Which is the most viable location for a young couple moving to Seoul?

#1

Out of the 3 Areas which would be most beneficial for a foreigner moving to SK?
(If you have experience with areas specifically I’d love to discuss the specific schools that are offering her a position - Not posting that here for obvious reasons.)

My Girlfriend has received 3 contract offers in Seoul/Surrounding area:

i) Dobonggu
ii) Songpa-gu
iii) Bundang, Gyenggido

Background knowledge:
We love being physically active through sport and weight-lifting, love exploring food culture, need good Coffee and live very modestly in terms of going out/expenditure.

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#2

Hello, James.

I’m from Seoul, South Korea, so I might be of help to help you understand those areas to some extent.

Dobonggu is a less fancy district compared to other two areas. There is a mountain called ‘Bukhansan’ known for a beautiful hiking trail. But shops/restaurants/gyms and other facilities could be less various. Rents in Dobonggu are one of the cheapest in Seoul.

Songpagu is one of the four infamous districts in Gangnam (which literally means the southern area of Han River but it is more conceived of as the area in which rich and wealthy people live) where rents are the highest and the fervor for education is just frantic. The education level in these areas is top-notch in the whole country and parents can be very demanding. But it could be good in terms of living as there are so many entertaining/leisure/cultural facilities around you.

Bundang is outside of Seoul and it takes about 40-50 minutes to enter Seoul area with public transport. Bundang is a very well-established new town and people who choose to live there are more likely to have preference to a laid-back lifestyle within urban surroundings. Although it’s less crowded than Seoul, the so-called ‘education fever’ is as high as the districts in Gangnam.

I haven’t lived in these areas in person so I can’t give you more detailed information. But hopefully this will help you guys decide where to live. And don’t worry about finding gyms, restaurants, or cafes wherever you choose to live. They are everywhere. Cheers.

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#3

@hyobii - You are a treat! this information is very valuable especially from someone who is from South Korea as most of our conversations up to this point has been from Expats/Foreigners.
We are leaning towards Bundang at this point and your words about this location are very affirming.

If you don’t mind - I wouldn’t mind widening this conversation a bit, we already ran into a small issue in cultural difference when we announced that we were coming together as "Girlfriend/Boyfriend"
So bad to the point that my partner lost her first contract in Gangam because of it… (Super frustrating) The interviews after she started referring to me as her Finance/Husband and this drastically changed the perspective/critical view/assumptions.

Do you mind speaking on this a bit and maybe other cultural differences Westerners should be mindful of when relocating to SK?

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#4

Korean people can be conservative when it comes cohabitation. Of course there are numerous unmarried couples who live together, but it’s hard for most of them to make it public. Especially to their parents and at work.

The underlying notion of this dates back to Joseon Dynasty where the ruling principle was Confucianism. One of the ethical ideas of Confucianism is a strict segregation of men and women. More specifically speaking “A boy and a girl should not sit together after they have reached the age of seven”. The Joseon Dynasty perished about a century ago and sadly we are not free from these out-of-date ideas up until now.

So in Korea, living with your girlfriend/boyfriend could be seen as an indecent behavior by the majority of people. Teachers are required even higher behavioral standards as kids will learn from them. I understand your frustration, and I’m totally against these ridiculous social norms in Korea, but unfortunately it’s something your girlfriend should’ve kept from the school.

As well as cohabitation, Koreans are not very open-minded towards gay marriage, single moms, Africans or immigrants from developing countries.

And If I can point out one thing out of many other cultural differences you might face in Korea, it’s age. Koreans are very sensitive to age. It’s like if they are older than others, they act like the younger are at their disposal. On the contrary, if they are younger then they will use honorifics and be courteous and respectful of the older. It’s different from respecting ‘the elder’. It happens in all age groups. Another side effect of Confucianism I guess.

One last practical tip. Download KakaoTalk. WhatsApp, Line, or FB messenger will be useless in Korea. If you have more questions, find ‘hyoba’ on KakaoTalk.

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#5

I lived in Jamsil, Song-pa for a year and it was quite oppressive. I would recommend Bundang for sure.