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Cities in South Korea

Reynard369

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I'm possibly going to be living and working in South Korea in the next year or so. I want to live in a city, maybe Seoul but probably not because I'm told it's quite expensive. I know we have some people who have lived or currently live in Korea and can help me out. Apart from Seoul, what cities would you recommend and why?
 

nahneun

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The second largest city in South Korea is Pusan, but honestly, the only place worth staying for foreigners is Seoul. Maybe look into some of the districts right at the outskirts of Seoul, like Bundang
 

Reynard369

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Originally Posted by nahneun
The second largest city in South Korea is Pusan, but honestly, the only place worth staying for foreigners is Seoul. Maybe look into some of the districts right at the outskirts of Seoul, like Bundang

Why is this?
 

nahneun

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The biggest problem, of course, is communication. English is rare outside of Seoul. You're going to need at least some rudimentary knowledge of Korean anywhere else. And to be honest, it's just plain better to live and play in Seoul. Better clubs, night scene, chicks, more accessible, etc. In terms of food, and I say this as an ethnic Korean, Korea is generally pretty bad. Everything is TOO catered to Korean tastes and you lose a lot of the authenticity. Generally, if you want any non-Korean food, you'll have to go to Itaewon. Watch where you go though, as it's also where the gay/tranny bars are. Overall, don't expect to be wowed by anything besides Korean food in Korea.

If you don't mind my asking, what line of work are you planning on pursuing in Korea? I'm going to shoot a guess and say English teacher?
 

Reynard369

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Originally Posted by nahneun
The biggest problem, of course, is communication. English is rare outside of Seoul. You're going to need at least some rudimentary knowledge of Korean anywhere else. And to be honest, it's just plain better to live and play in Seoul. Better clubs, night scene, chicks, more accessible, etc. In terms of food, and I say this as an ethnic Korean, Korea is generally pretty bad. Everything is TOO catered to Korean tastes and you lose a lot of the authenticity. Generally, if you want any non-Korean food, you'll have to go to Itaewon. Watch where you go though, as it's also where the gay/tranny bars are. Overall, don't expect to be wowed by anything besides Korean food in Korea.

If you don't mind my asking, what line of work are you planning on pursuing in Korea? I'm going to shoot a guess and say English teacher?


Nail on the head. Even cities like Busan and Daegu have very little in the way of English and cool stuff going on?
 

nahneun

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I'll be honest. No matter where you decide to work, it'll be mostly the same thing at first, perhaps even for your entire stay. You'll go out with your co-workers after work, at least one of whom will be bilingual, get drunk, go karaoke, eat food, then go home to sleep. If not karaoke, a club. Maybe both. This will be the basis of almost all your nights out. Seoul is just better for that kind of lifestyle. If you have easier access to Seoul, it is more likely you will find your stay in Korea enjoyable. Also, one of the biggest perks of having a foreign passport is that you can go to the casinos in Korea. All the casinos worth going to are in Seoul. Walker Hill casino is great. Free drinks and free food as long as you're playing at a table. I made about a grand to go out and drink with just playing black jack at the table with my friends. The food isn't half bad either. Walker Hill > Seven Luck.
 

Prestwich

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I agree with much of what's been said - I spend a lot of time in Korea and the Western food is pretty bad. One exception I can recall offhand is a tapas place in Itaewon, by the subway. The good news is that the standard of Korean food just about EVERYWHERE is amazing and affordable. I knew nothing about Korean food before I went and I'm a total convert - love it!

Add cheap tailored suits (go to Hahns or Savile Row in Itaewon), a friendly, safe environment and some beautiful surrounding countryside and I'm sure you'll have an amazing experience in Seoul.

I have also been to Busan and just due to the relative size of the place I'd agree it would be tougher for a foreigner to settle there, though others may disagree...?
 

impolyt_one

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Well, I've lived here for 10 years on and off; you don't have to live in Seoul to live in a city, there are like 4 or 5 'cities' here, but Seoul is quite obviously the largest one.

Short and sweet; if it's your first year, and you're just gonna teach ESL for '20-30 hours a week' (which amounts to more like 40-50 in real terms) then anywhere there are more than few people around could be fine, could not, depends on how much you need certain things. Food is first, things like cultural events and nightlife are usually next up; unless you are a gourmand and a cultural/fashion maven, you'd probably be satisfied anywhere in Korea. It's about the same everywhere here. Korea is high-tech, people are rich, and there is no taste anywhere, so don't worry about it. You don't miss much but the big names if you live outside of Seoul.
 

nahneun

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The Gyeongsang-do dialect (Busan, Daegu, etc.) is really hard for non-Koreans to digest. I'd really suggest that you live near Seoul if it's your first year. Seoul food also tends to be more tame so foreigners usually have a considerably easier time acclimating to the taste. I mean, you'll probably just be eating a lot of samgyupsal and pojangmacha food anyway lol
 

Humperdink

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A friend of mine taught his first year in Ulsan. In his own words he "drank and fucked liked a monkey" week in and week out, studied some Korean, and ate himself stupid on pork, beef, kimchi, and raw garlic. He's now a damn good Korean speaker and married to a cute pharmacology major in Seoul. Correlation or causation...?

The first year experience as an ESL teacher in Korea is pretty uniform given the language barrier, the culture clash, long working hours, and camaraderie with fellow expat lushes (including the ubiquitous Korean American teacher from NYU or UCI who can successfully order food and drinks during hwe-sik). In addition, the immediate experience in all in S.K. cities can be pretty uniform given the small geography, and the "follow the leader" mentality throughout the country - there's lots of neon, lots of samgyopsal and yangnyom chicken places, espresso huts, lots of makkeoli and soju, etc. Although living in Seoul without being able to speak Korean and with no knowledge of Korean culture is more comfortable than elsewhere, don't mistake Seoul for Stockholm or Madrid - getting around without Korean will be difficult everywhere in the country.

But admittedly, Seoul is the center of South Korea in many ways imaginable. Seoul is fun, diverse, and most accessible for newcomers. It has a more accessible transportation system with multi-lingual signage; internationally credible arts and entertainment - theater, opera, museums, and contemporary music from K-pop to Arcade Fire - better nightlife, and edible Mexican, Indian, Thai, etc. food. There are distinct, diverse neighborhoods for everything from play to relaxation to historical and cultural exploration. Seoul is also overcrowded, congested, has terrible air, and is full of pretentious, money-grubbing, ladder-climbing assholes all with the exact same asshole mothers, the same $3,000 sonhyong susul faces and the same fucking unfortunately trashy $3,000 Chanel handbags. You can go to clubs in Gangnam where attractive girls treat ESL teachers like you've probably been treated in most big cities in the States (no hate), or walk around well-air-conditioned, overpriced department stores (common projects for $700?! Seriously, 신세계? Fuck you...) for pointless hours on end.

Basically, what are you looking for in a city? If you want less congestion and easier access to nature, hiking, etc., then Seoul might be at the bottom of your list. I like Pusan because it's ringed by beaches and mountains, has somewhat better air quality than Seoul, and the people overall (*disclaimer*) seem more genuine, while some similar conveniences do exist - a Uniqlo, one Muji; Russian clubs, German beer bars, sashimi writhing on your plate, etc.. I personally love the food in Kwangju, and the liberal putz in me likes to visit historical sites of the 5-18-1980 resistance movement there. Ulsan and Daegu are great jumping off points for exploration into the historically and naturally rich countryside.
 

ryoneo

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come to Bucheon, we can drink our faces off and then stumble around the area saying hi to the students we teach!
 

ThatGuy

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You really need to be in Seoul where the people are more "International" in their mind-sets.

When in Korea, I personally don't eat much Western food as Korean food is so healthy and delicious. I actually lost weight on my last trip simply by eating Korean food - still drank like a fish too!

As a Westerner, Koreans who aspire to speak English will naturally gravitate towards you and you will always have someone who is more than willing to tag a long, or help you get through living in Seoul.

I highly recommend you stay there. Other areas are considered "Hillbilly" by Seoulites
 

greasypeanut

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id suggest the happy city of suwon, or actually anywhere in the gyeonggi-do area. close enough to seoul that u can go there and come back all in the same day. and also it has more of a korean feel the farther away u get from seoul. which i expect is why you want to go live in another country, to experience the culture. unless you grew up hundreds of miles away from a decent major city, i wouldnt recommend seoul. for me at least, it didnt feel/seem any different from LA especially k-town.

and as a expat ull always have a fall back if u ever find that ur life sucks. i didnt live in seoul, and people in my city would complain "man i should have found a job in seoul" then on the weekend, they could go to seoul and gain a little bit of happiness. however my friends in seoul were saying "man i should have just stayed at home" and well.... yeah
 

bbhewee

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I've known a lot of ESL teachers in Seoul and they all seemed to be doing ok. Just live around the Hongdae area, get off with the students and have fun. Cheap booze, cheap apartments... In all seriousness Seoul is pretty cheap if you live a local lifestyle. I'm still amazed at how you can have a damn good lunch for 5 bucks every time I go back (4 times a year on average).

That being said, and continuing on what greasy peanut said, my mom now lives in Suji (outside of Suwon) after having lived in Banpo for the past 20 years, bang in the middle of the city. It's beautiful and really relaxing, but I still find it damn far after a night out in Apkujeong/Chongdam... Even worse when it's Hongdae. Given the going out you will be doing, you'll spend the money saved on rent on the taxis to go back every night.
 

bentusian

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Being a Korean myself, I truly admire your keen observations, which all ring so true.


Although they can be pretty far from central Seoul especially when you're coming back home from a good night-out, you may also consider some of the satellite cities around Seoul like Ilsan or Bundang as recommended by other members. Each of them are pretty much self-contained so you may not need to come all the way to Seoul for example to go to a movie or something.

The other advantage of living in South Korea is, to me, cheap, short and frequent flights to Japan.
 

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