Moving to South Korea
Expats moving to South Korea (the Republic of Korea) will discover a country that is steeped in ancient history while also being extremely modern. It is a nation of people who look both forwards and backwards – fiercely influential and competitive on the global markets, but proud of its rich history. Technologically, South Korea is hard to beat: it has the world’s fastest Internet, which is important when creating a new life but wanting to keep in touch with family and friends back home, or for starting up a new business.
Seoul, the capital, is the country’s most densely populated city and chief industrial centre. Ten million of the 50 million people who call South Korea home live in the capital. As with many Asian cities, Seoul is dominated by high-rise buildings and apartment blocks. Between all the high-tech, modern buildings is an interesting array of temples, palaces and museums, all conveniently connected by Seoul’s efficient subway system.
South Korea’s extensive road, rail and ferry transport systems connect the country’s nine provinces. The KTX, which is similar to Japan’s bullet train, connects the four main expat cities – Seoul, Daejeon, Daegu and Busan - and enables passengers to hurtle from Seoul, in the country’s north, to Busan in the south, in a little more than three hours.
South Korea's healthcare system is as advanced as its transport network. South Korea is at the forefront of medical research and constantly strives to push the boundaries of medical knowledge. There are a number of foreign language and international schools in all of the major cities as well as in some smaller towns, and South Korea’s education standards are extremely high.
Banks in South Korea are common, efficient and it is relatively easy for expats to open a bank account and transfer money in and out of the country.
Politically, South Korea does not enjoy a good relationship with its neighbour, North Korea. However, this situation does not affect ordinary South Koreans or expats going about their daily business.
South Korean cuisine is very different from quintessential Asian food and may initially challenge expats’ palates. Perseverance is crucial - there are many regional delicacies worth sampling. Western food is readily available in the major cities. South Koreans enjoy entertainment, and the country's nightlife, particularly in the larger cities, is fantastic. There are a number of cultural festivals celebrated throughout the year. The country also attracts famous pop stars and quality film festivals every year.
South Koreans pride themselves on their country’s very distinctive and beautiful four seasons. As in neighbouring Japan, South Korea hosts cherry blossom festivals each spring (March and April), and these blooms attract visitors from across the country. Summers tend to be rainy at first with high humidity levels towards the middle of the season. Autumn is spectacularly beautiful in the mountainous areas as leaves turn red, orange, auburn, brown and gold. Winters tend to be quite cold, particularly as you move further north, a climate which lends itself to excellent skiing and ice-fishing adventures.
South Korea can be a challenging place for expats, but the rewards of moving there are great. Its culture is intriguing, and with an easily accessible countryside it’s easy to get away from the fast-paced city life. Living standards are high and the cost of living is reasonable. South Korea is an incredibly safe country with low crime rates, and expats can expect a warm welcome from both locals and other foreigners.