Living and Working Overseas Changes the Meaning of “Coming Home”

For some, answers to the questions “Where is home?” and “What is family?” are simple. However, for expatriate workers in global companies, such answers are often not so straightforward. 

For Hector Garcia of Mexico and Lay Hong Soon of Malaysia, two Samsung C&T Trading and Investment Group employees currently working in Seoul, living and working abroad was a welcome challenge that continues to shape not only their careers, but also their lives. Working abroad has both developed and redefined their definitions of what home and family mean to them, and have learned much about themselves during the process.

Family photos of Hector Garcia (left) and Lay Hong Soon (right)

New Challenges Equal Opportunities for Families

Imagine uprooting your entire family – your husband and two daughters, for a full year, to accompany you in a foreign land as you work. For Soon, who is a General Manager and the head of Admin and Operations for the Kuala Lumpur Subsidiary, although at first daunting, she felt the opportunity was simply too good to pass up and jumped at the chance.

The Trading & Investment Group runs the Global Assignee (GA) Program every summer at their headquarters in Seoul, welcoming a select group of employees from offices around the world for one to three years. There they discover a deeper perspective into the company’s philosophy and global strategies, while connecting with and learning from colleagues in all parts of the organization.

“The greatest meaning to me is that this represents an opportunity to grow,” noted Soon “My desire is to share what I have learned with co-workers back home, plant the seeds of possibilities and hopefully leave behind a greater company.”

Garcia, who joined Samsung C&T as an Assistant Manager for the Power & Plant Part of the Project Division, made the choice to move abroad and become an expatriate worker. Although it was difficult, his bold decision has forever impacted his life in a positive way. He said, “expanding your personal boundaries of achievement is a pursuit that’s worth the effort.”

He also posited that, “I think there is nothing we can’t achieve or overcome as long as we embrace ourselves, and move one step at a time. If you continue your way with purpose, supported by goals, you will realize that you have reached further than your original estimation!”

A Newfound Family

Garcia’s path to C&T was by no means straightforward. Having been introduced to Asian and particularly Korean culture through Korean friends in Toronto, he became so interested in living in Korea that he contacted the Korean Embassy in his native Mexico. There, he learned of a prestigious graduate program that brought him to Seoul, where he’s been ever since.

Since arriving in Seoul in 2008, Garcia not only found a new family at work, but he also started a family of his own, recently marrying a woman he met while working in Korea. Garcia can’t imagine what his life would be like without his Trading and Investment Group colleagues, whom he now considers family – and the feelings are reciprocal. Opening hearts and opening minds through shared experiences and mutual respect is one of the greatest parts of working overseas.

Soon also shares similar sentiments when reflecting on her time working abroad.

“The greatest meaning to me is that this represents an opportunity to grow. My desire is to share what I have learned with co-workers back home, plant the seeds of possibilities and hopefully leave behind a greater company.”

“Korean culture is dynamic and fun to observe. I love experiencing new things that I can’t in my home country, especially the spring cherry blossom festival.”

New Cultural Experiences

Working abroad allows employees to learn about the local office dynamics, while at the same time, also learn about their new homes. Samsung C&T takes pride in sending its staff to the far corners of the world to promote cross-cultural communications and build harmony in the company.

Soon describes Seoul as “an extremely safe place for anyone to live in” – and as for Korean culture, she describes it as “often dynamic and fun to observe.” She continues, “Korea’s coffee shop craze is frothing over”, reflecting on the unprecedented coffee culture eruption over the past 10 years in Seoul. Finally, Soon and her family love experiencing new things they can’t find in their native Kuala Lumpur, especially the annual spring cherry blossom festivals in Seoul.

For Garcia, his commitment to and immersion in the local language and culture have greatly contributed to his experience here. “To enjoy the country and the benefits that the country offers, I got to know the culture and language first,” says Garcia, a 9-year resident of Korea.

Family members of Hector Garcia (left) and Lay Hong Soon (right)

Support for Working Families

Considering their sometimes-hectic work schedules, Soon and Garcia both appreciate that Samsung C&T understands the value of family by encouraging a proper work-life balance. “Samsung C&T’s ‘Smart Work’ campaign encourages employees to avoid working overtime during the week and working on weekends,” Soon explains.

What’s Ahead

Both Soon and Garcia continue to adjust to their new lives abroad and both employees aim to build upon the company’s foundation of family values both in and out of the office. Regardless of where they call home, both Soon and Garcia have gained valuable knowledge and connections from their time in Korea, learning that they always have a family at Samsung C&T.

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