The Land of Morning Calm
“Morning Calm” was named following the name of Korea’s last Dynasty before the country became Republic of Korea. “Chosun” was the name of the Dynasty (since the name of the King was Lee, it is also known as Lee Dynasty) and Chosun means “morning calm”. Korean peninsula is located in the far east and people thought the sun rises the first in Korea while other countries are still in the darkness of the night. And to greet the calm sun as calm person would have been the ideal for Korean people. Actually, the land of morning calm may not reflect exactly the passion, eagerness, ambition of Korean people but the landscape and distinctive 4 seasons may.
Despite the complex political situation having an unpredictable neighbor North Korea, South Korea is an attractive country to visit and to live. Seoul, which is the capital of South Korea, is the most frequented city by expats and their families. Presently around 250,000 foreigners are staying in Seoul. People are generally kind to foreigners and try to help them if needed and the infrastructure is well established. You could find almost everything and anything in Seoul, although the cost of living is not too cheap.
These days, other cities in the country are also having quite big population of relocated expats because the sites are built in those cities. The help of relocation service providers is critical to be successfully settled down.
Housing and living in Korea
There are 3 types of housing in Seoul (other cities are in smaller scale compared to Seoul) and these would be apartment complex, low rise flats called villa and stand alone houses with private yard.
In Seoul, there are some expat community areas such as Itaewon/Hannam area, Seongbuk area and Bangbae area which is also known as French area. These area are relatively close the international schools or the access to schools are convenient and most of expats with children would choose to have their homes there while they are in Korea.
However, young single expats may want to live in local places near their work place or where the night lives are vivid. Once they get used to the local places, they would stick to live in those places. Local areas in Seoul which are frequented by expats are usually apartment complex with very high technical and modern feature.
Most of houses are provided unfurnished (except some built in items or basic white appliances). Furniture rental or purchasing furniture would be the option.
Shopping & Groceries in Seoul are very convenient and transportation is pretty well organized. Public transportation includes bus, train, subway, airplane and taxis. Taxi fare is relative cheap considering the general living cost & property costs.
IT and internet in Korea is known to be the 1st class in the world and the speed is just fantastic.
In Seoul, there are several international schools with various curriculum (IB &/or International program etc.). For popular international schools, waiting lists may be expected and relocation providers’ consultation would be a good way not to have disappointments.
Compared to years ago, it is easy to find someone speaking relatively good English in Seoul and Koreans who have a concept of “treating” the visitors good as an important morale, it won’t be too difficult for an expat to live in Korea.
However, there might some sort of cultural difference which may lead to a misunderstanding for both sides. Koreans do like to touch when they see a child and find the child “cute” without having permission of the parents and this may surprise the expats. In the street or anywhere public if a Korean just push you or touch you, it is not a sign of aggression or having a sort of personal feelings whatsoever. It is just the way it is and no one really take such actions as an attack or mal-intention. Koreans used to live with very high density and this is why they don’t really think about “space” for others. In this case, just express that you are not happy and they will show in their way that they are “sorry”.
Doing business in Korea may also involve the cultural differences since Korea still has a lot of hierarchical structures although they try to overcome this slowly. Creativity and showing this as an employee may need a kind of “courage” because this may not be appreciated by the high ranking supervisors. It is important to convince that you expect the creativity, not just following the orders of the superiors, if it is what you are looking for.
Banking & other formalities
Banking system in Korea is well established and most of payments could be made through bank transfers. Expats would therefore like to open bank accounts as soon as they start their relocation. This would be possible when the visa & immigration is completed and the expat obtained the Alien Registration Card.
International Driving license can be used for 1 year from the entry into the country or Korean driving license could be exchanged from the home country driving license. To have the guidance from the relocation consultant would be the best way to get all the formalities done efficiently.
Medical condition and hospitals in Korea is one of the best class in the world. Big hospitals or hospitals in the expat areas have English speaking doctors. And if the expat has the appropriate visa type, he/she would be eligible for the national health care system.
Overall, Korea is a nice place to live and having experience of living in Korea would certainly enlarge the vision of any expat and family and with the help of relocation provider, the possible challenges could be overcome in a most effective way.