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Moving to Korea > Seoul >

An Expat Talks about Moving to Seoul, Korea

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Seoul

Name three things that you wish you had brought and three you wish you had left at home.

Wish I had brought:

My wife and baby. They are still at home...the phone bills are not too bad (like 100won/8 US cents a minute) but it's a little tough sometimes to connect completely.

More books about finance and business. Kyobo book has a few in the store but to get the ones I wanted I needed to order online though their site (Amazon had outrageous shipping costs) for a pretty penny.

More gifts. My original stash of salmon, cheese, meat and such are gone...I go back every couple of months and stock up (cheese is almost impossible to get here, and the prices!) but could always use more.

Things I wish I left behind:

All my clothes. Well, I needed something to start out with, but found I could get good, cheap and well-fitting clothes here with little problem (of course my Korean in-laws helped). 2 suits, 2 pants, 4 shirts, 4 undershirt and 2 ties for about 550 USD. (And I am about 6 foot...not the easiest size to fit over here.)

Japanese language books. I took some courses in college and thought I'd get time to hop over there, but things are so busy (and there is so much to see here, and going home is a better option right now) that I doubt that I'll get there at all.

My old leather briefcase. No one has an old briefcase here. The first thing my boss said when he hired me was "Get a new attache". Luckily they are cheap, plentiful and easy to find here.

Thing I was glad I brought:

My slow-cooker (crock-pot). It was my surrogate oven (they usually use their ovens as grills, which makes it hard to make lasagna and such).

Webcamera. This thing is great for communicating with my wife and child.

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What advice would you give someone preparing to move to your area about the actual move, choosing a neighborhood and finding a home?

Live close to work. Life is hard enough without a 1-2 hour commute--especially if it's on a bus, subway or (for the purely insane) driving your own car here. For an expat, who should be thinking of a compromise between their home culture/lifestyle and their adopted one, getting a smaller place that's closer to work may be better than a large apartment (no houses here, unless you're way out of town or really loaded) that is far away may be the difference between happiness and h#ll.

What type of housing do you live in? Is this typical for most expats in your area?

I have a 13 pyoung (285 sq ft) place, but about 100 sq ft of it is balcony so the living space is a little cozy...no matter, the place is new, it's high enough and has enough windows to have a TON of sunlight streaming in (assuming I wash the windows) and there are cameras all over the halls just in case.

Most expats live in Itaewon or at a serviced suite, but I prefer the closeness of my place to work and have no real problems getting things done in Korean (meaning I get my co-workers to do a lot of translating for me).

How did you choose your neighborhood and find your home or apartment?

I lived with my in-laws for a few months, which was a great load-off. Then scouted out places near work. After a few weeks of looking on my own I brought in my boss to negotiate the fees--and he did a GREAT job. The place is about a 10 minute walk through the (safe) park to work, if brand new and less than I'd have paid downtown back home. Definately take a local to negotiate if at all possible.

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Are your housing costs higher or lower than they were in your home country? What is the average cost of housing there?

It's about the same as at home, assuming you're in a big city and downtown or in the financial district. My rent is about 800 USD for the 285 square...which may be a lot for a little, but once you're here you adjust to the space difference pretty easily.

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