My name is Sebastian Olteanu, I’m 36 years old. Born in Brasov. In 2004 I moved to Sibiu and joined Continental as a Test Engineer. During the time I had various jobs within Powertrain Transmission R&D and some years ago I took over the Engineering Manager responsibility in Continental Icheon Korea. Now I am back in Sibiu, being responsible for the Transmission Engineering group. In my free time I like riding motorcycles and playing drums.
Going to Korea was an opportunity which I could not refuse.
Asia, in general, is amazing. It’s almost like another world, compared to Europe. I enjoyed Korea very much. The people are nice, friendly and generous. Most of the population and business is concentrated in Seoul and surroundings. Therefore everything is designed to accommodate this crowded life: tall buildings and skyscrapers, large highways and bridges, huge markets and shopping malls, long subway network, high speed internet everywhere etc. But besides the shiny and very modern part of Seoul, surprisingly you can find also small oasis of tranquility like Buddhist temples and old palaces.
I have spent in Korea 1 year and 4 months so I am far from being able to understand the culture. However, as far as I understand, is different than anything I have experienced so far. Korean people are still connected to their traditions but at the same time they are very high tech and moreover, as a society they really evolve fast. They show a great deal of respect for the elderly and for seniority, in personal life and also in business. This is visible in simple interaction even with strangers or in language and gestures.
Korean cuisine is an important part of the culture.
It is very common to have lunches or dinners together with working colleagues, friends or family members. Sharing the food is a rule, so nobody eats only what is in the plate in front of him. Usually, even if you order a simple dish like a steak, a barbecue or a stew you will get by default many more side dishes: salads, sauces, soups and with no exception rice and kimchi. Generally the food is very healthy because is fresh and very often is raw. Sometimes the food is prepared (just steamed or grilled) in front of you and if you are “lucky” it might still move in the plate. Finally: never fill with alcohol your own glass; somebody else from the table will take care, as you have to take care about other glasses around.
Our colleagues in Korea are in many ways similar with the employees from other locations, because Continental is indeed a global company. On the other hand, the relationship with the customer is very close and strong, therefore fulfilling customer satisfaction is the most important KPI in Korea. Definitely the most important experience I had during my assignment is that things can be done successfully also in a completely different way than what I was used with in Sibiu or Germany and that the most valuable asset is flexibility (especially towards customer changes). Being able to adapt fast to the environment and customer trend is vital, because the competitors are also very vigilant.
Living and working abroad in a completely different culture is for sure a great experience from many points of view, but the most important thing which I learned was to be more tolerant with people around who are not thinking or acting like me.