Is South Korea rewarding and safe for expat professionals?

Is South Korea rewarding and safe for expat professionals?

Is South Korea rewarding and safe for expat professionals?

For Western expatriate professionals fascinated with Asia, the South Korean capital of Seoul is an enyoyable experience.

Unlike in many other Asian destination countries' capitals, Seoul gives the perfect option for expat professionals looking to further their careers as well as spending time in a new, exotic location. The reason behind this is simple – half of South Korea’s population live in this massive city and there are no smaller cities. It’s an overwhelming presence, dominating Korean life as a bustling, noisy, crowded, colourful and totally fascinating slice of Asia. Expats needing a breath of fresh air can venture into the mountains found to the north, but that’s about it for tourism!

One definite downside for new arrivals is the high cost of property, whether renting or buying, especially in the famous and still very glamorous Gangnam district. Notwithstanding the exorbitant rentals, many expats choose this area for its vibrant life. For those seeking a degree of peace and quiet, north of the Han river is Gangbuk, home to the former Royal Family’s capital city and giving a relatively authentic lifestyle experience. However, if you’re looking for a long-term rental, remember there’s a key money deposit to pay as well as advance rent.

Known as the home bases for Hyondai, Samsung and others such, Seoul isn’t hungry for foreign talent in the same manner as Singapore and Hong Kong, meaning opportunities can be hard to find. Job-seeking here is a serious challenge with only one exemption – teaching English. There’s a huge demand for TEFL-qualified teachers as well as those with more formal degrees, but professionals from overseas needing to show they can speak Korean before being taken on by large companies.

For the vast majority of expat arrivals who find this language far too tricky, unofficial English language schools are the only option apart from giving private lessons, but monolinguals with skills in tech, computer programming and engineering can find jobs of they try hard enough. Once you’re in employment, the first shock will be the large number of seasonal festivals during which all offices are closed and everyone takes to the streets. The downside is that, as a result, sick days and time off for personal reasons almost impossible to get.

Expats would do well to remember the unpleasant fact that South Korea’s northern neighbour isn’t doing much for Seoul’s political stability or its inhabitants’ security and safety. The majority of residents including expats have done their best to ignore the ‘goings on’ since the beginning of the Trump presidency, especially as Seoul is one of the safest world cities apart from its unfortunate geographic location.

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