. And remember that a international wire transfer can take several days.

PEOPLE
I remember that when I moved to Barcelona, I was lucky to stay some of my first days there in Gabriel & Laura’s house. I met them only once, before moving, so we were almost strangers at that time. So it was really nice from them. But in Korea nobody offered me his house. So I booked a private room in a hostel for 1 week.

It can be easy or difficult, regarding people. If you have close friends or boy/girlfriend in your destination, the moving could be easy. But in my case, I just knew some people. So I couldn’t expect so much help from them. Remember, people are busy, and it’s possible that couldn’t help you at the time you arrive. Luckily I found some Korean that helped me A LOT with all the stuff.

FOOD & DAY LIFE
Food is different. So you have to adapt. One thing is going to a Korean restaurant from time to time, and another is eating there every day. Also, if you like cooking, be ready to change your recipes with new ingredients. Even simple things like salt can be quite different.

When yo do normal life in a foreign country, you have to learn things from zero again. For example, I got a document with instructions on recycling. My building has a schedule for trashing different stuff. Of course, the document is only in Korean!

…anyway, I’m enjoying the experience!