Teaching English in Korea is full of perks—you can work and travel while earning a high salary, free housing, and plenty of holiday time. Living here, you’ll find a country that’s vibrant yet traditional; it’s extremely modern, yet rich with history. From the high-rises in Seoul, to the sprawling hills and beaches along the coast, Korea is an exhilarating country with loads of attractions.The Republic of Korea is located on the end of the Korean Peninsula in East Asia. It’s a tiny country that boasts a huge economic punch, and is known worldwide as an economic, educational, and cultural center. After suffering through colonization by Japan and the Korean War, South Korea has emerged as one of Asia’s fastest growing countries, nicknamed one of the “Asian Tigers” along with Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand. The so-called “Korean Wave” has been highlighted by the Olympics in Seoul, the 2002 FIFA World Cup Games, and rise of Korean pop-culture such as music, movies, and television dramas.
Situated on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, South Korea is about 1,100 km from mainland Asia. It’s bordered by North Korea to the north, and flanked by the Yellow Sea, the Sea of Japan, and the East China Sea to the west, east, and south, respectively. Its total area is about 100,000 sq. kilometers. South Korea’s topography varies depending on the region; it’s very diverse, and can be characterized by high mountains, rolling hills, plains, and valleys. Jeju island, Korea’s largest, is about 100 km offshore. When considering the all-important question, “Where to work?” - teaching in Korea has a little something for everyone. Small, or rural cities are ideal if you want a real Korean experience at a low cost. You can also choose to live in megacities like Seoul or Busan. These have a big expat population, as well as a lot to offer in terms of nightlife and entertainment. If you want to try and hit the “sweet spot”, your best bet might be a “satellite” city. These medium sized cities are usually between 600,000 and 3 million people, and have a good mix of “Western” amenities while not losing their traditional Korea vibe. You can usually get to Seoul or Busan in about 1-2 hours from these cities.
One of the biggest perks about teaching in Korea is you don’t need to be bothered with renting an apartment. The school will provide you with a furnished apartment near the school, so it’s pretty stress free. Apartments in Korea are usually a studio or a small one-bedroom, and very basic furniture will be provided. You’ll typically have a bed with sheets (might want to buy your own though!), television, refrigerator, stove, and air conditioner. The school will support you with setting up your phone, internet, and cable. The apartment probably won’t have a washing machine, kitchen utensils, a rice cooker, microwave, or any extra goodies. These, and any other household items you may want/need like an iron, fan, coffee machine, rice cooker, blow dryer, etc. can all be purchased at Home Plus or Walmart.
Partying & Entertainment
Of course, the main reason you’re coming to Korea is to teach English and enrich the lives of your students. But you might want to have a little fun while you’re here, too! Depending on your idea of fun, you can find options that are pretty tame to downright debaucherous. If you’re looking for a chill night out with friends, you might want to try Jimjil Bang , or Korean saunas. You can go there to relax for an evening, catch up on some Korean soap shows, play some pool, and have a bite to eat. There are unisex hot and cold rooms are for families and couples, or you can go to the separate rooms for men and women for a nude bath in aromatic pools. Norae Bang (or KTV as its referred to in China) is karaoke—you can rent a private room for you and your friends. Bars and clubs are also popular in Korea, and often stay open until early the next morning. Make sure you don’t have class the next day if you plan on burning the midnight oil at one of these places! Aside from partying and nightlife, there are a lot great options for outdoor enthusiasts. Korea is famous for mountains, and being surrounded by water on three sides, beaches are abundant. Lastly, food culture is strong in Korea—often the best way to get together with a group of friends is to go out and eat something! Once the beer and soju start flowing, you never know where the night might take you!
A typical Korean meal usually consists of rice and many small side dishes. The taste profile has a huge variety, thanks to their use of kimchi, red pepper paste, fermented sauces, pickles, and oils. Staple foods include rice, grilled meats, pot-stews, dried fish, kimbap (like sushi), ramen noodles, and dumplings. Shopping for food can range from very simple to a complete adventure in itself! Convenient “marts” or corner stores are everywhere, and a great place for buying daily staples like milk, bread, eggs, snacks, etc. There are also street produce markets where you can practice your Korean and negotiation skills, as bargaining is the norm here. Big box supermarkets like Lotte, Home Plus, and Wal-Mart are good places to stock up on food and household items.
Getting around in Korea is a breeze. Being a relatively small country, traveling from city to city is fast and pain-free. Public transportation in the cities is excellent; there are loads of ways to get around, and all fit nicely into the budget of an ESL teacher. If you’re traveling within one city, you can hop on an inner-city bus, grab a taxi, or take the subway. More intrepid travelers might want to buy a motorbike or scooter to get around. All forms of public transport are clean, reliable, and inexpensive. Taxis are also reliable, and most can be called in advance if you don’t want to try and hail one on the road. If you want to go further afield, there are inter-city buses and express trains. Most large and medium sized cities are accessible by either option, though the buses tend to be a bit more affordable.