FAQs - Living

1. What is the cost of living? Can I save money?
The cost of living in Korea is generally cheaper than any of our home countries, with the exception of Seoul and Busan which are more expensive than just about everywhere.

How much you save depends on you. A general rule of thumb among teachers is that you should be able to comfortably save about half of your monthly take home pay.
2. How much does food cost?
This is up to you and whether you want to dine out frequently or cook at home. A meal at an average restaurant costs about 6,000, so even if you were eating all three meals out everyday, you would be spending only about 540,000 a month.

However, very few teachers eat all their meals out.

If you're lucky, your school will provide you with a free lunch, which will take care of some of the groceries for the week. Just be aware that rice and kimchi are provided daily.
3. Can I teach in Seoul? I don't want to be alone and bored.
If your only concerns are companionship and entertainment (don't get us wrong these are big concerns) then there is So Much More than Seoul!

Seoul is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. Since it is so large, we have been told that the expats can be insular within their small groups. Historically, most of our teachers have been much happier in other cities.

We focus on, and have had great success, with medium cities of at least 1 million people such as:

Gwangju (best expat community in Korea - TEK promise!) Daejeon

We also have lovely, active, smaller cities of 100,000 - 600,000 people such as:

Hint: Go to Wikipedia and search for a list of cities in your country by population, and then compare these to cities in Korea. You'll find some of these places aren't as small as you thought.
4. How do I get around?
Ride the rails!

And the buses. Inter and Intra-city public transportation is top notch and cheap.

You can get anywhere in the country from anywhere using a bus or a train.

5. I don't know anyone in Korea, how will I meet people?
Easily!!! All of the ESL teachers in Korea have also left behind their best friends and family, for at least a year. They are all university-educated, while also having a deep love of travel and exploring the world. They are comfortable meeting new people when out, and are looking forward to it!

In 6 years of helping teachers get jobs in Korea, we can count on one hand the number of times a teacher has emailed us after being in Korea for a month or so, and said they were having a hard time meeting people.

There are Facebook groups for most cities, as well as International Centers, or at least popular "Western" bars, where you'll always find other English speakers!

We also have our own Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/2295650908/ http://www.facebook.com/groups/2295650908/ Once you know where you're going send a shout out and see who is in your area. We will also personally connect you with some of our teachers in your city.
6. I can't speak any Korean. Is this okay, and how can I handle this?
No problem, almost none of our teachers speak any Korean before they go to Korea. Strangely, only small % put much effort into learning Korean once in Korea. Personally, we think it's just a common courtesy to try to learn the language and at least make an effort.

At first it will be a bit shocking not knowing what is happening around you, and seeing signs that don't make any sense. But you will soon realize Koreans are very kind people and will do their best to help. If you ask people with a genuine smile, you will find what you need.

Tip: If asking for directions on the street we find asking students between 13-25 to work the best. They will be able to speak English, and be willing to help.

Here is a great website to help you get started: http://www.talktomeinkorean.com/
7. How much is the income tax in Korea?
About 3.3%. If your pay is 2,200,000 it will be about 72,600.
8. What costs are covered by my health insurance?
The coverage varies from case to case. However, it is usually sufficient for minor injuries, illnesses and immunizations. It even covers some of your prescription costs.

Keep in mind medical costs are less in Korea than what we're used to.

If you asked a class of grade 5 kids in Korea what they want to be when they grow up, I would estimate the majority would say they want to be a doctor. It's a very prestigious job, and the overall medical industry is very modern.
9. Does my medical insurance cover dental as well?
No, it doesn't. But dental care is very modern in Korea, and less expensive than we're used to.
10. How about my children?
Dependents receive the same medical coverage.
11. Does the water in Korea need to be filtered to drink?
No, it is safe.

However, every restaurant will have a water cooler for patrons to use and many homes have one, too.

If you're worried you can drink from your school's water cooler, get one of your own, or boil water in an electric kettle and store it in your refrigerator.
12. Will I have a telephone at home?
Sure, you can if you want one. The latest statistics show that about 40 million people (that is about 80% of the entire population) own a mobile phone. But it is very easy to get one and the monthly fees are modest.

We, personally, like the deal you can get at The Arrival Store (www.arrivalstore.com). Have your phone the day you arrive! Call Mom and tell her you've arrived safely (and that you love her and miss her already).
13. How will I order food in a restaurant?
Until you learn some Korean, you may be pointing at various pictures in the restaurant, on the menu, or even bringing your server outside, so you can show them the picture of what you want. If all else fails, smile politely, and gesture for the server to bring you whatever they suggest. Most restaurants specialize in one or two main course items so this is not a big problem. A very helpful guide to knowing your Korean food can be found at: trifood.com.
14. Where will I shop for food & home supplies?
For food, you will get all of your fresh veggies, fruit, meat, fish, milk, bread or home supplies such as toilet paper in your neighborhood. Once every two weeks you may want to venture to a larger store like E-Mart or Home Plus to stock up on a larger variety of food or home supplies. A limited number of western style foods will be available in larger grocery stores (canned food, salsa, pasta).

These days, there are also a few online companies that will deliver your western cravings directly to your door. Gone are the days of Costco runs to the neighboring city, unless of course you want to make a day trip out of it or you're lucky enough to live in a city that has a Costco. Here are a couple companies that we've tried personally:

The Arrival Store.com - now offers food!
15. What are my exercise options?
Korea has many gyms with memberships costing around $30 - 40 per month. There are also some great hiking opportunities, since Korea is surrounded by mountains and beautiful paths to walk and run on.
16. Where will I do my laundry?
There are dry cleaners seemingly on every corner, while Laundromats as we know them are harder to find, but are available. Shirts or pants will be only $2 at a dry cleaner. You may receive a washing machine with your apartment, but dryers are not common in Korea, even for locals. You will dry your laundry on a clothesline on your roof, or in your apartment.
17. What is the weather/climate like in Korea?
The weather for the extended fall and spring months is just excellent. The temperatures range from 15-25 degrees Celsius, so you can enjoy many outdoor activities on a daily basis. The winter was colder than we expected, and we're from Canada. Temperatures would not dip much below -10 degrees Celsius, and I was able to drive my motorbike to school almost every day. It did feel quite cold though.

In July and August, the weather can be quite hot, humid and rainy. For more info: Visit Korea Web site

teacher spotlight

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Hannah and Brady Q., USA
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Sarah, UK
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Colby C, Cdn
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Ben K, USA
Ben K, USA
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Keri, USA
Keri, USA
EPIK in Jeju
Logan Monday, USA
Logan Monday, USA
TEK Alumni - now in Macedonia
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