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Retire in Korea

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Nov 27, 2021

Summary: Retirees share their experiences living in Korea. What are the challenges and rewards of retiring in Korea?

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How do I meet people in Korea?

When we asked people living in Korea about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"First Recommendation: Expats in Korea should take some Korean language classes. After I arrived in Korea, US Army Tour, I made an agreement to teach a young Korean high school student English for one or two hours per week if she would teach me Korean for the amount amount of time. That was without a doubt the best decision I made while in Korea ... I was a Captain in the Army at the time and shortly after, about 3 or 4 months I was selected to Command a Company with around 80 Republic of Korea Army soldiers assigned ... Perhaps it was because of my Korean language skills ... Not sure but a great job and great for my Military Career. I just returned from Korea, (June 2017), I attended a Unit reunion after more than 40 years. I loved it and am planning a move to Korea ... Sometimes in early 2018. PS: During my total of six years in Korea, (2 different tours), I only met two or three people that I did not like," added another person in Seoul.

"Daejeon offers a variety of activities for expats. There are book clubs, sports organizations, artist collectives, and volunteer opportunities. However, the frequency of participation tends to vary greatly, depending on the current expats living in Daejeon. Since the majority of the expats in Daejeon are EFL teachers serving one year contracts, there is quite a turnover and variance within the expat community. There is a monthly publication called the Daejeon Access that focuses on expat happenings. Also, other expat-oriented information can be found at hang-outs frequented by foreigners. Santa Claus (the best known bar in Daejeon) and Brickhouse (a very popular expat spot) are great places to plug into the Daejeon ex-pat "scene."," remarked another retiree in Daejeon.

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What is life like in Korea?

When we asked people living in Korea what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Work! Work! Work! The Korean people are exceptionally hard workers ... The best students in the world," said another retiree in living in Seoul, Korea.

"Daejeon is the fifth largest city in Korea with a population of nearly 1.5 million people. It is known as the "Silicon Valley" of Korea and is the technology center of the country. It also has several major universities, including Chungnam National University and KAIST (the Korean equivalent to M.I.T.). The expat community is by and large employed in the EFL industry. Those who work in the EFL industry typically work less than 30 hours a week, so socializing is a high priority within the community. Korea in general has quite the nightlife culture and all-night drinking affairs are not uncommon, especially with the EFL teachers, because many of them work at private academies (hagwons) and don't begin their work until mid-afternoon. However, drinking isn't the only form of socializing in which the expat community participates. Many participate in sports such as football(soccer), rugby, basketball, volleyball, and ultimate frisbee. These activities range from being highly organized to "pick-up" style gatherings and usually occur on weekends. Other outdoor activities are also extremely popular, especially hiking and skiing (winter only). Other types of gatherings are popular too. Many expats socialize in the endless array of coffee shops that Daejeon has to offer. The Starbucks at the Timeworld Shopping Center in central Daejeon is heavily trafficked by foreigners. Idee Coffee, in the "old" downtown area, is an artsy place where many of the more independent-spirited expats commune. Idee is a popular place for expat art shows and a meeting place for the D.A.S. (Daejeon Art Solidarity)," explained a retiree in Daejeon.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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What do I need to know before retiring in Korea?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Korea, they said:

"Learn as much of the language as possible and above all ... Treat everyone with respect. RESPECT. RESPECT. RESPECT. Remember you are a Diplomate from your country ... make it proud of you," added another person in Seoul.

"Overall, I would say Daejeon is a very liveable city. I think it is important to get involved with the expat community to maximize your quality of life, because Western-style amenities and activities are scant. Also, you have to have "thick skin" because you will be subject to unwanted attention, mostly in the form of stares. You might want to sample some Korean food (if you haven't before) prior to your arrival, since you will be eating it quite a bit here," remarked another retiree in Daejeon.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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