What to Expect Living in Seoul

Namsan Tower Seoul Sunset

If you want to live somewhere peaceful and quiet, then Seoul is probably not the place for you. It’s a loud, fast, and stressful city. However, for many people it is also the perfect place to live. Is living in Seoul for you?

Seoul is becoming more popular among foreigners every day, with Korea’s emigration exponentially increasing. For many reasons, but probably mostly due to Hallyu, Korea has suddenly appeared on many people’s radars.

I’ve seen a lot of people say that Seoul is their dream city without ever having actually experienced the city. However, how is it to actually live in Seoul? What are the ups and downs, the good and the bad? Who will like Seoul, and who might not find it great?

In this post I want to answer all of these questions from my experiences. While this post won’t cover every aspect of living in Seoul – that would take an essay the size of a encyclopedia, it will cover some aspects that I consider to be important.

If you have any further questions or comments after reading this post, why not let me know by commenting? I will do my best to answer any queries that you may have!

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Korea – Only Seoul?

What to Expect Living in Seoul 1

Seoul is the hub of education and business in Korea.

While it may seem obvious, Seoul is not the only city in Korea. However, when many people consider moving to Korea, the only option they consider is Seoul.

There are many other fantastic cities in Korea. If you want to be near the coast, you can try Busan, Sokcho or Jeju-si. If you want to be around the mountains, why not try Gwangju? However, while these cities are great, there are a few truths about Seoul.

If you are moving to Korea for business or education, Seoul will be the only choice for many people. For me, the only universities I wanted to attend were in Seoul. This is true for the vast majority of people. With a few exceptions, all of the country’s top universities are in Seoul.

Seoul is also undoubtedly the business hub of the country. If you are working or starting a company, there’s a large chance that moving elsewhere will hinder you. While some other big cities like Busan and Daegu have opportunities, they don’t offer what Seoul does.

However, if you aren’t tied down by business or education then there are many alternatives to living in Seoul. Further, if you want to be close enough to Seoul to take advantage of its benefits, but don’t want to live in Seoul itself, why not move to a satellite city such as Suwon or Incheon?

All in all, there are many fantastic cities in Korea. However, there is no denying that Seoul is the hub of nearly everything that goes on in Korea. With half of the country’s population in the Seoul area, it’s easy to see why this is the case.

Learn about the cost of living in Seoul as a student!

A Diverse and Giant City

Dongho Bridge Sunset

Seoul is most definitely a beautiful city!

Including the satellite cities, Seoul is the 5th largest metropolitan area in the world. While this means that Seoul has nearly anything you could imagine, it also means that the city is incredibly large, and travelling can be tiresome. Further, if you want to visit the country (from Seoul) it isn’t simply a morning trip. It’s a whole day trip involving buses and trains.

This is perfect if you love cities and never find yourself wanting to surround yourself with nature. Also if you just don’t like the outdoors in general. However, if you are someone who wants to spend lots of time outdoors then you may have some difficulties with Seoul.

That isn’t to say that the city doesn’t have nice parks though, because it does. But all of the parks are well-kept and while they are fantastic, I wouldn’t count them as ‘real’ outdoors. There are many beautiful parks within the city, and even quite a few mountains. Even Bukhansan can be visited without leaving the city!

In this article, I want to go over some of my general feelings towards Seoul. My honest feelings and realizations, the good and the bad.

While there are a lot of facts in this post, a lot of it is also my opinion and the opinions of those who surround me. Please keep that in mind while reading this article!

I do love Seoul, and I recommend that everyone visits it. However, it isn’t the ideal place to live for many people, and there’s a lot to consider before moving here.

Living in Seoul

What to Expect Living in Seoul 2

Seoul can be a wonderful place to live!

In this section, I want to cover everything that I consider important when looking for or considering a new place to live. I will cover aspects such as the facilities offered, upsides and downsides to the city, and even elements such as the international communities and health concerns.

As I mentioned previously, this isn’t everything there is to know about Seoul. That would require a very, very, very long post indeed. However, I hope that these points can give you some food for thought and information on what it is like to live in Seoul.

Facilities in Seoul

Seoul Subway Line 4

Seoul, as with any large city is well equipped with every basic necessity you may need. Medical and dental facilities in Korea are great, and usually of very high quality and cleanliness. Further, there are many different price points that exist for each kind of medical facility, and many cheaper options exist.

The leading hospitals (that are also the most well equipped) are Seoul National University Hospital, Samsung Medical Center, and Ewha Women’s University Medical Center.

While there are many many hospitals in Seoul, the top university hospitals are widely considered to be the best, hospitals such as Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei Severance Hospital.

It is, however, worth keeping in mind that unless you require the state-of-the-art medical facilities that they offer, that you are probably better off visiting a less well-known hospital. The universities have great hospitals, but often you will find that the price reflects their quality.

Public sports/exercise facilities are also easy to find and exist nearly everywhere. Near where I live I have noticed multiple gyms, kickboxing, yoga, an Olympic swimming pool, and an ice-skating rink. On top of that, there is also a public soccer field about 15 minutes from my home.

It is open to the public except for when there are teams practising. While most people don’t seem to use these facilities, they are all there and ready to be used.

Further, the membership costs (when relevant) are usually comparable or cheaper compared to those of similarly sized western cities. Fantastic medical facilities are definitely not something you need to worry about while living in Seoul!

Parks and Nature

Namsan Park

Namsan Park in spring

Outdoor parks and recreation areas are abundant. This is one of the aspects of Seoul that really surprised me and continues to pleasantly surprise me every week.

From the small streams that can be found all around Seoul (Cheonggyecheon being the most famous of them) to the massive parks such as Pyeonghwa Park and Olympic Park, Seoul really has a lot to offer.

I personally live in Seongbuk-Gu, and Seongbuk Stream is easily reachable. The stream isn’t anything special, but it is a nice green space that passes through the suburbs. It is great for walking, skating, or biking and provides a great alternative to the also great public transport.

The larger parks (such as the parks at World Cup Stadium) are also plentiful and can be found all around the city. These parks are usually very nice and well maintained. Whether you want a nice date location or a place to walk your dogs, these parks are fantastic and well equipped.

Another thing that Seoul is great for is hiking. While none of the mountains in Korea are exceptionally tall (with most of them being rather small relative to even the mountains I am used to in New Zealand), there are many that offer beautiful hiking trails.

Bukhansan is easily reachable from the city and provides anything from 30-minute walks to 6+ hour walks. Many other (small) mountains are also located within the city, mountains such as Naksan, Eungbongsan, Namsan, and more!

See some of the best sunset views that Seoul has to offer!

Cultural Locations

What to Expect Living in Seoul 3

A palace in Seoul.

Cultural and historical areas are also located all over the city. If you are interested in Korean history then you won’t be disappointed. Everything from massive temples (such as Gyeongbokgung and changdeokgung) to the great gates such as Dongdaemun can be found throughout the city.

There are a decent amount of museums and galleries that have cheap or no entry fees. Some outstanding places such as the War Memorial in Samgakji are completely free to enter and offer a lot of information about Korea’s past.

Smaller museums such as the Seoul wall museum are also totally free to enter which is something that is usually too rare in big cities.


Namdaemun Market Seoul

Markets are located all over Seoul!

Shopping in Seoul is great, with both traditional markets and massive department stores coexisting. Markets like Gwangjang capture the more traditional feel of the city while still retaining relevance today with their incredibly large and diverse inventories. Gwangjang, Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, and the other markets contain pretty much anything you could ever imagine and they are a joy to visit.

However what if markets aren’t your thing? Then you will be pleased to hear that Seoul has a lot of very modern shopping malls. Some of them are even the biggest (and tallest as the case may be) in the world. Shinsegae, Hyundai, and Lotte Department Stores are always reachable no matter where in Seoul you live.

The products that these malls sell are comparable in price to that of cities such as London, New York, Melbourne, and any other big city. Don’t expect to get away with cheap shopping in Korea if you want brand names and department stores.

Other areas of interest are the Chinatown in Incheon, the ice-skating rink in Lotte World (Jamsil), the traditional markets like Noryangjin Fish Market, and a whole lot more.

I feel like there’s not much more to say about Seoul and its facilities. It has everything that city of its size needs, and it really isn’t lacking in any area.

While the city is massive, usually you won’t need to leave your home area or district due to the great spread of these facilities. However, even if you need to travel a bit there is fantastic public transport in Seoul…

Public Transport


The Seoul Metro is one of the best in the world!

Seoul’s public transport is truly world-class. Even further, it is a world-leading public transport. The subway, buses, taxis and trains are comparatively cheap (a usually subway/bus ride is 1250KRW, about $1 USD).

Further, they run from 5 am until 11 pm-1 am. Buses are fast and efficient (although quite bumpy sometimes), and the subways are fantastic.

Every subway station is equipped with big glass doors and walls to prevent access to the tracks – something which terrified me as a child when I visited London. The subways are often attached to shopping malls or underground markets, and as such the subways are even better than just being great public transport.

Learn everything that you need to know about public transport in Seoul!

Entertainment & Activities

Samseong Library

Entertainment in Seoul? It’s nothing short of fantastic. I haven’t lived anywhere else (other than New Zealand) for a long amount of time. Hence, I can’t compare to other big cities. However, I have no hesitation in saying that Seoul has an incredibly diverse and fun entertainment sector. Currently rated as the fifth best student city in the world, Seoul doesn’t lack at all.

There are a lot of things to do in the daytime and also many activities at nighttime. Daytime activities are as you would expect from any city. Cinemas, public playgrounds and parks are common and easy to find in Seoul.

On top of that though, you also have some (more) uniquely Seoul things, things such as cafes, karaoke, soju bars, massive arcades, and more. While these might not sound too special, there is a unique Korean spin on most of the entertainment.

Cafe Culture

DOCO Busan

Korea has an amazing and deep cafe culture!

The cafe culture in Seoul is fantastic if you either love coffee (and other hot and cold drinks!) or enjoy spending time in nice atmospheres. Cat cafes are plentiful, and flower cafes can be found in every district.

VR cafes are located around the place, and board game cafes are around every corner. Due to the lack of living spaces in the city (as most people live in smallish apartments), there is almost an unbelievable amount of activities that can be enjoyed near wherever you live.

On top of that, escape rooms are also very common in Seoul – more so than I have seen anywhere else. While I don’t want to go into too many details or share pictures (as it ruins the experience), the escape rooms that I have done have been fantastic.

Basically, it involves getting locked in a room for one hour with your friends. If you find a way to escape within that hour, then you succeed! These rooms are usually about 20,000 per person per hour, but they are a lot of fun and well worth trying.

Did you know that Seoul has raccoon cafes and meerkat cafes?

Karaoke & Nightlife

Nightlife in Seoul

Korea has fantastic night life. Seoul is the epitome of this!

Karaoke. What is Seoul without the 노래방? As I mentioned earlier, Seoul is known as one of the best student cities in the world. I believe that the Noraebang (Karaoke room) is a large reason of that.

Singing seems to be a popular pastime of the majority of Koreans, and the rooms are very cheap to use. Whether you can sing well or not, the rooms are very fun and always a blast. You also don’t have to feel embarrassed if you want to visit by yourself – many people do!

If, on the other hand, you prefer to drink before singing then you can! The nightlife in Seoul is also fantastic and there are many different hotspots for nightlife.

Whether you want to visit a party-centric area, or would prefer a quieter place, you can find it here. Clubs are common and both the bars and clubs are of similar costs to most western cities. However, you can also find many great places at cheaper prices.

If you prefer shopping, then there are shopping malls in nearly every suburb. The malls are usually massive and often have 6+ levels to them. Within, you will usually find things such as cinemas and cafes, along with the obvious department stores.

If Seoul excels in one area, then I would have to say that it is with entertainment. Whether you have a lot of disposable income or not, there is always something to do and it is one of my favourite aspects of the city.

The entertainment discussed above, along with the free parks and gardens means that you can have world-class entertainment for free or for a price.

Unique Activities

Color Pool Museum

Colorpool Museum is just one of the very unique places in Seoul.

While Seoul has all of the entertainment that you would expect in any world class city, there are also a lot of unique attractions that you might not find elsewhere.

Seoul has many of these activities. Recently, VR rooms have become very popular. In these rooms, you can go skiing, racing, or even zombie killing all in virtual reality.

Even more recently, my girlfriend and I got invited to a very cool museum named Colorpool. This museum was a museum only by name, and was really a fun place to play and take photos.

Unique and interesting activities such as these exist all over Seoul, and that is one of the cities biggest attractions. With such a big population, many of these small and unique places get the chance to exist.

Of course, there are thousands more unique places and I can’t possibly list them all here. My point in short is that one thing that Seoul doesn’t lack on is entertainment. There is always something to see or do!

Crime & Safety

Two men in kwangjang market

Even the backstreets of Seoul feel very safe!

While not directly related, I will include them together as they are often relevant to one another. Major crime-wise, Korea is VERY safe. However, petty crimes can be quite common depending on the type.

Theft is extremely low, and pickpocketing is almost non-existent. Korea is safe to the point where you can leave your phone unattended at a table in a cafe – it will be there when you get back.

On the other hand, some petty crimes are common to the point where for some crimes, many people don’t even know that what they are doing is against the law – things such as very poor driving (I consistently see people running red lights or even driving on the wrong side of the road/footpath), and drunk driving are both very common.

Things such as prostitution are illegal but simply overlooked, and there are occasionally incidents of corruption. However, when talking about the crimes that most people care about – things such as homicide rates, theft, scams, etc, Korea has a good record, and living in Seoul is usually very safe. With that being said, I do have a few warnings.

Learn more about what Korea does best!


Gyeongbokgung Hanbok Couple Hug

Hanbok scams are one of the most common in Korea.

If anyone on the street approaches you for some kind of ‘cultural experience’ DO NOT agree. Simply leave them and walk off. Cults do exist in Korea, and scams are common enough. I’ve had people try to scam money off me multiple times while living in Seoul.

I’ve also been approached by the cults on multiple occasions. I have also heard of similar experiences from many of my friends. If someone asks you if you want to wear Hanbok, say no. Even better, just walk off and don’t talk to them.

If someone comes up to you and asks questions like ‘where are you from?’ or ‘how long are you here for?’ just leave them. Especially if there are two people. While they could just be friendly people, in a conservative society like Korea it is far more likely that they want something from you.

If you really want to wear a Hanbok, visit a rental place yourself and don’t let anyone else lead you there. I’ve heard some horrible experiences from foreigners who have followed them, and while I’ve never gone off with them, they have approached me many times.

So while serious crimes are very rare, there are still small crimes being committed everywhere. However, these crimes won’t affect you (except maybe the bad driving) if you know what to look out for and just live your life.


What to Expect Living in Seoul 4

As for safety, Seoul is generally very safe too. When it comes to things such as theft, you have no need to worry at all. It almost doesn’t exist in South Korea, and especially Seoul! The one area where crimes are often broken, however, is when it comes to driving.

My one piece of advice though is just to watch out when you cross roads. If the light is green for crossing, make sure you still look.

People run red lights as if it’s a fun game, and people often drive very drunk. Always keep an eye on the road, and never trust the lights of crossings – many drivers apparently can’t even see them or are in too much of a rush to care.

The issue here is that Korean laws are often prejudiced against foreigners. On top of this, liability here often falls on the wrong people. For example, I had a friend who was walking on the footpath when he got hit by a scooter (that legally shouldn’t be on the footpath). He was judged to be 20% accountable… Even though he was just walking on the sidewalk.

In conclusion, Seoul is very safe and I’ve never felt concerned for my safety. The only real worry here are the scams as I know many tourists do fall prey to them. If someone approaches you on the street and is acting friendly there is a 99% chance they want to scam you – no matter how friendly they seem.

Even while exploring the massive maze-like markets like Gwangjang Market I have never felt that unsafe. Korea is very safe and it is good at making you feel safe, I’ve definitely been to places where I wouldn’t have felt safe in other countries, but in Seoul, I do feel safe.

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Health & Stress

Hongdae Friday

Hongdae on a Friday night can be incredibly crowded!

You’ll hear it again and again, but I want to emphasise the importance of it. Seoul is stressful. In 2017 it was the most stressful developed city in the world, being beaten out by cities mainly in central/southern Asia, South America, and Africa.

While those countries usually get low rankings due to factors such as crime, this is not the case in Seoul. Korea has one of the lowest crime rates in the world! So what is it from? Seoul has one of the lowest mental health ratings out of every city in the survey.

It is known that many mental health issues aren’t even recognised in Korea. It has been getting better recently, but it is still far from what it should be. How can mental health be addressed when it isn’t even recognised?

If mental health is a worry for you then it is greatly advised that you discuss it with your doctors before coming to Korea. Make sure that you are able to receive the medication or help that you need before moving to Korea.

Race Equality

Seoul is also the absolutely lowest-rated city in the survey for race equality and a very low ranking city in terms of gender equality. Race equality in Korea is unfortunately highly dependent on your race, however.

The truth is that westerners (Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Australians and New Zealanders) and especially English speakers (from the 5 native English countries) are often idolised, while those from south-east Asia and central Asia are often looked down upon.

Job chances are also very dependent on your race (at least as a student). Since there aren’t many jobs available due to the language and student visa limitations, tutoring is a go-to for many students. However, even if you aren’t teaching English, people from western countries will often be prioritised.

Considering studying in Korea? Learn more here!

Air Pollution

Air Pollution

Air pollution in Seoul is a big worry for many.

The last factor that plays a big part in the stress ranking of Seoul is pollution. While definitely not the worst on the list, the noise and air pollution in Seoul is no joke.

Make sure to take care of your health and wear a mask whenever needed (I always wear a mask when the air quality reaches red, which is 150+). If you have asthma-like me it is also worth being more careful. Make sure to get an air purifier and air quality monitor for your house!


Lastly, the crowds and traffic. I actually find that the crowds in Seoul are no worse than any other large city. Many people complain about the crowds in Seoul, but other than a few very busy places like Myeongdong and Hongdae I have never found them to be very bad at all.

If you want to avoid the crowds, it is usually possible. Just be careful of the areas above, and be careful not to travel at peak hours. Living in Seoul doesn’t have to involve crowds.

Other Health Concerns

Namsan Tower Sunset

While the pollution can be very bad some days, there are also beautifully clear days mixed in.

As I said earlier, mental health is probably the biggest health issue in Korea, and especially with living in Seoul. If you have a history with mental health or see yourself possibly needing expert help, make sure to check with your doctors what options are available in Korea.

Other than mental health, the biggest concern is the bad air quality. The air is usually of an OK quality, but there are quite often days when it is very bad. Being outside on one of the days last week was equivalent to smoking 9 cigarettes!

While this may not seem bad, you have to remember that breathing is constant. It’s something you passively do, and something you can’t simply avoid.

If you have a history with respiratory conditions, make sure that you get a good supply of masks, have your needed medication (in advance of coming to Korea), and that you buy an air purifier for your house – the bad air will get inside.

As a general tip, download some kind of app on your phone which monitors the air and let it send you notifications on the days when the air is worst.

If possible, stay inside during those days. Usually, the air is worst in spring, and usually 1/2 days per month the air will be exceptionally bad.

The air isn’t as bad as many other cities in Asia, but your health is always worth worrying about. If you plan on living in Seoul for a longer period of time, checking the air quality is essential.

I have found that among the expats living in Korea, air quality is one of the biggest issues that they have with staying here long-term. It’s something that is always on your mind, and it’s something that always needs to be considered.

Want to learn more about air quality and its impacts on health?

Education & Work

Korea University Seoul Campus

Korea University in Seoul.

I wanted to touch on another major factor of daily life that concerns health and stress. I had a quick look, and I wasn’t able to find any evidence, but it is widely believed that the education and work culture is directly related to the very high suicide rate and prevalent mental health conditions.

Education in South Korea is relentless and super competitive. The good news is that if you are considering moving to South Korea, then you probably aren’t an elementary to high school student. University is a different matter, and while it still has its problems, it is far better than the earlier education.

However, if you are considering bringing children to Seoul then make sure to do your research thoroughly. There is a reason that many Korean parents move overseas for their children’s benefit.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t bring children to Seoul, however, it is definitely something to consider before you decide if you want to live in Seoul or not.


Hanbok Rental in Seoul

Seoul has many international communities.

There are many different foreign communities in Seoul and there are even some regions dedicated to the larger communities. For example, there is an area with lots of Russian stores and people in Dongdaemun, and there is a French village in southern Seoul.

If you are considering living in Seoul then there is a high chance that you will be able to find other people from similar backgrounds as yourself. Of course, it is harder for those from smaller countries, but it is definitely possible.

There are also many online communities such as Facebook groups and such. However, from my personal experience of being in and moderating some of these groups, I would suggest avoiding them. For some reason, they attract some of the most hostile and unhappy ex-pats.

There is often some difficulty becoming close to Koreans, and that is largely due to the cultural gap. While it is most definitely possible to become close with Koreans, it can be hard and many of my friends have expressed frustrations at the difficulties of making friends in Korea.

Attitude Towards Foreigners

Hongdae Summer Crowds

Hongdae in summer.

I have no experience of working in Korean companies. I have always had the benefit of being independent and doing freelance work. However, after asking some of my friends about the work culture in Korea I have learnt that it is also very stressful and difficult.

Working hours are far longer than most countries, and many companies don’t know how to properly interact with and handle foreigners. If you can take a job with a western company, then that is probably your best choice.

Korean people are overall very friendly and kind towards foreigners. However, even if you speak Korean fluently, it is hard to ever actually feel like you belong. Often you may not be invited to events, or may even be purposefully excluded.

This is highly dependent on where you work, but more often than not this seems to be the case. I have only lived here for four years, and I have limited experiences, but I don’t think you can ever feel like you are a Korean – like you really belong.

That isn’t to say that you can’t have a great time here though. Many people dream of being treated as a Korean (as Koreans are treated as people who belong).

However, being treated as an outsider has its own benefits. Once you accept that you will never be a ‘native’ no matter how long you are in Korea for, you can have a great time. Embrace being an outsider!

Cost of Living in Seoul

Cost of living in Seoul for students

My estimated monthly costs for a student in Seoul.

This is often one of the first questions I am asked about Seoul – is it expensive? Yes and no, let me explain! Seoul is the most expensive city in Korea, and relative to the other Korean cities it is indeed quite expensive.

However, when compared to western cities I have found it to be very cheap. I have gone into far more detail about Seoul’s living costs already, but I will make a quick overview of them here.

Renting a one-room apartment is usually about $400-$700 per month depending on the area you wish to live in. However, usually, you are required to pay a deposit, and this is where the big costs come in. Often a deposit will be $3000+USD and it is a big hurdle to be able to pass if you are interested in moving into your own place.

The good aspect of the deposit, however, is that it is just that. A deposit. When you move out (provided you honour your contract), you will receive the money back. It is a big hurdle to pass initially, but the money isn’t gone forever.

Learn everything that you need to know about student housing in Seoul!

Monthly Costs


There is some great food in Korea! Best of all, it’s often cheap!

Other monthly costs such as utilities and phone/internet plans are not too costly either. Unlimited data can be had for around $60 per month, and gigabit internet goes for $50.

Cheaper plans are obviously available, however. They can be found as cheap as $20 per month for 2gb data or 100mb/s internet.

Utilities are also cheap, and in the cheaper months (fall and spring) I have found them to be less than $50 together. However, in winter and summer (heating and AC), you may find that these costs go up to $100 easily.

Finally, food costs are pretty affordable too. While living in Seoul, you can expect to eat out for $3-$20 for a decent and healthy meal. Korean foods are usually the cheapest options, with foods such as kimbap, bibimbap, deopbap, and more often being found for $3 per person.

Western food is usually over $10 per meal, however, and it can quickly get more expensive from there. Eating at home will usually run you about $2-$5 per meal if you are conservative, and as such, I usually find myself spending about $225 on food every month.

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Housing in Seoul

What to Expect Living in Seoul 5

One-room apartments such as the above are common for students.

One more important factor to mention is housing. Depending on what housing you are used to in your home country, the types of housing in Seoul may surprise you.

Housing in Seoul is typically very small. Any larger apartments will cost significantly more. Of course, this smaller housing has upsides and downsides.

It limits your ability to have pets and to have other people over at your house. If you are someone who prefers to have a larger living area, then you might find living in Seoul difficult.

Of course, there is almost no chance that you can have a house or apartment with a garden or outdoor area. These go for a very high premium will not be affordable for most people.

If you are looking for a family apartment in Seoul expect to pay quite a high premium. The good news, however, is that apartments in Seoul are usually very modern and nice to live in.

Student living in Seoul? Goshiwons are another option!

The Seoul Speed of Life

What to Expect Living in Seoul 6

Seoul is a busy place that is always moving fast.

Life in Seoul is fast. Everything about it is fast. Whether you want to get some (fast) internet installed at your house, or order a new phone online, it is FAST!

Next day delivery, food delivery within the hour (even for coffee), meetings, travelling, and even drinking. Everything here is fast paced and things happen quickly.

While this can make it stressful as I mentioned earlier in this article, if you are the person who loves a fast life then Seoul is for you! Personally, I do love the speed.

Being able to move houses within the day is something I have never even heard of before, and it is really fantastic. If you prefer a more relaxed life then the reality is that Seoul probably isn’t a good fit for you.

The city is fast, always moving, and always changing. One day a cafe will exist, the next day it will be a restaurant. One day you will be next door to a small villa, and the next day month you will be next to an apartment complex.

This also extends to services such as LTE and internet, with everything being quick to install and with blazing speeds. Not only that, but service in cafes and restaurants is fast, and even more. Seoul is the capital of speed!

Quality of Life and General Overview

What to Expect Living in Seoul 7

Clerks and waiters are friendly and kind, and I have never had any truly bad experiences with Korean service. Items and services are affordable and doing your day to day activities should be of a similar or cheaper cost to a large city such as LA or London.

Public transport is amazing and of a fantastic quality – I mean, what other country has heated subway seats? Or WiFi on every carriage?

Overall I would say that other than work and education (which may or may not be good), the quality of life in Seoul is great. If you like the idea of everything I’ve talked about so far then you may have found the perfect place to live!

I do, however, want to discuss the times that Seoul might not be right for you. There are a few sacrifices that you have to make while living here. Some sacrifices people might not be willing to make.

Things such as the crowds, space, stress, and more are sacrifices you will be needing to give while living in Seoul.

Is Living in Seoul For You?

What to Expect Living in Seoul 8

So, is living in Seoul the right choice for you? With the expensive real estate, it is very likely that you will be limited to a rather small apartment. In Korea as a whole, finding a house is hard enough. In Seoul, your chances of living in a real house are close to zero.

There are some very nice and large apartments. But they are also very costly and they aren’t affordable for average people. If you don’t mind living in one of these smaller housing options, then Seoul could be a good place for you to live!

When Living in Seoul Might Not Be for You

Naksan Sunset

As mentioned previously, there is also the problem of stress and speed. If you don’t enjoy a fast-paced lifestyle then Seoul also may not be for you.

It is possible to live life at your own speed. But when being surrounded by an ever-changing, fast moving life, it is hard not to get caught up in it. If you enjoy relaxing and living a calm life then Seoul is also probably not the place for you.

Finally, I wouldn’t recommend Seoul to anyone who doesn’t like attention. This definitely depends on what you look like, but if you look different to Koreans, you will get attention.

The attention isn’t in a negative form, but I often find people staring at me or just watching me walk past. It’s not really a big deal, however, and as more foreigners move to Korea it will become less common.

However, if you don’t like standing out and getting random attention at times then keep this in mind.

Seoul might not be the ideal place for you to live if:

  • You want a slower or more relaxed lifestyle.
  • You want to have quick access to nature. While some parts of Seoul do, there are many more that don’t.
  • You have children younger than university age.
  • You have strong allergies, asthma, or other respiratory conditions.
  • You want a good work/study and free-time balance.
  • You want a larger living space.

When Living in Seoul Is for You

A Sunset at Yeouido

One of my favourite picnic locations in Seoul.

On the other hand, Seoul is fantastic for many types of people! If you love speed, and value efficiency and attending to problems instantly then the city is perfect.

I love getting things done as quickly as possible, and this is something that always has appealed to me. I love being able to get a new credit card the same day. Along with shopping online and receiving the goods the next day.

Students will also find Seoul a place to love. With the number of activities and the copious amounts of drinking that go on, Seoul really is a great city to party in.

You will rarely (if ever) find yourself bored, and this is another of my favourite aspects of Seoul. There are many different educational institutes within the city, and you will have opportunities for whatever you want to study!

If you enjoy culture and want to learn a deep and interesting history then Korea as a whole is a great place to live. With the number of museums, historical monuments, and cultural highlights, Seoul is a great place to live and learn.

Not only that, but the city has a lot of amazing parks that can be enjoyed for free. The Han River flows through the city and provides beautiful locations to have picnics and ride along the river.

Seoul might be the ideal place for you to live if:

  • You are looking for a vibrant, exciting place to live.
  • You want the convenience of having everything within close proximity.
  • You are a student who is looking for a good city to study in.
  • You want a face-paced life where everything is fast and always changing.
  • You want to learn about and explore a rich culture.

Still not convinced? See these photos that will make you want to visit Korea!

Seoul – The Perfect Place to Live?

Travel Seoul on a Budget

As with everywhere, there are positives and negatives to Seoul. Personally, I have had a great time here and there is a reason that I call it my favourite city.

The diversity, culture, and beauty that can be found at every turn make for a constantly exhilarating and exciting living experience. The size of the city means that even if you live here for 10 years (or so I imagine), you will still experience and find new things.

However, it is up to you to decide if Seoul is the right place for you to live. I wanted to make this an honest article about my views and opinions of Seoul.

There are some major downsides that may not be worth the positives for some people. For me, however, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

Living in Seoul FAQ

What Are the Downsides of Living in Seoul?

Although I love living in Seoul, there is no denying that there are downsides. Some are the air pollution, crowds, cost of living (Seoul is more expensive than anywhere else in Korea), and the stress.

What Are the Benefits of Living in Seoul?

Seoul is a city with everything. There is always something going on. It is a very fast-paced city where life proceeds at a very fast pace. There are a ton of entertainment options, and there are also many great outdoor areas.

How Much Does it Cost to Live in Seoul?

The cost of living in Seoul starts at around $800 per month for students on a tight budget. around $1500-$2000 is a far more comfortable price however, and you will get much better housing and food.

Is Seoul a Good Place to Live?

This really depends on your preferences. If you want an exciting, ever-changing and fast-paced place to live then Seoul is ideal. However, it does have some issues such as air pollution. It is up to you to decide if the positives outweigh the negatives.

How Does Seoul Compare to Other Korean Cities?

Seoul is generally busier, bigger and more expensive than other Korean cities. While some bigger cities such as Busan and Daegu are also very large, they don’t compare to Seoul. However, this also means that Seoul tends to be significantly more expensive to live in.

6 thoughts on “What to Expect Living in Seoul”

  1. I would just like to ask what is the weather like in Seoul? ( I am someone who loves rain and snow and hate hot weathers)

    1. The weather in Seoul is truly four seasons! Summer can push 40 degrees (Celsius), and winter goes down to -20 at times. There is a rainy season that lasts about 2 weeks in which there is a ton of rain and storms – I also love rain, so I love this time! This is normally at the end of June. Summer is really humid and hot, and winter is really dry and cold. There is rarely snow – maybe just four or five times a year. Fall and spring are by far the most comfortable seasons (I think!) and range from 0-25 degrees!

  2. Is it ok to move with 8 year old kid to seoul for next 3-4 years. We are from Bangalore, India and due to job shift we have to consider the move.

    1. It is definitely possible! However, make sure that you are aware of factors such as the air pollution and education system.

  3. hey,is it a problem if i think about moving to seoul for work knowing i have anxiety and depression? i feel like if its a stressfulccity like u said + how work doesnt give u much free time might worsen my mental health. i think about either going to germany or korea and im in such a dilema now

    1. Hello Saf,

      Thanks for your question! I will do my best to answer. I can’t say definitively, and I recommend doing your own research. However, I can provide some information from my experiences.

      Seoul itself is stressful mainly because of how busy and loud it is. This definitely depends on where you live/work, but the city is generally very busy. There’s also a very fast pace of life, and this is what I found to be very stressful. The work hours are also very long and this can be an issue… However, there are companies that have shorter hours (especially western companies that have branches/offices in Korea). If you can get a job in such a company, the hours are likely to be shorter and you will have more free time.

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