2017: Year in Review

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays once again. And once again, I feel that 2017 has gone by way too fast lol. Perhaps its because I spent most of this year at home and not really going outside and meeting new people and making friends like I did when I lived in Korea..

Highlights
-Saved and invested a lot. Made back all my gambling losses (and then some!) with cryptocurrency this year. The rise of Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies this year has been truly astounding and imo a once in a lifetime event. Doubled my net worth this year.
-Finally made a Korean gf! and one that has lasted so far, the longest out of all my relationships. My previous longest relationship lasted 2 months. This one has been 3 months and counting! Yes it is a long distance relationship. I got to visit her in Korea for Christmas, we unfortunately only got to spend 4 days together, but it was an amazing 4 days and I can’t wait until the next time I see her (which might not be until next May).
-Went back to Korea twice this year, both times to meet a girl…

Lowlights
-I could have made more with crypto-currency. A lot more. But who could have expected Bitcoin to rise up 900%+ this year, or Litecoin to go up 7000% or Ripple to gain 10000%? And so on and so forth.. heck investing in ANY top 10 crypto coin this year could have made you rich. I was too timid at the beginning of the year, didn’t hold long enough, and lost my chance at becoming a millionaire. Oh well.
-Absolute boring-ness this year. Didn’t go out much. Didn’t make many friends. Work was just so-so. I was quietly dying on the inside this whole year.
-Donald Trump. Yeah I hate him. In San Francisco, who doesn’t? I’m no liberal but even as a conservative I can’t stand the guy. Especially when he’s threatening North Korea (and by extension the safe being of South Korea) all the time!
-6 times going back and forth between Canada-US border to get my TN visa processed. 6 times getting harassed at the border and getting treated like a criminal! this is partly the reason why I don’t want to get a new US job.

Summary
2017 is a year that won’t go down as one of my more exciting years. This year was all about making money and saving money. Granted, I did do a lot of that. Due to the great performance of both the stock market and cryptocurrencies, I doubled my net worth this year. I also tried my best not to spend *as* much as last year. 2015 and 2016 I bought countless electronics and gadgets. I think this year I bought one new laptop (Thinkpad TP25), 2 new watches (Frederique Constant Moonphase and Orient Star GMT), and some phones (BlackBerry KeyOne, Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact, Google Pixel 2) as well obviously games and stuff but those were the only things I bought at full retail price. Last year was far worse (I bought 3 new laptops in Dec 2016 alone!).

So yeah I know I have to do more. My best friend in SF is my idol; he not only made tons of gains by holding onto his Litecoin / Ripple holdings, but he’s always frugal and never buys anything unless he absolutely needs it. Would be nice to be like that.
Aside from that, not much else has happened this year. San Francisco is becoming a wasteland. More and more homeless people. Higher and higher prices. Less Koreans/Japanese/Taiwanese/Internationals in exchange for the only race that seems interested in staying here which are mainland Chinese. And some mainland Chinese are alright, but its no secret that I don’t get along with the majority of them. I find most of them pretentious, materialistic, and overly ignorant / prideful.

The main purpose of this year really, is to gear up for the monumental changes to my life that will happen next year. I’ve already prepared for it. At a certain point in time next year, I will sell my apartment, leave the USA, and finally after 7 years of living here, and the first time really ever in my life, give myself some freedom, with no obligation to study or work. No more TN visa hassles. Just meet my girlfriend (which I also have big plans for next year, if it all works out with her), travel to different countries, and settle back down in Canada. Big changes are happening next year, and partly the reason why 2017 *had* to be a boring, stable year is because this was a preparation year meant to save up money and gear up for next year. And in that sense, I felt that this year was a success.

Korea vs China what’s the difference?

A lot of differences. Some Chinese people say that Koreans “stole” Chinese culture but in some ways Korea is more Chinese than modern day China is.

-Koreans follow strict Confucian principles more than modern day Chinese do. This was true even back in the old times when Qing China and Joseon Korea existed. Koreans more than any other race stick together. They have this sense of ‘togetherness’ that does not exist to the same extent in modern day China. For example, somebody fall down in the street in China. Does anyone care? If it happened in Korea many people will help them. Do Chinese people really care about how other people act behave or look like? Maybe, but not to the same degree Koreans care.
-Loyalty and politeness. Korea takes a lot of cultural cues from Japan. This is one of them.. Korean companies value loyalty and expect the workers to stay at their company their whole life, just like in Japan. Its considered disloyal to quit the company or change companies. This does not happen in China. Also social cues like ‘nun-chi’ 눈치 in Korea its kind of like mannerisms towards older status people doesn’t really exist in China. Koreans bow when greeting each other. Chinese shake hands much like Westerners.
-During new years or Thanksgiving Koreans (particularly the women) will dress in their traditional outfits the hanbok 한복 and traditionally prepare food for their ancestors. A lot of Korean couples also wear hanbok just for taking pictures. You will not see Chinese wear their traditional outfits for things like this. The only times I see Chinese wear qipao or traditional Chinese outfits are for stage plays, Chinese opera or for traditional type weddings, thats it.
-Language. Korean language although they used to use Chinese characters, is very different now. They use honorifics in their language just like Japanese. So talking to older or younger person is different. Not so in Mandarin chinese.
-Work culture as I mentioned is pretty different. And its more competitive. Koreans have to learn either Chinese or Japanese in high school, and because appearance is valued so much in Korea, lots of girls get plastic surgery just to have a higher chance of getting a job there. Most students study English late into the night. You’ll find that the average Korean’s English is better than the averaged Chinese’s English skill. In China its not quite as competitive due to the following fact:
-Chinese are more ambitious and bigger risk takers than Koreans are. Koreans are very socially conservative more so than Chinese. They are risk averse and would rather suicide because they couldn’t get into Samsung or a famous university than start their own company. Chinese will find another way to get a job or start their own companies. They don’t give up quite as easily.
-Koreans care about appearance a lot like I mentioned. So almost all Korean girls wear makeup, dress up, and don’t wear glasses. Their fashion styles are totally different. In China its not quite as important, BUT they focus a lot more of showing off their wealth which means buying brand name items and owning homes is more important over there.
-Koreans are a more ‘traditional’ society… the women usually stay at home to take care of children, and do cooking and cleaning, while in China these duties are shared between the husband and wife. Gender equality is slightly better in China due to communism..
-China is a very diverse country full of different races. Korea is 99% Korean. This means if you look different or act different, you are probably more likely to be noticed in Korea than in China. Korea is a very conformist society and people like to act and look the same. You will find less ‘crazy’ people in Korea than in other countries.
-Religion. 40% of Koreans are Christians and another 30% are Buddhist. Since Communism eliminated religion, very few Chinese are actually religious.
-Koreans like to export their culture to other countries like kpop or kdramas. They somewhat have to do this because their country is small and they have a limited market, so their global marketing skills are very developed. China has a big domestic market so not much need to export their music or fashion or entertainment, thats why you never about hear any Chinese pop conventions…
-Korean food is really just a subset of Chinese food. Chinese people eat almost anything. spicy things, fried things, insects, herbs, parts of frog or duck or dog or horse, etc almost ANYTHING. The cuisine really depends on part of China, but Korean food tends to be spicy, and their cuisine really is a subset of Chinese cuisine. I can say almost anything you eat in Korea can be found *somewhere* in China, but not the other way around. Very few Koreans eat actual Chinese food and instead eat “Koreanized’ Chinese food. Jajeongmyeon is actually Korean food but they think its Chinese.
-Both countries are relatively safe compared to gun crazy America, but Korea is more safe. In China there is always risk of food poisoning, people stealing stuff, getting scammed etc. In Korea you can leave your phone on a table for hours and no one will take it.

Thats just a few differences.. there are indeed MANY since I lived in both countries. Even tiny minor things, for example Koreans like to drink when they are together and Chinese play card games (Koreans dont play card games very often). Games like Mahjong are non-existent in Korea but everywhere in China.

China vs Japan vs Korea vs Taiwan

I guess I come from the unique perspective of having been to all the East Asian countries (China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea) and my feelings about China has changed because of this. Roughly 30% of my friends are Chinese and 40% Korean.

Before I lived in Korea, I was in China for a few months, visiting such places as Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Suzhou, Hangzhou.

My impressions are that North China has really bad air.. and although Beijing has lots of history, it just wasn’t as interesting to me as Central and South China were. In contrast, Shanghai was probably the most modern city in China, and Suzhou and Hangzhou had some of the most beautiful natural scenery I’ve experienced.

I had lots of (mainland) Chinese friends in university, and also met Chinese people in China of course.

I feel that my feelings for Chinese people changed a lot after I met Japanese, Koreans and Taiwanese after I graduated university and started working and traveling to other Asian countries.

After having visited Japan and Taiwan and living in Korea for 2 years, here’s my observations:

-China is a great place for traveling and still has some of the most naturally beautiful places in the world.

-China is a massively diverse country full of different races and cultures

-Chinese food is very different from American Chinese food

-Chinese people are very blunt; For example they do not hesitate to mince words on anything really. Korea/Taiwan/Japan tend to soften their words in order not to offend people too much, but Chinese just straight up say whatever is on their mind. This is often taken as ‘harshness’ or ‘rude’ by other countries but I think this is just their culture.

-China has way better gender equality than any of its surrounding countries. And the women act very different from Korean/Japanese/Taiwanese women. They are less traditionally feminine, more assertive, more ambitious, and in a lot of cases can actually be more dominant than the men. It’s almost a role reversal compared to other countries, lol. It’s better in China to be a girl. Everything is paid for by the guys. The guys are pretty subservient to their gfs. The groom’s family pays for the wedding, not the bride. And because of the skewed gender ratio, girls have the pick of the litter. Pretty big contrast to Korea/Japan where its pretty much the opposite. Heres a nice graphic that is based on the stereotypes:

-Chinese people are very prideful about their country, and more uniquely is how prideful they are about the specific region where they are from. A lot of times I would hear not’ Chinese ___ is the best’ but rather ‘Sichuan ___ is the best’ or ‘Beijing ___ is the best’ or ‘Shanghai __ is the best’. They like to boast a lot, and its not hard to see that they are biased in favor of China and their region on a lot of issues. It’s not so different from USA where Americans boast about their country too, but it is different from Taiwan/Japan/Korea where I don’t really hear them boasting about their country that often. Chinese people are not really aware of the culture differences between their country and Japan/Korea/Taiwan either, but that’s a forgivable point I suppose considering most Chinese have not been outside their country before.

-Japan is Tang Chinese culture, Korea is Ming Chinese culture, Taiwan is ROC culture, and China is its own culture. I find China the most westernized in culture out of all of them. For example, China is the least traditionally Confucist out of those countries, they have mostly done away with traditional ceremonies, religion, outfits (Chinese rarely wear Qipao compared to Japan’s Kimono or Korea’s Hanbok), and their fashion style is more similar to Westerners (i.e casual style) than to Koreans or Japanese. Perhaps this isn’t surprising since China underwent massive revolutions compared to those other countries.

-Most Chinese are clean, nice and polite, but perhaps not to the same extent as Taiwan, Korea or Japan. My ranking of cleanliness / politeness in general is Japanese (TOO polite to a fault) > Taiwan > Korea > China.

-Censorship. This is more of a problem for foreigners than native residents, but just be aware that unlike Japan/Korea/Taiwan, you need to use a VPN to use most sites in China, and they censor violent/sexual content. Too much so, IMO.

-Cost of living. Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo are in the top tier of expensive cities to live in the world. In smaller Chinese cities, it is much cheaper. Seoul is a tier cheaper than those cities, and Taipei has the lowest cost of living amongst all the major capitals.

-China has the most job opportunities, and the best place to start a company, by far. Shenzhen and Beijing are economic powerhouses for IT. Korea’s job market is too competitive (there’s a reason why they have #1 suicide rate), Japan’s economy is stagnant and Taiwan’s economy is also stagnant. If you are looking for work as a foreigner, China is the best.

– Safety wise, all East Asian countries are safer than America. No comparison really. Very few mass shootings and gun murders if at all. In China you do have to be more careful of scams and thieves but its still relatively safe. In terms of safety I rank like this: Japan (zero gun deaths a year. seriously.) > Korea/Taiwan > China

-Technology. Again, ALL of these countries have great technology. Japan is famous for its tech companies, robots and micro electronics (Sony, Canon, Fujitsu, Toshiba, Panasonic, Nintendo, etc too many to list). Taiwan is the #1 maker of computer hardware with such names as Asus, Acer, HTC, Gigabyte, MSI etc. Korea is home to electronic giants Samsung and LG. China doesn’t have the brand cache of those other companies but they are improving! Huawei, Lenovo, Xiaomi, ZTE are some of the companies that are rapidly catching up to Japan and Korea!

-Religion wise, because of China’s communist past, religion is pretty much banned, most Chinese are atheist. Taiwan and Japan are mostly Buddhist. Korea is uniquely a Christian country, perhaps relating to how socially conservative they are.

In general I think it really depends what you want but China has its pros and cons. I did a comparison between China and other East Asian countries because I feel that this is a unique perspective I can contribute to, if others are interested. I would say work opportunity, diversity and natural beauty China is #1. Japan for the super polite / clean culture with a unique flavor. Korea is a mix of Japan and China but is also the most socially conservative and traditionally Confucist out of all them. Taiwan is much smaller than any of those countries but is a mix of Japanese and Chinese culture. I almost want to say they are Chinese people but with the manners of Japanese people.

New Job and uncertain future…

Well, as a lot of my friends know now, I was laid off a month ago at my previous company Walmart Labs, and I’ve spent the last 2 weeks doing a lot of hectic interviewing. I enjoyed doing interviewing and coding exercises when I was young but now I am kind of annoyed of having to do them over and over. And companies judge you a lot based on how well you do on those, based on arbitrary parameters. I did get to learn a lot more ReactJS and Angular 2 / TypeScript and did get to compare the two a little. Its interesting that JS, once a language that was thought to be a ‘kiddie’ programming language, now can be considered more closer to Java than ever now, as we have ES6 and TypeScript and classes / static functions / constructors / type checking all coming into play now.

So after interviewing with a bunch of companies, I’ve settled on a small-medium sized company based in downtown SF called Spigit, which is an innovation management company. Part of the reason I chose them is because 1) they are in downtown SF and I hate commuting 2) the people and work environment reminds me of Switchfly the first company I worked at which is a good thing 3) they will work with Angular 2 which I did enjoy learning and feel its not a steep a learning curve as ReactJS.

Other than that, life is boring. I got homesick a lot when I was living in Korea, and now that I’ve been back for 2 months, I’ve missed Korea a lot too. I only have one good friend Ethan here, and we usually hang out at least once a week. My other good friend Tony moved down to Redwood City so its hard to see him, and my other good friend Patrick is pretty hard to get a hold of these days as well. So yeah its been hard making friends, and I find myself more and more missing my life back in 2011-2014. Those were the days when I could go to meetups, meet a lot of cool people, there were a lot of Korean international students back then, and I liked working at my company. That’s part of the reason why I chose this company is because it reminds me of my old one – but I know that times have changed, and the Meetups are definitely not the same as before and there’s definitely not as many Koreans in the city as before.

I used to meet Koreans a lot on the conversation exchange websites – now I am lucky to see even one new Korean on that website I haven’t seen before. I think its a combination of Trump’s anti-immigration policies + cost of living in SF going up that has driven away alot of international students.

I have pretty much given up hope of meeting the right girl now. I failed to bring a girl back from Korea – and now there’s 0% chance of meeting a Korean girl here that would be interested in me. Its hard to meet ANY Korean here, let a lone a cute girl who’s interested in me. And SF might be the worst place ever to meet a girl – not only is SF getting more and more gentrified – which means more engineers come here which are mostly men – but any decent looking girl who comes here automatically gets bombed / spammed by guys as soon as she comes here! There’s absolutely NO chance of meeting anyone on a dating site because almost guy here is on there and any cute girls get their inbox spammed after a few days – its not uncommon to see some Korean or Chinese girls with their inbox too full to even message on OKC! My friend’s current gf (who is Chinese so she doesn’t usually wear makeup or dress up that much) gets hit on constantly at her work and guys constantly compliment her and want to take her out and buy her stuff. And that’s without her putting that much time into her appearance! Imagine if the typical makeup / short-skirt wearing Korean girl comes here what would happen? I fear they might get stalked and/or raped.. I’ve had stories of some of my Korean friends going back to Korea and still being contacted by guys that they met in America a year before. Combine this with the fact that most girls in SF don’t pay attention to their appearance + are super feminist = you get tons of desperate horny guys here salivating for traditional Asian girls.

Adding onto those woes, my plan of going to Vancouver has been thwarted by my company suddenly letting me go – and remote jobs are really hard to find so my new plan is to stay with my new company for a year – I am a contractor now after all – and save up money to buy a place in Vancouver so I can move there in the future.

I also have some travel plans this year. First of all I should go to Vancouver next week so that I can renew my TN Visa with my new company (fingers crossed Trump won’t make any changes with the TN visa), then I will definitely go back to Korea sometime in the summer.
I have three girls who *might* be interested in me back in Korea – one of them is emotionally unstable, one of them is married and has an abusive controlling husband so I’m trying to convince her to divorce her husband, and the other one doesn’t speak english well and has never been to US or Canada before and doesn’t want to quit her job in Korea. So yeah -pretty grim choices I think, but I’m definitely more desperate now than before and really regret being as picky as I was back in 2015.
Finally – I want to go back to Canada and visit Toronto and Winnipeg again to meet my Korean/Chinese friends as well as my brother. Hoping to go sometime in the fall.

Right now, pretty depressing relationship-wise and trying to save up money..

Well, I started working again just 1 week ago, and as ever it feels so tiring commuting to the office everyday and working at a smaller company –
the demands are higher, that’s for sure, and I can’t coast like I did at Walmart anymore.

I had hoped that working at Spigit would bring me back to my glory days working at Switchfly, 2011-2013 where I had the best time of my life both
with cool coworkers and with meeting cool friends at language exchange meetup after work everyday.
But times change, and those days are gone now. Meetups aren’t the same anymore. SF became way more gentrified now, there’s way more guys here than girls, and very few Korean students are here compared to before. Yeah, I’m working at a small tech company downtown again, but everything else has changed.

All my friends went back to Korea or Taiwan or Japan. One of my best friends in SF moved down to Redwood City and he works in Mountain View so I can’t see him that often anymore. I only have one good friend left in SF now and I hang out with him so much that I feel like I really need
to get away and have another friend to hang out with cause hanging out too much with just one guy isn’t good for me. I need some variety.

In Korea I was homesick about SF, but mostly homesick about going back to working a normal schedule again and not having to sleep in the daytime and live like a vampire anymore. In Korea, it was terrible for my health. Everyday I woke up at 5pm or 6pm, then went to some meetup, met some people
I probably never talk to more than once or twice, go home, I would eat fast food or instant ramen or pasta or rice at 12am and then start work at 2am, then eat again at 5am then sleep at 10am. I maintained this schedule for TWO freaking years. And never went to the doctor or hospital because I was afraid of my Korean ability and also did not have health insurance. As you can imagine, it took a toll on my health. I am definitely not as healthy as I was back in 2014.

But I knew that as lonely as I was living in Korea like a vampire, living in SF was just as lonely. It’s soul-less here. I feel like since I started working my life has become totally robotic. Every day, wake up, go to work, eat, finish work, then meet my friend for gaming or eating. On weekends its the same, gaming or eating with my one friend. And he has a gf so its not THAT bad for him, but for me its far worse since I know I have NO chance to meet a girl here this year.

When me and my friend went to Vancouver we saw a place where there was an even ratio between guys and girls, a place where Koreans actually stayed long term to work, etc. SF is different. There’s way more males here than females due to a concentration of engineers. It’s like in China, where guys outnumber girls and as you expect that kind of ratio favors women way more, making SF a much better place for girls than for guys. Whether for pricing reasons or visa difficulties or Trump or everything, there’s almost no Koreans that stay in San Francisco long term. Almost every Korean here is a student or a traveler. I hosted several Koreans and other Asians at my house as a Couchsurfing host much as I did in 2014 since I enjoyed meeting new people, but sooner or later they eventually leave since they are temporary, and once again I become lonely. There’s very few options for me anymore other than to just tough it out this year and save money to go to Vancouver next year or year after. There’s no way I can move back to Canada right now since the American dollar is so strong and I can earn literally double what I can make in Canada.

I also don’t think I’ll ever move back to Korea again. And unfortunately for Korean girls, most Korean girls that I like either have a bf already, or live/work in Korea, and don’t want to move abroad or are not interested in me or all three. Since they are so conservative especially compared to Chinese, Koreans usually stay within their own country and date their own race. This makes it very difficult for a foreigner like me. Working in Korea is so hard and most Koreans are incredibly busy due to how much they have to work, and they make very little money on top of that. So there’s pretty much no point to try to work in Korea if I can get an American job.

I can try to find a remote job again, but then I would have to risk the time difference problem and thus my health again, which I don’t want to do. What if I was a freelancer and could work my own hours in Korea? Well, that would be better, but there’s still a fundamental problem… in Korea most girls meet guys through blind dating. In Korea I never had many friends that would introduce me to girls. The main reason I believe (since I can speak Korean fairly ok for conversation) is because I couldn’t stay in Korea long term, and eventually I would go back to Canada or US. And that will always hold true. I don’t think I would ever live in Korea long term… its very difficult for me to do so since I don’t have a house or family there. And since Koreans are so conversative about moving or living abroad, basically this narrows my chances to women who: 1) I can meet either at meetup or online 2) keeps in contact with me (very difficult since in my experience 90% of girls I meet online and meetup eventually stop contacting me or become too busy or get a bf) 3) speaks decent enough English to live abroad 4) has a desire to take a risk and live abroad particularly in Vancouver/SF 5) is open minded enough and has parents that are open minded enough to date foreigners 6) has good compatibility with my interests 7) is cute/slim/feminine enough for me (most Korean girls satisfy this but just putting it out there) 8) Is interested in me enough to start a long term relationship with me
As you can imagine it is VERY difficult to find a girl that meets all those requirements, even in Korea during the 2 years I was there it was very difficult to find a girl who can satisfy all that. That’s why even if I could find a remote job, I don’t think I would live in Korea again… there’s too many challenges still meeting the right girl there. That’s why Vancouver or even Toronto are far better places for me since I wouldn’t have to change my schedule around, I eventually will have to move back there anyway since I only have a US work visa and not a green card, the Koreans there are not as busy as they are in their home country, and the Korean girls there are already “pre-filtered” in a sense (they already have a desire to live abroad since they are already there, and probably have a desire to meet foreigners as well). Of course, the downside is I would still have to find the “right” girl but I think my chances are as good as it can get if I move back to Canada. It’s not like I had good chances getting girls to like me in Korea, their home country anyways.

On a positive side note.. I did a brief overview of all my UMPC collection / gadgets! here they are: