I absolutely love living in Korea, but before I moved here I knew nothing about the country. I’d done little research and associated South Korea with Asia, and Asia with the more popular areas of Thailand, Bali, and China!
I then heard about the tension between North and South Korea and found myself regretting my decision to move here in the first place.
Looking back, this was a big wake up call for me as to how naïve I really was!
So, if you’re wondering “is South Korea a good place to live”, you’ve come to the right place.
This guide details everything you need to know about living in Korea as a foreigner and why I love the country so much!
Why I Love Living in Korea
If you’ve read my post where I highlighted the strange things about Korea, you’d probably think otherwise, but there are so many benefits to living in the country.
From the safety to the delicious food, Korea is one place I can’t get enough of. If you’re planning your South Korea itinerary, you’ll soon realize why it’s one of the best countries to visit in Asia.
Here are my top 20 things I love about living in South Korea as an expat: the pros.
Efficiency: Everything works
One of the things I love about living in South Korea – everything just works!
People get back to you timeously, they’re never late for meetings and there is a sense of urgency to get things done.
The postal service is incredibly fast, going to the police station is a breeze and all other public services are managed efficiently.
People respond to emails within hours and there are never issues with power, transportation or infrastructure.
Safety: One of The Benefits of Living in South Korea
Personal safety is one of the good things about South Korea. The crime rate is incredibly low and I’ve never felt this safe before.
Not worrying about petty crime, armed robberies or questioning everyone’s intentions has been a breath of fresh air in my life.
I walk to the convenience store alone at night without a worry in the world. And if you leave your wallet or cell phone in the restroom, subway or cafe, it will still be there when you come back the next day.
This is partly due to the fact that there are CCTV cameras everywhere so even if you do take something that’s not yours, you will be caught!
Korean bathhouses, otherwise known as Jimjilbangs, are a big part of the Korean life and tradition. If you’re living in South Korea, it won’t be long before you visit one.
They are gender-segregated bathhouses that feature hot and cold pools where you get fully naked and scrub yourself clean before entering the large baths.
These jimjilbangs are open 24/7 and offer the perfect setting for people to rest and recuperate.
In addition to the baths, Jimjilbangs offer various saunas and communal sleeping areas as well as entertainment lounges where you can spend the day.
And if you’re out partying and need a place to rest your eyes for the night, a jimjilbang is the perfect spot.
Why do I love Jimjilbangs? They are fascinating and unique to Korea life.
Oh, and they’re not a tourist trap!
Everytime I’ve been to a Jimjilbang, I’ve seen one, maybe two, foreigners and the rest are local people who’ve come for their daily or weekly sauna session.
Korea is Incredibly Beautiful
70% of Korea is made up of mountains and rolling hills. It’s a hiker’s playground!
You don’t need to venture too far from the city to find hidden gems and temples located off the beaten track.
Bukhansan Mountain is one of the most fascinating national parks in the county and it’s situated slap-bang in the center of Seoul!
The countryside is filled with lush green trees and rivers, and this is another reason why I love living in Korea.
Work Opportunities for ESL teachers
The lucrative package for ESL teachers is the main reason for the influx of foreigners in Korea.
In addition to salaries starting at 2.1 million KRW per month (USD 1 900), your airfare is covered and you receive free accommodation from the school who also pay 50% of your health insurance.
So, what do you need to get started as an ESL teacher Korea? Check out my teaching posts on my blog! And no, you don’t even need to be a qualified teacher to apply for these positions.
Kindness is part of Korean Life
During my time living in Korea, I have met the kindest and most caring Koreans.
This includes people who selflessly take time out of their busy day to help strangers. Fellow co-workers who will go out of their way to assist with any task. And staff at the local post offices, police stations and restaurants who are so patient and who genuinely want to help.
This inherent kindness in the Korean culture, and not expecting anything in return, is something I will never forget and it makes life in South Korea that much better.
The public transportation system is world-class, adding to the many pros of living in Korea.
The impressive network makes every area of the country available for exploring on a day trip from Seoul.
The buses and trains are cost-effective and offer regular routes to all locations, making the cost of living in South Korea extremely affordable.
They are well maintained, modern, clean and always stick to the schedule. If you’re even 1 minute late, the bus will leave without you!
Having a significant other is an important part of South Korean lifestyle.
Couples often wear matching outfits when they go on dates and the 14th of every month is a day to honor love.
Valentine’s day is celebrated slightly differently in Korea. Unlike western standards, Korean women traditionally give men gifts and shower them with love on Valentine’s day.
However, roles reverse on “White Day” which is March 14. This is when women receive gifts and it’s the man’s turn to sweep them off their feet.
May 14th celebrates “Yellow Day” where couples wear yellow outfits and buy each other roses.
So, what if you aren’t in a relationship? Fear not! That’s what “Black Day” is for!
It’s celebrated on April 14th and groups of people join together and feast on jajangmyeon. Here, they celebrate their independence with the hopes of meeting their perfect match.
For The Love of Coffee
The coffee craze in Korea is a booming market with cafes lining the streets.
In fact, Seoul is home to more Starbucks coffee shops than any other city in the world. If you don’t drink coffee and you plan to live in Korea, it won’t be long before you start!
These coffee shops vary from large international chains to local themed cafes which attract many people for their cute decor and intricate designs.
Hours are spent in these cafes and it’s a popular place to catch up with friends, get some studying done, or simply read a book.
If you’re planning your Seoul itinerary, make sure you pop into one of the many themed cafes. The Poop Cafe in Insadong is one of the most popular!
One other thing that has surprised me while living in Korea is the love of ice americanos! In the summer, just about every second person you pass is sipping on one.
Love for Their Family
Family is of utmost importance in Korean culture. They tend to live close to one another and spend their weekends together.
All the cousins will meet and go to their grandparent’s house and they even vacation and travel to other countries together.
Siblings have a strong bond and this love and respect for family is something I deeply admire and love about South Korea.
Korean Cuisine and Restaurant Culture
The food is unlike any I’ve had before and this is one of the benefits of living in South Korea!
Initially, it was a shock to the system as I wasn’t used to eating so much rice and pork! But I soon fell in love with the Korean BBQ and flavors of Dakgalbi and Jimmdak.
The restaurant culture in Korea is also something I’ve grown a strong liking for due to its simplicity and ease.
I absolutely love the no-tipping rule and the call button for service!
Lasek Eye Surgery
I get so excited when I talk about this eye surgery that changed my life completely. To date, it is the best thing I did while living in South Korea!
Being an extremely active person, wearing glasses and contact lenses was not only a hassle but also a financial stress.
I had heard of Lasek Eye Surgery but it had never crossed my mind to have the operation.
Why? Simply because I thought it was a risky procedure. I also hate needles and the idea of someone messing with my eyes completely freaked me out.
I soon learned that Korea has the latest technology and some of the best eye doctors in the world. After reading just about every success story out there, I plucked up the courage and made an appointment to have laser eye surgery.
A few years have passed and I still have perfect eye sight.
Only those who are dependent on glasses will understand the impact of not needing them anymore.
So, if you’re living in Korea and have bad eyesight, I highly recommend you read this article about getting Lasek in Korea.
24-Hour Convenience Stores
You don’t need to walk very far to find a 7/11 and GS25 convenience store as they are scattered throughout the towns in Korea.
These are open all day, every day!
Here you can buy everything from your daily groceries to toiletries, snacks, ready-made meals and alcohol.
Because drinking in public is legal in Korea, there’s even seating outside of the stores where you can eat your meal and enjoy your beer and soju.
And let’s not forget about “1 + 1” deals. The isles in these stores are often filled with items where it’s “buy one get one free”.
These specials are amazing!
READ MORE: THE ULTIMATE PACKING LIST FOR KOREA
Recycling is part of Korean life
There are strict regulations regarding waste disposal. If you’re living in South Korea and you don’t recycle, you could be fined.
This includes separating your food waste, plastic bottles, papers, Styrofoam and glass bottles into specific colored bags.
It’s entrenched in their daily lives and children are taught from a young age how to separate their waste and recycle. I love this about Korea!
Korean pop music, otherwise known as K-Pop is a craze here.
After arriving in the country, I experienced my first K-pop concert at the Boryeong Mud Festival and was baffled by the unique dance moves and singing style.
It reminded me somewhat of “Boyzone” back in the day with their well-choreographed dance moves, sleek hairstyles, and cheesy lyrics!
However, I quickly fell in love with K-pop music and often find myself humming along to the songs as they play in most stores and restaurants.
Work Hard, Play Harder
So, I see myself as an outgoing, fun individual who loves a good party.
But even with my years of drinking experience, I cannot keep up with the Koreans!
Soju is the national alcohol that’s consumed daily. It’s a favorite amongst backpackers in Korea and will have you buzzing in no time!
This drink is super cheap and deceptively potent. Before you know it, you’re 2 bottles down and ready to hit the Nuraebang down the road.
Or perhaps you’d prefer to end your evening off with bowling or even indoor baseball. These are all popular activities to do on your night out.
READ MORE: INSIDER MY KOREAN APARTMENT
Yet another reason to live in South Korea – the healthcare system.
Getting sick is usually a financial burden but not in Korea.
A consultation with a doctor won’t cost you more than 8 000 KRW ($6) and the antibiotics and painkillers are a similar price.
For your convenience, the medication is packaged into separate packets with pills that you take each day. You’re given a good strong dose that will knock you out but will have you back in action in no time!
Affordable and accessible healthcare is one of the main benefits of living in South Korea.
Don’t Say “Cheese”, Say “Kimchi”
When taking a photo in Korea, always say “Kimchi” – yes, that’s the Korean fermented cabbage.
We’re used to “Cheese” but I actually love how friendly and fun “Kimchi” sounds when taking pics!
Cost of living in Korea
I found the cost of living in South Korea to be lower than most developed countries. It’s an affordable place to live when compared to the likes of Japan, Australia and America.
As an expat living in Korea, you can spend as little as USD 750 per month. Bear in mind that this excludes rent as mine was covered by my employer.
But your lifestyle will play a big factor.
Going out often? Only eating western food? Booking weekly tours and activities?
These all add up and will burn a hole in your pocket.
High Speed Internet
If you work online, you will love living in South Korea!
The country has one of the fastest internet networks in the world. This new norm of lightening speed internet will change your life.
Is Korea a good place to live?
Yes, Korea is a great place to live. It’s not only a safe country but the cost of living is affordable. The people are friendly, the food is delicious and the culture is unique.
But some people may struggle with certain aspects of Korean lifestyle. These include the foreign language as English isn’t commonly spoken, the long working hours as well as the extreme weather.
To learn more about the cons of living in South Korea, read my post here.
Living in Seoul
Seoul is my favorite city in Korea. There’s a vibrant energy in the air and it’s unlike any city I’ve visited before.
If you live in Seoul, you’ll have all your creature comforts at your fingertips. There are foreigner restaurants and shops, and more people speak English here. But it’s also more expensive.
I didn’t live in Seoul – and I don’t regret it.
Instead, I lived in a small town an hour away called Cheonan. I visited Seoul often but enjoyed getting back to the quieter town.
I was completely out of my comfort zone. But I loved it and felt that I really got to experience the true South Korean lifestyle!
The Benefits of Living in South Korea
Moving to Korea was a culture shock and it opened my eyes to a whole new world. This country is so unique and I will never forget the special memories I have here.
If you’re wondering what is it like to live in South Korea, I hope this post answered your questions.
Looking for more Korea travel information? Check out my other posts!
- The Best Things To Do in Jeju: 5 Day Jeju Itinerary
- Nami Island Itinerary (And Garden of Morning Calm)
- Why Naksan Beach is Korea’s Perfect Beach Getaway
- Why Gangchon Rail Bike Is A Must Do
- Where to Stay in Busan: The Ultimate Guide
- Where to Stay in Seoul: Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation