Do you know the Korean word 우리 (pronounced woori)?
우리 means “we” or “our”. Korean speakers use this word when we refer to people and things we’re related to, like 우리 학교 (our school) or 우리 회사 (our company). But Korean speakers use “our” when we refer to people or things that we have a relationship to as individuals. So “my job” in English becomes “our job” in Korean.
For non-Korean speakers, it can be confusing when Koreans use this literal translation. Who, exactly, is the “our” we’re referring to?
Linguistics experts believe Korean culture’s emphasis on the collective influences the way we speak—by putting the group front and centre. Because Koreans value a collective mindset, we use “our” instead of “my” when referring to people and things we’re related to. But for me (and many Korean speakers), 우리 is much more personal.
In Korean, using 우리 means adding a layer of affection and care. We use the word with subjects that are dear to us. My grandma calls me 우리 시원 (our Siweon), because simply calling me Siweon isn’t enough show how much she cares for me.
“Our” is at the heart of Maersk
For me, 우리 is at the heart of my experience working for Maersk around the world.
Early in my time working in Tokyo, I was invited to lunch with the regional leadership team. They asked me about my work in Japan. After I answered, one senior leader said, “Carrie (my English nickname), did you just hear yourself? You said our team, our customers. It sounds like you’re fully integrated into this new place!”
She was right. I was very excited to talk about the team I belonged to and the organization I worked for. New work environments challenge me, while my team supported me, enlightened me, and helped me grow and learn.
There were days full of struggle, intense workload and dissatisfied internal and external customers. But the team was engaged, passionately proactive, and always customer-centric. It felt impossible for me to say “the” team, because they were “our” team.
At that time, the Northeast Asia Trade and Marketing team (NEATNM) I was part of was 13 people, made up of 9 nationalities and a 60/40 male/female split. If I look back, we didn't have much same personal interests (besides Korean Fried Chicken, which we all loved!). But we were open to each other’s differences, learned from our mistakes, celebrated wins, and inspired each other.
Our team gave me that excited belonginess in a remote place. That invisible thread made me want to come to work every day, excel at my job, and make the team proud.
Unforgettable teams and a sense of belonging
During my 12 years at Maersk, I have worked in the teams that I proudly call 우리 팀 (our team) in Seoul, Chengdu, Tokyo, Shanghai and Copenhagen. Overtime, I learned “our team” is not just the team I’m part of, but all the people who make up Maersk—regardless of which team they’re part of or where they come from.
My hope for the future is that I keep creating and being part of many more unforgettable teams like that. And hope our company can contribute in making many other women feel that same sense of deep-rooted belonging in this industry.
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