intern life in Seoul

Life in Seoul

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life in Seoul

A fascinating city that prides itself on offering a modern lifestyle steeped in ancient history and a high quality of life in one of Asia’s most affluent countries. Seoul is the political and economic capital of a nation that looks both forwards and backwards in a country that is fiercely competitive on global markets and proud of its rich history. With a population of over 11,8 million (with the Seoul metropolitan area being home to 51,44 million people), Seoul is South Korea’s largest city and one of East Asia’s financial and cultural epicentres.

Quickly rebuilt after the South and North went their separate ways in 1953, Seoul is a city that has constantly shown the raw and gritty urban images of its past and has rapidly risen to become one of Asia’s most vibrant metropolis. Despite its tricky political relationship with its neighbour North Korea, people’s daily business still runs smoothly, and South Korea is ranked as an incredibly safe country with low crime rates with locals offering a warm welcome to foreigners.

With a world leading technology hub centred on Gangnam and Digital Media City, the metropolis is home to 15 Fortune Global 500 companies including Samsung, LG and Hyundai-Kia and exerts a major influence in global affairs as one of the five leading hosts of global conferences. No wonder since Seoul is one of the world’s most wired city and offers one of the fastest internet connection (ranked as the world’s fastest Internet in 2015) and Wi-Fi can be found everywhere from subways to parks.

living in SeoulBetween all the high-tech and modern buildings there is an interesting array of temples, palaces and museums, all conveniently connected by Seoul’s efficient subway. Under the Joseon Dynasty, the “Five Grand Palaces” were build: Changdeokung, Chaggyeonggung, Deoksugung, Gyeongbokgung and Gyeonghuigung, all of which are located in the district of Jongno and Jung. Among them, Changdeokgung is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was named as an “outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and grand design”. Jongmyo, a confucian shrine dedicated to the perpetuation of memorial services for the deceased kings and queens of the Joseon Dinasty, has also been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Seoul is also home to the YTN Seoul Tower, a communication tower located in the Namsan Parc, and the National Museums of Korea and War Memorial of Korea, which both offer an insight into Korea’s history. The Korean Demilitarized Zone (also DMZ) splits South from North Korea and is also worth visiting.

Seoul has a bustling art and music scene and is home to the K-Pop beat. Named the 2010 World Design Capital by the UNESCO, Seoul offers 24/7 entertainment. You can visit galleries like the Insa dong and check out exhibitions at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza or head to Hongdae and Sinchon to one of its many venues that offer live music. Every so often, there are also some K-pop concerts taking place at city hall and some universities. At night, you can experience the buzzing life of night markets such as Dongdaemun or Namdaemun. There is also a World Comic Convention taking place at the SETIC Convention Centre twice a month.

Korea has undergone a major English language boom over the last decade with Korean families’ eager for their children to learn English and thus placing them in private international schools. Many high schools also teach some basic English and the need for English-speaking teachers has increased drastically making it one of the best jobs for expats in Seoul. Despite this, most Koreans will still speak little to no English and it might therefore be difficult to communicate without knowing some basic Korean.

 

 

What to expect

Weather

life in SeoulSouth Korea has very distinctive and beautiful four seasons. Summers tend to be rainy for the first part and overall very hot and humid with temperatures ranging between 25-30ºC. Winters tend to be quite cold offering excellent skiing adventures with temperatures ranging from -5ºC to +5ºC, although they can drop even lower in some of South Korea’s regions. Spring and Autumn are uniformly pleasant with Autumn offering a spectacular landscape in the mountainous areas as leaves turn different shades of red, gold and brown. Typhoons are a possibility from late June to September.

 

Transportation

The extensive road, rail and ferry transport systems in South Korea connect its nine provinces. Both street and subway signage is usually written in English as well as Korean. Seoul is home to the second most used metro transport system in the world and is a good alternative to the frequent traffic jams found on Seoul’s streets. With a total of 18 lines you can visit most places by using the subway, even the airport thanks to the AREX express airport line. There are also four different bus lines running around the city.

Taxis can also be found around the city with standard taxis being an orange or silver colour and deluxe taxis being black with a yellow sign. Deluxe taxis might be more expensive, but provide a better and more comfortable service. However, no matter what type of taxi you decide to choose, be sure to have your destination written in Korean as taxi drivers don’t speak English or any other foreign language.

Korea has a history of switching the driving side and, although Koreans have been driving on the right side of the road since 1945 when US and Soviet forces imported their military vehicles, walking continued to go on the left side until it was eventually switched to the right in 2009. And despite markings on the pavement, many people haven’t changed their habits and still continue walking on the left.

 

Food

Korean foodSouth Korea offers a world of delicacies and allows you to eat your way through Asian, Middle Eastern and European food. Typical South Korean cuisine is very different from other Asian foods and is worldwide known for being healthy and spicy with traditional dishes including kimchi and bulgogi, and Korean BBQ being a must-try. Much of Korean social life revolves around food and thus the city is full of many different restaurants. Typical Korean restaurants lack in English menus and without the knowledge of Korean it can be tricky to identify dishes with ordering often consisting of just pointing at a picture, but it’s worth a try and can be very rewarding in terms of discovering new dishes/foods. If you prefer to stick to your “known” foods and dishes, head to Itaewon, Seoul’s international district, that offers a wide variety of Western-styled venues to eat with English menus or try one of the many Japanese restaurants offering excellent sushi and sashimi.

Beyond simple coffee shops, there are also many themed cafés around the city. Board game cafes, snuggle cafes, cats, dogs, sheep and raccoon cafes…. the offer is endless and make for a great and different type of coffee experience.

Big international chains are also featured in Seoul and you can find anything from Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts to TGI Fridays, McDonalds or KFC.

 

Budget

In terms of transportation, a one-way ticket for local transport costs 1.250 ₩ and a monthly pass can be acquired for 55.000 ₩. The normal Taxi tariff starts at 3.000 ₩ and increases with the distance, with 1km costing about 1.000 ₩.

Meals can start from very inexpensive (6.500 ₩) and increase to 40.000 – 60.000 ₩ for a mid-range restaurant (three-course meal).

Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre ranges from 600.000 to 1.300.000 ₩ whereas a three-bedroom apartment in the city centre can cost up to 4.000.000 ₩. Basic utilities cost around 160.000 ₩ each month and monthly internet can be acquired for 23.100 ₩.

 

Trips

Hwaseong Fortress

culture in SeoulOnly 15 minutes away by bus, Hwaseong Fortress was designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1997. The fortress walls consist of various intact defensive features such as floodgates, command posts, multiple arrow launch towers, secret gates and beacon towers, and four gates can be found facing each of the cardinal directions. At the centre of the fortress there’s a giant statue of the king Jeongjo. You can either walk around the fortress and hike its walls to get a great view of Suwon or you can take the Hwaseong Trolley, a 30-minute ride around the key points of the fortress.

 

Ganghwado Island

Only a short bus trip from the centres of Seoul, Ganghwado Island is connected to the mainland by bridge and offers a landscape full of rice fields, ginseng farms, mountains, pine forests and other interesting sights. The island was attacked by Japan, France and the US, and contains many ruins of old fortresses as well as the famous Goindol Rocks (designated as World’s Cultural Treasure) and Goindol stone tombs from the Bronze Age. From the island you can also overlook North Korea and witness some of the activities through telescopes at the Ganghwa Peace Observatory.

 

Paju

For anyone interested in books, the Paju Book City in Paju is worth a visit. The cultural complex belongs to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and is home to 250 publishers with over 10.000 workers. It is the go-to stop place for planning, printing and distributing books. The Tan Tan Story House offers various performances, galleries and book cafes such as the Darakwon and Moongongsa and at the Pinocchio Museum you can fined 1.300 Pinocchio related pieces showcased. The Provence Village is a great themed village consisting of the provence living gallery, herb village and European bakery and cafes; whereas the Paju Premium Outlets offers endless shopping possibilities.

 

Mangwolsa Moutain Temple

The Mangwolsa Mountain Temple, situated within the Bukhansan National Park, is the oldest temple in Namhansanseong Fortress. Although the original temple was destroyed during the Japanese invasion and the Korean war, the current temple still has a historic allure after being restored. The temple was once used by monks, soldiers and military volunteers, but has nowadays become a temple for bhikkhunis, fully ordained Buddhist nuns. The Buddha sarira is enshrined in the 13-storey pagoda. The entrance of the temple can be reached after a one-hour hike from Mangwolsa Station.

 

Yongin

Yongin is home to some of Korea’s most famous attractions and can be reached in 2 hours by train and bus or in 40 minutes by taxi from Seoul. One of these attractions is the Korean Folk Village, an area with over 200 restored traditional Korean homes from the various regions around the country. The village offers a glimpse into the daily life of Koreans back in the day and into old-world Korean architecture. Everland can also be found inside Yongin city and is one of the most visited theme parks in the world with sections such as the American Adventure, Magic Land, European Adventure and Zootopia. The T express, located in the European Adventure, is the second tallest and tenth fastest wooden roller coaster in the world.

 

Within a few miles, you can find yourself in the heart of a rural village, lost along the Han river or at the base of the tallest building in South Korea. No place is too close or far away to keep you from experiencing everything this diverse country has to offer, so why not choose Seoul as your next destination?

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