If you are looking for an international work experience, South Korea needs to be at the top of your list! South Korea is one of the best places to work as an expat in Asia due to its booming economy and great pool of international expats.
The most common job as an expat in Korea is being an English Teacher. However, Korea’s economic growth has been spotted by many international businesses who are now setting up base in Seoul to grow the regional market. Business-related work is therefore becoming more popular among expats. During my time in Korea, I experienced the latter and worked in a marketing role for an international company based in Seoul.
Here are my top 5 tips to survive as an expat in Korea :
Sign up to Meet Ups
Moving to a new country, let alone a new culture can be overwhelming at times. Making friends from the get go is extremely beneficial to your experience. Although you want to learn from the locals, it’s always nice to hang out with people who are from similar parts of the world as you. I would suggest signing up to MeetUP and Facebook groups dedicated to expats in Korea like Every Expat in Korea and for females specifically, Gone Girl International – Seoul. People are extremely friendly and at the end of the day, everyone is out there to meet new people as well, so don’t be shy to reach out.
Learn Hangeul (Korean Alphabet)
You can easily get around Korea without reading or writing Korean. Yet, just learning the basics and showing the locals you are trying can go a long way. The Korean culture is a very polite one so small gestures as saying Thank you (Gam-sa-hap-ni-da) in Korean can help you. A quick way to learn it is 90 Day Korean, which offers a quick guide to learn the basics in 90 min or less. You can use this reliable source.
Eat. Eat. Eat & Repeat
So little time and so many restaurants in Korea!! You will barely use your own kitchen as not only is the food delicious but it’s also extremely cheap. Seriously, don’t let the size of the kitchen take over your choice of apartments. There are also no tips and taxes added so the price you see on the menu takes care of it all; which is a big bonus for us Canadians.
You must try Kimchi, Gimbap, Bibimbap, Korean BBQ (all day, every day) and many many more.
Most meals come with a generous amount of side dishes, that are bottomless. Korea is a great place for foodies. Makes sure to have some Soju (Korean rice liquor) or Maekgolli (Korean rice wine) with your meal.
On top of all the Korean restaurants, there are many international restaurants, usually owned by expats. If you are even missing home, your grandma’s food is only a few subway stops away.
Public transportation is the way to go
Public transportation in Korea is so efficient. Although a first glance at the subway map can hurt your eyes, it is actually extremely easy to navigate it. With it’s subway app, you can check your transfer times and best routes to get from point A to point B.
The bus system is also great, especially if you need to get to and from to the airport (as it is not near the city centre). You can ride a bus coast to coast for very cheap.
If you are not a fan of public transit, taxis are a great way to move around. They are very cheap and you can call one up from the local taxi app Kakao Taxi, just like you would an Uber. Warning: Uber is just starting out so you are better to use this app. However, this app is currently only available in Korean.
Explore the country
There are plenty of beautiful & amazing places to visit outside of Korea. Yet, you are living in one of the most unsolicited countries in Asia that has such a beautiful landscape, from summer to winter.
Take some time to adventure outside the overpopulated cities. You will find great hikeable mountains, rice fields, beaches. Renting a car is very easy with your international driver’s license but as mentioned before, the public system is very well developed and can get you across the country with no hassles. Get off the tourist path and explore your new country!
So there you have it, if you are an expat in South Korea, or for that matter a traveler who will be based in the region for a while, these are important tips to make sure your stay is as enjoyable as possible.