Moving to South Korea During Covid
If you find yourself saying I want to move to Korea, you’ve come to the right place.
Moving to South Korea is something thousands of Americans do every year.
If you go to any of the famous international cities in Korea, such as Seoul or Busan, you are bound to see other expats.
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An expat is just a fancy term for someone who lives outside of their native country.
So in this case, expats are foreigners living in South Korea.
Before moving to another country, I recommend securing a job first, if you don’t already have one.
Moving to South Korea without a job can be easy or difficult, depending on what job you want to get.
It is best to be prepared by researching what you’d like to do and how to do it. Chances are you will find someone who has also made the move.
You can connect with people by joining Facebook groups, going on Reddit, and Internations is another great website.
How I Moved to South Korea During Covid
I decided that I would teach English in South Korea for my job.
I enjoyed teaching English in Thailand so much, that I figured English teaching in Korea was going to be the same, if not similar. It turned out to be a completely different experience living and working in Korea.
Read my post about teaching English in Korea VS Thailand.
How to Move to Korea From the US
If you are going to live in any country, other than your native country, you must get a visa.
Your visa will have different requirements depending on your job and also the consulate/embassy.
It is important to note that your passport (hopefully you already have one) should have validation for 6 months after you return home.
Yes, you can obtain a visa at your country’s consulate/embassy abroad, but it might be difficult.
You need to get a visa if you are planning to stay longer than the authorized time in South Korea.
Make sure you look up both your country’s and Korea’s requirements before you plan any major move to Korea. Here’s the US Department of State website for South Korea.
In order to teach English or any other language in South Korea, you must obtain an E2 visa. The E2 visa lasts for one year and can be extended if you stay longer.
Read more about how to get an E2 visa here.
After I secured a job at a language school, I was able to get all of the paperwork required for my visa.
The paperwork included a work permit, fingerprints for an FBI background check, and some other documents.
Read more about how to get a visa to teach in South Korea here.
Boston has heaps of embassies and consulates in the area, so it’s always easy to get a visa for me.
What to Do Before Moving to Korea
You can exchange your country’s currency for the KRW (South Korean Won) at your bank.
If you would rather wait, you can also take out money at the ATMs, just be aware of the fees that you could potentially face.
If you are moving out of the US for good, Charles Schwab has no foreign fees when you take out money from an ATM. It is used and recommended by tons of expats.
If you want to well-plan ahead on your journey before you step on the plane, you should download some apps.
Here are some popular apps to download for Korea.
Even if you don’t plan on staying in Korea for too long, you might want to practice the language a bit before you go.
Although many people will speak English, it is best to be prepared.
In the small town that I lived in, Anjung, Pyeongtaek, there weren’t too many English speakers so my horrible Korean and Papago sometimes helped.
Duolingo and Lingodeer are good apps to learn the Korean language or any other foreign language.
There are a bunch of other apps out there. Even TikTok and YouTube are some great resources.
You will have to download the quarantine app at the airport. The airport will have a banner with a QR code. If you do not download the app at the airport, this is the link where you can download it or you can simply type it into the App Store: 자가격리 안전보호.
If you are going to be living in South Korea, you should make sure that your job has health insurance. You will also get a bank account. If you are a teacher, your school will assist you with getting an account set up.
If you need to transfer money, I recommend using the Wise app.
If you already have a job and are going to Korea short-term, make sure your job has international health insurance because you never know what can happen while living abroad.
Where to Live in South Korea
The country offers every type of lifestyle; from tropical to city life.
- Busan is where you should go if you love beaches.
- Jeju is for those that love the tropics and islands.
- Seoul is where you will find hundreds of people and crowded subways. The metropolitan city is huge with skyscrapers, high-tech subways, and temples.
Living in South Korea As An American
South Korea’s medical system is off the charts.
For South Koreans, it is all about convenience and quality.
Going to the doctor’s office is affordable, clean, and includes excellent service.
That also goes for dentist offices as well.
This alone might have you emigrating to Korea even faster than planned.
If you tell people you’re moving to Korea, chances are they are thinking you’re going to be in the military or you’re going to be an English teacher.
If you live near Pyeongtaek, most people will assume you are associated with the military.
The US has its largest military base outside of the US in Pyeongtaek so I was asked many times if I was in the military.
I left my wallet on the metro one time and went up to a random lady and she brought me to the office inside the station to help me get my bag back.
There are CCTVs everywhere you look. South Korea is probably one of the safest countries that I have ever visited. I used to work until 10 pm and never felt unsafe on my walk home.
There are even SOS buttons on the sidewalks.
You will rarely see police on the streets; crime is very minimal in the country.
How is it Living in Korea for Foreigners?
If you don’t get permitted into a bar, it may be because you are a foreigner. There are restrictions, especially since Covid. If you are let in, you might have to pay more.
An essential part of moving abroad is learning how to adjust to an unfamiliar culture.
Sometimes, you’ll have to take off your shoes before entering a house/restaurant. I even brought that habit back to the US with me because of cleanliness. Shoes are so dirty!!
Culture shock can happen everywhere and anywhere so prepare yourself before you go.
Do your research by reading blogs (hiii !!), watching YouTube videos, and/or talking to other people who have visited or lived in the country. This will make moving to South Korea much easier since you are prepared!
Weather in South Korea
Korea has all four seasons, which can be good or bad depending on your preference.
Harsh winters are to be expected so if you are going to live in Korea, invest in a puffy jacket and some ear muffs. You can get cheap but comfy earmuffs at Daiso for a reasonable price.
Tips for Living in South Korea
- Personal space is not a thing in South Korea (and a lot of other countries too). So as an American, be prepared for people to get up close and personal, especially when you’re on a crowded subway.
- Calling someone by their first name is considered disrespectful. There are hierarchies in the Korean language that are important.
- Even before Covid, Asian countries, such as South Korea and Thailand wore facemasks. Air pollution is no joke. You can find facemasks anywhere from CU to Daiso to e-mart.
- Korea is a no-tip culture. It is not offensive to tip, but most people do not expect a tip. So us Americans may be unfamiliar with that.
- Be aware of scammers, especially if you don’t know the language. Taxi drivers, especially those going to and from the airport will take advantage of foreigners.
Moving to South Korea During Covid – The Flight
Asiana Airlines is an exceptional airline with clean planes and delicious food.
You’ll want to make sure you download some Netflix shows and have your neck pillow for the 12-14-hour flight to the Incheon airport (ICN) from the US.
This is my favorite:
However, the airlines usually have decent movies, tv shows, and games to occupy you on the flight.
You can choose your food preference on their website after you book the flight which is something that I always look out for when flying far and also being a pescatarian.
Moving to South Korea During Covid – My Experience
Moving to South Korea during Covid was tough, especially since my symptoms were apparent.
The good thing is that South Korea is always on top of things. They are extremely organized and thorough.
It is important to note that I moved to South Korea during the peak of Covid in November 2020.
Disclaimer: These are my experiences and thoughts about moving to South Korea during Covid.
On the flight, these forms had to be filled out:
- Arrival Card
- Health Declaration
- Travel Record Declaration
- Traveler Health Declaration Form
Have your Korean address and possibly a phone number readily available to use.
I only had my address in Korean at the time, so that took about 10 minutes to fill out per page.
It would also be wise to have the Google translate app or Papago installed on your phone if you don’t speak Korean.
Since I had symptoms of Covid within the past 21 days (along with a cough on the flight) I got pulled aside once I went through customs.
I got handed a lanyard with a note that said “Incheon.” I then sat down and waited to be called. The lady asked me what symptoms I had and I explained that I have allergies and also got a Covid test two days before my flight.
After being asked a series of questions, I was taken to a little cubicle-like area and I had to fill out even more forms. I had to write my Korean address down 3 or 4 more times.
I gave the gentleman my visa and he called my school director and then showed me how to use the quarantine app and what information to put in.
We then went onto a bus, drove for about 10 minutes, and all got tested. We were put into cubicle-like spaces again, along with our belongings and good WiFi.
Thankfully, the room had outlets and various chargers.
Eight hours, two meals, and four water bottles later we received our Covid results.
We were taken back to the airport and the group that I was with our separate ways.
From the airport to my apartment I didn’t have any phone service because I canceled my plan before leaving the US so I just used Google Maps to see where I was heading.
Again, this was just my experience of moving to South Korea during Covid. I’m sure as time goes on and Covid gets the boot, life will be easier.
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