A couple days ago, I wrote a post about 10 things I love about living and working in South Korea. I was planning on doing a 10 things I hate, but as I started doing it, I realized that there actually wasn’t 10 things. I generally like living and working in Korea and during my decade here, I’ve had a pretty amazing time. The 10 things I hate post was starting to bring me down, so instead, I’m going to talk about how to make your life in South Korea as awesome as possible.
Here are five tips for how to do this:
Learn a Bit of Korean
I’m not really talking about putting in the time and effort to become fluent. Korean is not exactly a useful language once you leave Korea so it’s kind of a waste of time unless you happen to be married to Korean. What I am talking about is learning how to read, and knowing a few basic things to get yourself around town in style. It’s pretty easy to get a basic grasp of survival Korean so put in the effort. An the very, very minimum, learn how to read.
Life in South Korea = More awesome when you speak a bit of Korean
Make your Home a Real Home
When I first got to Korea, I was all about frugal living (See: 101 Frugal Living in Korean Tips) in order to pay off my students loans. (See: How Working Abroad Set Me Up for Financial Awesome). I did however go way further than I should have and didn’t buy anything. I should have spent the 50 bucks to get that used bicycle. Or, the bit of money to get a cell-phone. Or, taken a taxi home once in a while instead of always leaving early to take the bus home. Or, an oven so I could have cooked more of what I wanted to.
What I’m saying is this: Make your home in South Korea a real home. It’ll go a long way towards making your life in South Korea awesome and you’ll have a much happier year, or few. Set yourself a budget of say $300 once you get your first pay-check and go out and buy some stuff that’ll make your time here happy.
Get a University Job
If you’re serious about staying in Korea for more than a year or two, you should be serious about getting yourself a university job. They’re just so, so, so much better than the other options: teaching in a public school or hagwon. No co-teachers, no kids, no worries about not getting paid, lots of vacation, overtime opportunities, no micro-managing boss, etc., etc. For an idea of how good these jobs really can be, see: Is My Korea University Job too Good to be True?
Sure, it’ll be some work to get the job, but once you do, you won’t regret it. Trust me. See: 103 Things to Do to Get a Uni Job in South Korea.
Life in South Korea =100x more awesome with a university job.
It’s pretty easy to just stay in your city and go to the movies, Starbucks, or the expat bar with your friends. I get that. Those things feel familiar when you’re new to Korea and experiencing culture shock. But those are not the awesome things about Korea.
Get outside and explore! See one of the beautiful temples nestled away in the mountains. Go hiking-Korea is a paradise and there are trails basically everywhere (Songnisan is my favourite national park). Check out the beaches-my favourites are the ones up in Gangwon-Do by the DMZ. Take a road trip. Go to the Boseong Tea fields. See some dinosaur footprints. Check out Busan-it’s my favourite big city in the world. Rent a bicycle and ride around Jeju.
Although it is a bit of effort to get our there and do things, it’s always worth it. Seriously. I’ve never regretted getting out of the city, away from the concrete jungle. Korea is a beautiful country with lots of peaceful spots out in the mountains, fishing villages and countryside.
Don’t Drink as Much as Everyone Else
People in Korea, locals and expats like to hit the alcohol hard. But, nothing good comes from getting wasted 3, 4, or 5 nights a week. Sure, it’s fun but you’ll get to the end of your year or two and realize that you actually have nothing except fuzzy memories of soju shots and hangovers.
Do something awesome with your time. Study something. Take up a new hobby. Join a book club. Learn some board games. Exercise. Start an online course. Build a website. Write a book.
Whatever it is, just do it. Don’t waste your time in South Korea. Drinking is most certainly a waste of time, but I’m not being all Judgey McJudgerton here. I like drinking too and I’ll usually end up having a few beers or a few glasses of wine every single weekend. It’s just life here. I just don’t do it all the time and I usually leave before getting totally wasted so that I can do something that I really love the next day instead of nursing a hangover. My new favourite hobby is waking up really early on Saturday morning and going for a long hike while listening to some podcasts. Getting wasted on Friday night doesn’t exactly work well with this.
Life in South Korea = Not awesome when you’re always hungover
How to Thrive in South Korea: 97 Tips from Expats
If you want even more tips about how to make life in South Korea as awesome as possible, then the book you’ll need is How to Thrive in South Korea: 97 Tips from Expats. I enlisted the help of a bunch of my friends who shared their #1 tip for getting beyond just surviving in South Korea into thriving. The tips cover a wide range of stuff-working, living, networking, career advancement, travel, studying Korea, etc. If you’re new to Korea, or thinking about coming here, it’s the book you’ll need to read.
It’s available on Amazon in both print and digital formats. You can read the digital one on any smartphone, tablet, Mac, or PC by getting the free Kindle App.
Life in South Korea = More awesome if you follow the tips in this book.