Are you about to move and you want to know how is living in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea? If your answer is yes, don’t miss the following interview.

expats in seoul

From Canada to South Korea

Hello, we are Hugo (30) and Natasha (29), both from Canada. Currently, we are living in a city close to Seoul, South Korea. 

How long have you been living there for? The first time we came in 2018, Hugo lived here for 16 months, and myself 12 months. Then we came back again in August of 2020, and have been living here since. Our contracts with our schools are for 18 months, so we will be here for that time at least, and we will see from there. 

Why did you move to South Korea back to those days? Why did you choose this country? This is actually our second time coming to live in South Korea. We both initially came to the country in 2018, Hugo in April, and myself in September. At the time, we weren’t a couple and both came here based on recommendations from people. We knew that it was a great opportunity to experience a new culture, while still working towards our financial goals. We both choose this country based on the money and benefits we could receive doing this job. There are many places in the world that you can find work teaching English, but we both felt Korea offered a complete package of what we were looking for.

Living in Seoul, South Korea: paperworks

What did you have to do to move there and how did you get your residence ID? One of the reasons we chose South Korea was that with English teaching positions, the schools provide housing or a monthly housing allowance as part of the benefits package. By going through the job search with the assistance of a recruiter, (the common practice for foreigners to obtain English jobs) they guided us step by step through the Visa process, making it smooth and seamless. The type of Visa we have is called an E-2 visa that is linked with our school’s contract. This permits us to live and work as English teachers in the country. 

How is South Korea culture like?

South Korea is a highly developed country with all of the same luxuries from home available, and perhaps even more. South Korea is very advanced, so we felt pretty comfortable and right at home from the get go.

Living in Seoul: cultural differences

However, there were some cultural differences that we noticed. For example, the unspoken rule about public transportation is that you shouldn’t be talking or making noise as people prefer to sit in silence. Something we will never get used to is the commonality of spitting and hacking up phlegm openly in public wherever you are. We are also always very on guard when crossing the street as people are constantly in a rush and don’t pause when driving. As we have seen more collisions here than in any country we have been to, and been nearly hit by more cars than we can count. While there are many things that we could discuss that are different from home, we try to focus on the positives that Korea offers, and the valuable experience we are acquiring while being here. 

How job life works in South Korea

Since we are at private schools and not the public system, parents are paying a lot of money for their children to have a more advanced English education than the public system would provide. This means that where we work is first and foremost a business before a school, so they take the demands of the parents seriously, meaning things can shift and change suddenly, and you just have to adapt and go with the flow. Also, Koreans in general are incredibly hard working as a culture, as they work long hours stretching beyond the standard nine to five, and it is not uncommon for people to work on weekends.

Where to find a job in South Korea

As stated above, with the help of our recruiters we were able to find, interview, and arrive in Korea with a job already set for us. There are many recruiters that are willing to provide their services and guide you through the process of finding a job that fits for you.  

Cost of living in Seoul, South Korea

  • ¿How much does it cost to rent a 1-2 rooms’ flat or a room normally? This can vary obviously depending on location. As our housing is provided with our job contract we don’t feel we are the best people to answer this one, as we truly don’t know.
  • What is the average amount of money necessary to cover food necessities per month? This question really depends on your spending habits, eating habits, and overall lifestyle choices. We can say that it is easy to comfortably save a good portion of your income and still enjoy luxuries such as dining out, spas, shopping, and other forms of entertainment. However, we will say that fruit and vegetables can be quite expensive as Korea has to import a lot of the goods seen in the grocery store. We have found that buying produce from local vendors is a great way to support the local economy and also save some money. Compared to other countries, such as Canada, USA, Australia, or the UK, Korea is relatively cheap.

Life in South Korea

  • What do you miss the most about your country? I think what we miss most is probably the space. Canada is a massive country with a population much smaller than that of Korea. In Korea you can never go anywhere or do anything without crowds of people, or people in your personal space. The other main thing is not having to be concerned about air quality. In South Korea the air quality is not good, and can often be at hazardous levels, something we were privileged to have never experienced or be concerned about in our home country. Fresh air is something we miss about home. 
  • Anything notable to highlight about the economy or any relevant difference with other countries where you lived before? Living in South Korea feels very comfortable for us as it is so developed, just like our country back home. 
  • Do you plan to stay there for a long time? Would you recommend this country to live? We do not plan to stay here forever, but we are very happy and comfortable to be here for a couple years. We have jobs we enjoy, that provide us benefits and finances that allow us to enjoy life while working towards our goals. Yes, we would absolutely recommend South Korea as a great place to live and work. We truly enjoy our lives here, as do many expats who come for a year and end up staying much longer! 

Tips about living in South Korea

I think with any big move abroad the most important thing is to maintain an open mind, and remember you are a guest in that country. There will always be things you don’t agree with, or things you don’t particularly like, but there will be so much more that fascinates you, surprises you, and excites you. Have an open mind and be grateful to have the opportunity to soak up another atmosphere and culture, because it is truly a blessing. 

Next project: Thailand

We talk about this question everyday. We get butterflies and excited just thinking about the ability to live, work, travel, and explore other countries while still being aligned with our financial goals.  While we have floated around a variety of options, we are seriously considering living and working in Thailand next. We travelled through this country for a month and a half and really fell in love with the diversity of the landscape, the culture, the food, and the climate. Then, we will consider all of the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a job and living in Thailand, but it is a high contentor for us. We are very fortunate that we can even think of living and working in another country, and no matter where we end up we will be grateful and eager to embrace the country, its culture, and its people. 

In short, if you’re looking for a new experience and a new culture, then write down Seoul as your next destination.

For more experiences in Asia take a look at “living in Dubai”.

Interview conducted in April 2021 with @hugoandtash.

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