Minnesota, USA March 14, 2011- Maybe you are considering a move overseas; It is natural to hesitate as there is not many ways to obtain information on the overall quality of life compared to what you are used to living. South Korea is a great option since English speaking jobs are plenty and the demand for such jobs is proving to increase over time. Typically, people shrug off this option due to the fear of dramatic differences because they are not completely informed about the country or lifestyle. Fear no more as I have firsthand experience to take you into the daily life of foreigners in Korea.
First, it is important to realize that traveling and working abroad are entirely different experiences. A vacation is short lived and filled with high emotions. In addition, the focus in both is distinct; in the vacation setting, it is normal to explore the environment as opposed to getting familiar with the people and building relationships which is the core focus in long-term living situation.
Although I have not lived anywhere long-term other than in South Korea, I encourage others to do the same because the experience is life changing. I had my eyes opened to experiences that I could not have imagined before. Moving abroad does not mean you need to sacrifice; it may be that you actually gain more than you realize you could.
Keep in mind that this review comes from an American who spent years in a large U.S. city. I will target issues that would be useful for anyone who is interested in overseas working in South Korea.
- Korean people are very helpful by nature- genuine and happy
- Personal wellness is put before business- do not be afraid to let your boss know when you are not well
- It is normal to work long hours
- Learning English is important; although, it may be hard to find someone who speaks it- try writing it out as some know it that way rather than through hearing
- Housing is rather expensive in Seoul and reasonable in the suburbs- 'gems' can be found in Seoul at a price worth it though
- Overall quality can vary depending on the landlord- apartments typically rented by foreigners will be high quality
- A shopping paradise with abundance of shops with cheap prices- foreigner friendly
- Beauty/specialty shopping madness- specialty shops carry products that even the U.S. does not (i.e. products known for terrible scents smell amazing, etc)
- Many shops all in one place- Korea is small so expansion goes upward rather than outward
- It can be overwhelming scanning all of the signs for all the shops in even a single building; however, exploring it is exciting
- Western and Eastern style restaurants are nearly everywhere
- More public transportation options by bus or train that even travel to the suburbs of Seoul
- Time intervals can be anywhere from 10-15 minutes even for the longer routes (including the stops in the suburbs)
- Electronic signs show the amount of time until the next buses arrive
- Buses are frequent and never late, so public transportation makes more sense than it does in the U.S.
- Travel information available in English and other languages as well
- South Korea is a small country filled with nearby spots to explore- 1 day or 2 day getaways are possible
- International travel is easier as there are more countries at a closer distance
- Travel agencies are perfect for finding great international travel deals since they have the inside information that Korea offers