Have you been playing around with the idea of moving to South Korea? This nation is a great place to dive into a brand new culture and way of life, and also offers many opportunities for travelers looking for a place to settle a little more long term. Moving someplace completely new is never a piece of cake, and requires plenty of careful thought and planning. So here’s some important, and interesting things you should know before you buy that plane ticket and pack those bags!
1. Pack for all weather
South Korea experiences four distinct seasons, so make sure you pack accordingly. Summers tend to be short, but hot and humid, while Winters drag out and the weather can get quite dry. The best times of year are usually Spring and Autumn, although in comparison to Winter these can seem short.
2. Baking is not a thing
Baked goods are not a huge part of Korean culture, so if baking is one of your favorite pastimes be prepared! While baking is definitely doable, finding ingredients like vanilla extract and whole-wheat flour can be a chore. Check in with the local expat community to find out where you can buy the things you need to bake to your heart’s content. Ovens are also very uncommon in apartments in South Korea, so you may need to invest in a good toaster oven instead.
3. Dress to impress
Seoul is the world capital of cosmetic surgery, which is a definite indicator that in Korean culture looks matter. People dress to impress in South Korea, and tend to put a lot of thought into how they look. If you want to try to blend in with local culture, you’ll need to adjust. Although dressing up, styling your hair, and putting on make-up every day can get exhausting, you’ll get used to it being a part of your life in South Korea!
4. The shoe struggle
Shoes in South Korea don’t tend to run in bigger sizes, so if you are a women’s US 7 and a men’s US 10 or higher you will most likely have a lot of trouble finding shoes that fit. When you pack to move, you’ll be packing your whole life into a couple suitcases. Just make sure you budget some space for your shoes so you’re not forced to buy uncomfortable or too-tight shoes in South Korea.
5. Smiling isn’t a big deal
In Western culture it’s normal to offer a friendly smile to a stranger, but not so much in South Korea. Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t smile at you when they walk by, Korean culture tends to be a little more reserved. A nod or bow is usually the appropriate way to show respect or to say hello and goodbye to someone. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t smile too, but don’t be offended if you don’t get one in return.
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6. English isn’t common
Despite the fact that most South Koreans take English classes while in school, very few are able to communicate well in the English language. But this just gives you the opportunity to learn Korean, right? You’ll be surprised to find out that the Korean alphabet is relatively easy to pick up and reading Korean isn’t all that hard. Take some good Korean language classes before you go, and facing the language barrier will be a lot easier!
7. Baseball is big
If you’re a baseball fan, then that’s one thing you won’t miss while living in South Korea. Baseball is a really big deal in South Korea and you’ll probably see the games being shown everywhere you go. Buying tickets to a game is inexpensive and even if you’re not a huge fan attending a live game can be an amazing experience you’ll never forget. By the time you leave South Korea I guarantee you’ll know all the local teams and will probably have one you like cheering on!
8. Swimsuits are iffy
Come summer you’ll probably be eager to fight off the heat and humidity by hitting the pool or the beach. However, conservative Korean culture tends to not look favourably at women showing their shoulders or cleavage in public, so you may have to don a shirt if you don’t want to stand out. Bikinis have become increasingly popular in South Korea over the years too, so it’s really up to you and the local vibe if you want to cover up or bare a little more skin.
Do you have any tips for someone hoping to move to South Korea? Share them below in the comments section!