My plan to get an early jump on our next assignment failed.  If you recall, I bid on follow-on assignments in several Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong (Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China).  My chances of landing an early assignment were a bit slim, but I was cautiously optimistic.  Unfortunately, I found out a couple days ago that I will have to wait until early next year during my scheduled bid cycle to bid on my next assignment.  Today, my colleagues who were already scheduled to bid this cycle found out what their next assignments will be.  I’m thrilled for them.  The air at work today was abuzz with animated stirrings as the news of people’s onward assignments trickled throughout the building.  I’m especially happy to hear that many of my colleagues’ next assignments are decent (it gives me hope mine will be as well).  Some people are headed to Turkey (Istanbul and Ankara), China (Shanghai and Beijing), one will head to Germany, another to Sri Lanka.  Details are sketchy, but it seems that people were generally satisfied with their next assignments.  The anticipation is over and reality has arrived for them.
I learned one very important lesson from this exercise–knowing foreign languages definitely helps you improve your ability to secure a good, onward assignment.    Seoul has long had a reputation for being a difficult place to be when you do not know another foreign language beyond Korean.  During job bidding, you must submit ranked bids on 20 potential assignments for which one assignment will be selected for you.  Most of the time, you receive one of your top bids.  However, the requirement that you bid on 20 job assignments can leave one dissatisfied with their assignment if the selection is from the bottom of their list.  This is especially true if you do not speak any other foreign language besides Korean.  It limits your list to English-language posts, because you cannot bid on tours that require another foreign language.  Assignments in the Londons and Sydneys of the world are notoriously difficult to land, so you’re often left with English-prevalent places such as Manila, Phillippines, Chennai, India, or Lagos, Nigeria.  If you want to live in Nigeria, you would probably be happy with such a narrow bid list.  However, most people would rather have a wider bid selection. 
As for me, I’m happy to be qualified to bid on Spanish- and Chinese-speaking posts, which dramatically increase my bid selection.  Fortunately, more places are designated Spanish-required than any other language group (Arabic is second).  However, after learning that someone from Seoul just landed a job in Germany, I will now have to buckle down and focus on improving my German language skill.  I started to study German, but I slacked off after I decided to focus solely on working in China on my next assignment (I reasoned that there would be no need for me to study German if I knew I was headed to China.  If given a choice, I would actually prefer a German-required assignment than to work in China after I leave Korea.  I thought that heading to Europe would be an impossible dream bidding out of Seoul, but some people today made me a believer.  Jetzt muess ich Deutsch sehr fleissig ueben!  I have about six months to improve it.

Books by MG EdwardsMG Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures and children’s books. A former U.S. diplomat, he served in South Korea, Paraguay, and Zambia before leaving the Foreign Service to write full time.

Edwards is author of six books. His memoir, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, was finalist for the Book of the Year Award and the Global eBook Award. He has published four children’s picture books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series: Alexander the Salamander; Ellie the Elephant; Zoe the Zebra; and a collection featuring all three stories. His book Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories is an anthology of 15 short stories.

Edwards lives in Taipei, Taiwan with his family. He has also lived in Austria, Singapore and Thailand. For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at or contact him by e-mail at or on Twitter @m_g_edwards.

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  1. quemino's world's Gravatar quemino's world
    October 28, 2005    

    Viel Gluck mein freund!

  2. quemino's world's Gravatar quemino's world
    October 28, 2005    

    PS…I probably spelled something wrong in that sentence but good luck anyway!

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