“Even though I’ve lived here for so long, there’s always something new around the corner.”
Someya from Sweden moved to South Korea at the beginning of 2021. She started her full degree in international business at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. Last week we published the first part of this interview series on our blog. This week, you will find out about Someya’s daily life and challenges in Seoul as a foreigner.
Seoul is an incredible place with so much to do and so much to see. It is a city that never sleeps. Do you agree?
Absolutely. There’s always something new to see. Even though I’ve lived here for so long, there’s always something new around the corner. This variety makes it so much more exciting to live here, honestly.
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What do you appreciate the most about South Korea so far?
That’s a difficult question. I know it sounds so cliche, but I would have to say the culture. It’s so vibrant, and the people are very welcoming here. I feel like everyone is friendly and courteous so far. Koreans will try to talk to you even though there’s a language barrier, and they will do their best to help. That’s why I think the friendliness of the people and how it’s deeply rooted in their culture is exceptional.
Concerning everyday life, is it easy to find your way around in Seoul?
It can be a bit tricky when you first come here, but that’s because there are so many options. Seoul’s public transport has so many stops, especially the subway. I think it has over 100 stations and around 15 different lines. It can be a little bit confusing at first. But once you understand the system, it’s pretty easy. And like I said, you do have a lot of options of how you want to travel. For instance, there are different buses you can check by using various apps. In addition, you can check the subway with three different apps at least. There are English and Korean options. Overall, you can download around three or four English apps for getting from A to B. Consequently, I wouldn’t say commuting is too challenging.
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How are the overall prices of food or rent in Seoul?
It is around the same prices as in Sweden, especially the fresh fruits and vegetables. Those are really expensive. Especially, imported fruits which are not cultivated in Korea are crazy expensive. For example, watermelon can cost 20 euros. So, it’s definitely not the same as in Europe. But rice, noodles, and all of the local products are cheap. When it comes to paying rent, I would say the rent is also pretty affordable. However, the deposit, if you go for an apartment, can be expensive. For example, I pay around 400 euros a month for my apartment, but the deposit was 4000 euros. So it’s a huge difference. The deposit can shake up your plan a little bit.
Do you think someone who doesn’t like Korean food can enjoy its stay in Seoul?
I’m vegetarian, so it was definitely not easy when I came here because Koreans love their meat. They eat meat for every meal, such as Korean barbecue or the bibimbap. It was challenging to find vegetarian food. But if I compare it to when I was here in 2019, there are way more options in restaurants. However, Koreans eat a lot of hot and spicy food. If you struggle with the food, you can cook your own food at home. As long as you have a kitchen, you can shop your ingredients and prepare your meals. But if you go out to eat, I recommend you research a little bit and look at the menu beforehand to know what you’re getting yourself into.
How did you experience the restrictions regarding COVID-19 in South Korea? Have you been confronted with measures like masks, curfews, or vaccination?
We’re on level 4 social distancing (≥ 4 cases per 100,000 people) right now, which is the highest level. For example, you can’t be outside after 6 pm in a group of over two people. You always have to wear a mask outside. However, I noticed that once people get their vaccine, they take off their masks, which the government doesn’t recommend.
Is South Korea meeting your expectations?
I would definitely say that it’s way past my expectations. And I’m so happy that I made this decision. I expected the culture and the language barrier to be much harder to overcome and to immerse with. But like I said before, people here are very supportive, even though there is a communication barrier sometimes. All in all, everything has gone way smoother than I thought it would. It definitely exceeded my expectations.
Click here to read the first part of Someya’s interview series about life in South Korea as a Swede!
Learn more: Hanyang university, Seoul, South Korea
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