Country Guides November 8, 2021

Moving to South Korea – The Ultimate Guide to the Land of the Morning Calm

Anastasia Hill

Apart from being the next fashion icon, Anastasia is also a freelance writer and expert on moving (and packing clothes).

Over 150 thousand Americans decided that moving to South Korea was a great decision and stayed there to live. If you’re one of them and you wish to have a future in this amazing nation, you’ll have to do some research. Read our guide on international relocating to the Land of the Morning Calm and prepare for your adventure.

Low crime rates, gun violence is almost non-existent, job opportunities are plentiful, and the quality of life is on a very high level. If you’re an American moving to South Korea, prepare for some cultural shock and social gaps you’ll have to bridge. We have made a moving to the South Korea checklist where we listed all the crucial things you need to know before coming here to live.

Can Foreigners Live in South Korea? How to Get a Visa if You’re an Expat Moving to South Korea From America?

There’s a common stereotype that if you’re moving to South Korea from the US, the chances are that you’re with the military or you’re coming to teach English. However, if you’re learning how to move abroad and wondering can I move to South Korea without a job, keep in mind that you can come and live here if you’re issued with any of the following visas:

  • A visa is for diplomats relocating across the world. US forces get A-3-1, and their family members get A-3-2.
  • If your reasons to move aren’t working in the US Government or in the military, you can get a B-1 or B-2 and stay 90 days if you’re coming from the US. It’s not renewable.
  • C visa is for a short period of time for foreigners who are staying for whatever reason. C-3 is for visiting your family, and C-4 is for working here for less than 90 days.
  • D visa is for a long stay after international moving. D-1 is for those who are coming to study at the university. D-2 is for workers in Korean companies, offices, or factories. D-4 is for staying for training or doing research in educational institutions. D-6 is for those coming here to preach religion. D-10 is difficult to get – it’s for those with a high degree who are coming to search for a job and contribute to society.
  • E visas are for jobs. E-2 is for English teachers and other foreign language instructors, and it lasts one year. It can be prolonged. E-6 is for artists, actors, singers, modeling, and athletes.
  • F visas are for those coming because of someone. F-1 for staying with your family, F-2 is for those who are living here for at least five years. F-3 is for babies born here. F-4 is for foreigners whose parents are Korean. F-5 is like a green card in other countries – you’re not a citizen, but you can become one. F-6 allows you to stay here with your spouse if you’re relocating to another country for love.
  • H-1 is a working holiday visa for foreigners coming to work here, and H-2 is for people who are coming for a visit.

F-2 Is the Visa You’re Looking for if You Want to Live Here After Moving to South Korea

This is a point system visa, and for getting issued with an F-2, you’ll need 80 points out of 120. The first thing you have to do to get a Korean visa (aside from acquiring all of the necessary documents needed to travel abroad) is to become a part of the KIIP program (Korean Immigration and Integration Program). It has four semesters, and you’ll learn about their history, culture, economy, and alike. Start this program as soon as you can, or start learning the language.

Your level of knowledge can bring you more points as well as volunteering. The Korean government cares if you’re a contributing member of society, and if you are, you shouldn’t have any issues with getting a residence permit. Focus on embracing everyday culture, breaking the language barrier, and finding work. That way, you’ll easily integrate.

Expats have many options for visas aside from teaching English

Know How Much Money Do You Need to Live Comfortably in South Korea

An essential part of learning how to move to South Korea is knowing the cost of living here and the expenses you can expect. Not everything is cheap here, but your money will go a bit further compared to the US. Before you start making your checklist for relocating abroad, take a look at how much your monthly costs will be.

According to Numbeo, if you plan on relocating abroad alone, you’ll need less than a thousand dollars per month, not counting the rent. A family of four needs $3,500, also without the rent. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs $500, while a three-bedroom one will cost you a thousand dollars more. If you prefer living further from the downtown, you’ll pay from $400 to $850, depending on the size of your home.

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Besides Affordable Cost of Living, There’s Also Excellent Public Transportation System You Can Rely on

Affordable, punctual, clean, and efficient public transportation is real, and you’ll find it here. A one-way ticket for local transportation costs around $1, while a monthly pass costs less than $50. Taxis are also a common way of commuting, and they’re also affordable. A start in normal tariff costs less than $3, while one mile of a drive costs a dollar.

Seoul street at night
One of the things that all English expats love is the affordability and efficiency of public transportation

What Are the Best Places to Live In?

This East Asian nation is home to some of the best places to live abroad, trust us, there is much more than Seoul. Here are the most recommended places to reside once you relocate:

  • If you’re looking for one of the best places to live abroad with your family, choose Jamsil.
  • Busan is ideal for those who love to be near a beach.
  • Daejon has a high safety level, it’s affordable, and has fantastic hospitals and education options,
  • Incheon is close to an airport, and it’s one of the less crowded places,
  • Jeju Island has tropical weather, beautiful beaches, and it’s ideal for those who want to work in the travel industry or hospitality.

Move to Some of These Cities if You’re Looking for a Job

Even though it’s affordable, you’ll still require a job to reside here. Relocating to Seoul is one of the best decisions if you’re looking for work in the tech industry. If you want to teach at a school or a college, Cheongju should be your choice. Pohang also offers lots of job opportunities, as well as Incheon.

aerial view of Seoul
Choose your new home city wisely

The Ranking of Healthcare Itself Can Get You Packing Your Bags

When it comes to the medical system, South Korea is one of the best countries to live in. Compared to the US healthcare system, the Land of the Morning Calm is simply off the chart. Visits to doctors are super easy and cheap, while you’re getting high-quality service. Doctors here are very fast and professional. If you’re asking yourself, is moving to South Korea a good idea, keep in mind that your quality of life with healthcare like this can only go up.

doctor holding a stethoscope
If you're looking for an excellent healthcare service, this land is a perfect choice

Education Opportunities Are Amazing as Well

Are you figuring out how to move overseas because you’re looking for good education for your kids or yourself? If that’s the case, be carefree. This country provides an excellent education for its residents. According to OECD, they are one of the top-performing countries in mathematics, sciences, and reading literacy. There are also many highly-rated universities such as KAIST – Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology and Seoul National University. Coming here means getting one of the top educational opportunities in the world.

students exchanging notes
Expats can get an excellent education here in English

Meet the People and Their Culture to Fit in Quicker

An essential part of knowing how to live abroad is taking time to adjust to a new country. The most important part is to do your research and know what you can expect. Keep in mind the following things to adapt faster:

  • You can’t call a person by their first name, it will be considered as impolite and disrespectful.
  • Personal space isn’t a thing here since everything is frequently crowded.
  • The Land of the Morning Calm doesn’t have a reputation as one of the friendliest countries in the world, but that’s a huge misconception. People here are very laid back and understanding. Even though they can seem rude, cold, or in a rush, from the inside, they’re very hospitable and warm. Many people speak English as well, so you can ask anyone for help.
  • The safety levels are very high. You can see small kids walking home by themselves at night without any supervision. Police don’t carry guns, and you can barely see the officers on the street. The crime does exist, but it’s minimal.
  • The mentality is much different from the western.
  • Smoking inside is allowed and very common, as well as drinking alcohol.
  • Knowing Korean isn’t necessary, but it’s appreciated if you learn the basic phrases.
  • There are foreigner restrictions in some bars and restaurants, or it can happen that foreigners can come in, but they’ll pay more. There are also places where only foreign men can’t enter.
  • You might experience stereotypes, but Americans in Korea don’t think it’s coming from hatred.
  • Last but not least, don’t fully rely on what the western media is showing you. This East Asian nation is much more than that.

The Restaurant Culture Is Huge Here

If you’re a foodie, living overseas here will have many pros. Restaurant culture is huge, and there are many eateries all over the nation. Korean barbecue has a great reputation as well. Still, no matter how much you like your food, there are no tips required – Koreans don’t have a culture for tipping. Watch the video below and check out the best places for grabbing a bite in Seoul, the capital:

Climate Is Mild and Pleasant

This part of the Korean Peninsula has all four seasons. The winters are sometimes snowy but not that cold. Summers are very hot, rainy, and humid. Spring and fall are beautiful and very pleasant. The temperature rarely goes below 11 degrees and above 91 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s most likely to experience temperatures between 21 to 85 degrees. However, there is one con you should be aware of, especially if you have asthma or some other breathing problems. The air quality can be very bad here, which is why Koreans started wearing face masks much before the Coronavirus pandemic started.

South Korea
Make sure you're familiar with the weather and average temperatures before coming

You’ll Have Numerous Things to Do

There’s a plethora of fun stuff to do, from restaurants to picnics by the river. Around 70% of the land is mountains, so if you like hiking, you’ll love it here. Learn how to keep in touch with friends, get a tent, and invite them to come and visit you. Plan a road trip together to the countryside, mountains, or any of the coasts.

The East coast is beautiful and a perfect place for a vacation, while the South coast has numerous islands, and it’s fun to explore. Don’t forget about ancient palaces like Gyeongbukgung (Palace Greatly Blessed By Heaven) and Changdeokgung. Local markets are also very fun to explore and taste street delicacies and let’s not forget about the festivals and cultural events you can attend here each year.

people shopping
There are numerous activities that can make your day once you move

Consider Getting Help from an International Moving Company to Organize Your Move

Once you figure out what to pack when relocating abroad, it’s time to see how you can avoid all the relocation stress that moving internationally brings. One way that’s confirmed to be the most effective one is hiring an international relocation company. They will give you plenty of options for relocating, as well as the services that will ease the process of international moving. You can get packing services, as well as overseas vehicle shipping and a free storage unit for a month. Make sure you hire a reputable company and enjoy your relocation.

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