As the second-largest city in South Korea, Busan is a popular alternative to fast-paced Seoul. Expats moving to Busan will enjoy good weather and the beaches, making the city an alluring prospect for expats who can't face the extreme winters the northern provinces suffer.
Living in Busan as an expat
Busan houses the country's largest port. This generates a booming economy, which has led to a healthy job market. Although many expats find work related to shipbuilding or logistics, the city is also one of the most popular choices for young expats moving to Korea to teach English.
With the city divided into 15 gu districts, expats will have many expat-friendly neighbourhoods to choose from when it comes to accommodation. That said, apartments tend to be smaller than many expats may be used to. Public transportation options in Busan are vast and efficient, making it easy to navigate the city's subway and bus systems. Taxis are also widely available and affordable.
Even though Busan is best known for its beaches, it also hosts numerous festivals and cultural events throughout the year, making it a cultural hub. The lifestyle in Busan is surprisingly diverse. The city has a mix of huge shopping malls and traditional street markets. Expats can eat Korean food quite cheaply at local restaurants, and there is also a wide selection of international restaurants.
Cost of living in Busan
Although Busan is slightly cheaper than Seoul, the city is expensive to live in, and this is reflected in its ranking of 68th out of 227 cities in Mercer's 2023 Cost of Living Survey. This makes Busan pricier than European cities such as Stuttgart and Barcelona but more affordable than Taipei and Shanghai. Fortunately, salaries are competitive, and employment contracts also frequently cover accommodation and schooling, saving expats a lot of money.
Expats will discover transport, locally manufactured goods and Korean restaurants are extremely affordable, while all foreign goods and foodstuffs come at a high price. Eating at Korean restaurants may even at times be cheaper than buying groceries for one person. This is partly due to Korean groceries being sold in bulk, which may not be an option for a single expat.
Families and children in Busan
Expats with children will find the city family-friendly, with many attractions that will keep tots and teens entertained. There are also a few international schools in the city, which expats generally opt for rather than local Korean schools due to the language barrier. The American curriculum and the International Baccalaureate are taught at many of these schools. There is also a Japanese school in the city.
Climate in Busan
Thanks to Busan's far south location and its proximity to the sea, winters are slightly warmer than in the rest of the country. Temperatures rarely drop below freezing, and accumulated snowfall is rare. That said, the warmer months are hot, humid and wet, with the monsoon season lasting for much of summer. Typhoons are also possible towards the end of summer in Busan.
Busan is a beautiful South Korean coastal city, boasting a rich history and culture. Those who try to learn the language will be welcomed with open arms. Friendly locals, low crime rates and great amenities make moving to Busan a comfortable experience even for first-time expats.
►For more about life in the city, see Pros and Cons of Moving to Busan
►Read Frequently Asked Questions about Busan for answers to questions about the city
"I enjoyed the beautiful beaches, the mountains to go hiking in… basically the outdoors! However, in Asia the air quality is very poor (most people wear masks) so as much as I love the outdoors, there are problems with it in South Korea as well. I love the friendliness of Koreans and locals, and the amazing transportation system. Plus the nightlife is great!" Read about Samantha's experience as a expat in the city in her interview.
Are you an expat living in Busan?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Busan. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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