FAQ: Living in South Korea

Here i will attempt to answe some FAQ's about what life is REALLY like here...If you agree/don't agree/feel like adding your 2 cents...please do so :)

1. Is it safe to live in South Korea?
This was probably one of the first things I was briefed about in a lecture on coming over to work here. Let's just put it this way, I often catch the last busof the day (usually around 11pm) by myself, and then walk home (about a 15 min walk from the bus stop) by myself. I have never felt scared/afraid/like I was in any danger whatsoever.  This is obviously a big change from home, as I would drive everywhere, even down the road to the shops, whereas here I walk/bus wherever I need to and I always feel safe.
The only time I have ever felt uncomfortable being here was on my recent trip to Seoul, in Itaewon...and I definately didnt feel unsafe because of the Koreans. I was made to feel uncomfortable by the huge number of drunk/gross/cat-calling/ foreigners walking around behaving like animals. I have seen other foreigners giving the rest of us a bad name before, but never to such an extent as in Itaewon. So that would be the one place that I would never walk around by myself in, day or night :) but thats just me.

2.  What about with regards to North Korea?
 I live in South Korea and the most I have heard about an impending Nucleaur attack is from my mom phoning me on skype to ask if I am still at alive, with me answering "Of course! Why woulnt I be!". The Embasy's here have put out emergency plans just to be safe, but I think there is more chance of something happening to you at home, while in the bath, than a Nucleur attack here in South Korea.

3. How much does it cost to live?
Living here is about the same to living back home in South Africa (but that's all relative to what we earn over here).  Here is a cost breakdown of what we spend for basic expenses, as a married couple, on average per month:

*Water:                             free (included with the apartment)
*Electricity:                        W30 000 (depends on the season...higher in summer due to the aircon)
*Cellphone                        W30 000 (every 6 weeks, pay as you go contract)
*Gas                                 W20 000 (this depends on the season~much higher in winter as gas is what is used to heat up your floor)
*Sewage                           W3 000 (one of the strangest things but alas it must be paid)

*School lunches               W40 000 (on average~which works out to about W2000 a day for lunch, about $2/R14)
*Medical Insurance          W72 000 (which works out to be about 4% of your salary, and your school/the government pays half)
*School Membership       W20 000 (sounds crazy but the staff at your school will have to pay this every month and it covers the costs of school outings that you go on with the staff and then dinners that you will go to with your staff. I paid this in my first year, and I haven't paid it this time around. If you are at more than 1 school you might not be asked to pay this.)

*Groceries                     W 500 000

*Transport                     W50 000 (this is about how much I used to put on my bus card every month. Our current town is very small so we only use the bus to visit other cities. A 1 hour bus trip to our closes city costs W5100 per person one way).
*Not included: We also have a car and spend about W70 000 a month on fuel

Total:                      W767 000

This total is the basic living costs for a married couple. Spending money and eating out/movies/drinks has not been included. But even if you spend this much for just one person, and you earn the basic salary of W2 000 000 a month, you have over W1 200 000 left over every month. And this is living well! 

The school bits and bobs will vary slightly on the salary you earn, and the school you are at, but the above gives you a general idea. Of course the above does not include going out costs (drinking, clothes, eating out at expensive restaurants and general entertainment).

4. Is it easy to get hold of 'normal' groceries?

There are little marts/grocery stores on just about every corner that sell things like milk/eggs/cereal/snacks/tuna/2minute noodley things/fruit/veggies basically your standard grocery items. In your neighborhood you will probably also have a market that will have fresh things as well as fresh meat. For everything else, you will need to go to a supermaket (HomePlus, Emart/Lotte Mart etc) which sells everything from washing powder to spices to sauces to alcohol. The bread here is very different to normal Western bread, first of all people dont eat toast here, in fact you wil have a hard time even finding a toaster in the big supermarkets!. All of the bread is sweet, and usually only found at  Bakeries like TousLeJours and Paris Baguette, but this is something you get used to...all the carbs you save on not eating bread, you make up for with the amount of rice you will invariably eat :)

We bought an oven here (very reasonably prices - $80) and cook at home all the time. I also do lots of baking and we don't really struggle to find ingredients. What you can't find in the stores you can find online at places like Gmarket & iHerb which have very cheap delivery fees.