Not everyone who moves to South Korea does so to teach English, although from what I understand it’s a great opportunity! Megan has some great insights into life in Seoul, South Korea, and how you can make the most of moving there.
Who are you?
A visual artist by profession and a sightseer at heart, I worked as a commercial photographer before letting my urge to Travel Elsewhere take over. After receiving a job offer that lead me to a sleepy town high in the Tuscan mountains, my travel adventure began. Since that time my travels have lead me to visit over 60 countries, marry a fellow globetrotter, move intercontinentally seven times and create a temporary home in four continents! Travel Elsewhere is a blog is to collaborate with fellow travelers with a focus on sustainable travel and volunteerism.
What made you decide to move to South Korea?
When I moved to Seoul, South Korea I had never been to Asia before. My husband was in the American Army and when it came time for him to decide on his next assignment we decided Korea would be a great adventure for us.
Tell me about the cost of living. What’s the price of a beer and a loaf of bread?
Korea is not so into bread…or beer for that matter.
Locals eat rice and drink a rice liquor called Soju! On a night out you can find yourself drinking bottle after bottle of the stuff which generally goes for about 3 USD . Life in Korea is generally pretty cheap in contrast to the high wages that you are paid so it is a great place to move if you are looking to pay off debt or save up quickly.
Korean food is very cheap and you can easily have a meal with a drink for under $10.00. Western items tend to be more expensive.
Rent is about $1,000 for a 1 bedroom apartment, but if you are going to Korea to teach English as many do, many contracts include housing.
How did you make a living?
When I lived in Korea I worked part time as an English teacher and part time as a freelance writer. With time and some networking there are lots of opportunities for people trying to do jobs other than teach English from voice over actors, textbook writing, and modeling to writing copy and more. There is also a lot of well paid opportunities for tutoring.
Do you need a visa to live in South Korea?
A foreigner can stay in South Korea up to 3 months without a Visa. After 3 months they must leave the country, but can return. Many freelancers ‘stay’ in Seoul, spend the weekend in a neighboring country and then return. If you want to work and live in South Korea you legally will need a visa. You must have a Apostiled Criminal Background Check and health check for your Visa as well as whatever paperwork your employer requires.
What’s the social scene like? How easy is it to make friends?
Seoul has a great expat community. It is such a large city that no matter what you are interested in you will find it here. Many bars located in the foreign neighborhoods are primarily English Speaking and have regular events like live music, trivia night and other contests. The language barrier is not a big issue here and it is easy to get by with speaking English. Meetup.com is a great resource for finding fun activities throughout the country for free. There are many clubs for people with a huge variety of interests including sports, music, the arts and culture.
What’s the best thing about living in South Korea?
Seoul is a great big city that has something that appeals to everyone! My favorite thing about Seoul is it is surrounded by Mountains and on a clear day the views are stunning. You can ride the subway right from the center of the city to the mountains and spend your weekends in nature on a hike. And with that said I should mention the public transportation is great! You can get anywhere in Seoul for around $1.00. You can also reach the majority of the countryside of Korea by public transport.
I also really enjoyed how comfortable Seoul is to live. As a westerner I did not feel culture shock or overwhelmed when moving here, but more so like I was living in a typical Western City. Korea is extremely safe and the language barrier is not a problem. Of course, Asian culture is all around you and if you are interested in getting submersed in it there are great opportunities to explore such as cooking classes, temple stays and language classes. Many opportunities are available free to foreigners!
What’s the hardest thing about living in South Korea?
Sometimes having a deep relationship with locals is very difficult. It is easy to make friends quickly but it is often times because you are foreign and have a kind of Celebrity Status in the country. This can also be a lot of fun too…but can be hard for making deep, meaningful relationships.
If we had just one day in Seoul what should we not miss?
Go on a hike along Seoul Fortress Wall! Eat lots of wonderful Korean food and check out anything on my top ten things in Seoul list.
If you could give one piece of advice to people looking to live in Seoul what would it be?
If you want to teach English in Seoul don’t settle for a job with long hours and poor pay. There are tons of opportunities for high paying part time work that will sponsor you Visa.
Also when you are living in Seoul be active and get involved! Utilize the many clubs and events to pursue your hobbies and spend your weekends and holidays traveling around Asia!