Shanghai skyline view

Shanghai vs Seoul. Which is best for your internship?

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Seoul City View

So, you’ve decided to intern in Asia, but now the question is: where should you go? You probably want to go somewhere different and modern, yet a place that has an interesting culture and history. But honestly, you’re also looking for a place where you can spend your hard-earned money on a few more beers in the bar after work than you’d be able to afford back home too, right? Good news, Shanghai and Seoul are both excellent cities, sharing quite a few things in common; efficient transportation, low crime rates, cultural diversity, cheap drinks, a multitude of restaurants serving cuisines from all around the globe... the list goes on.

One city isn’t better than the other, as each city will give you a different experience. To help you in your decision making, we’ve listed the perks of each place.



Shanghai bund view As one of the most influential cities in China, Shanghai is a bustling and sprawling city that offers expats an exciting fusion of old and new, east and west.  If you are planning on doing your internship in the ‘Paris of the East’, you will definitely be able to keep yourself busy with a lot of cheap areas to eat, drink and have fun around the city. 

Many of the western foreigners living in China and South Korea will likely be employed as English teachers. Though in China it is quite common to see foreigners holding non-teaching related positions. The safety and job opportunities make it an attractive place to live and work.

For someone who has never been to China, Shanghai  is a good introduction to the country, as it is a city with many faces. It’s possible to completely immerse yourself  in the Chinese way of life , while there are also areas that will make you feel like you’re in a western city. There is no such thing as a boring day in Shanghai. You can take a stroll (or take one of the millions of dockless-bikes) through the leafy streets of the Former French Concession, enjoy a sunset while sipping on some cocktails at a sky bar on the Bund, or go to one of the many events being hosted every day of the week. One of the most unique things about the nightlife in Shanghai, is that clubbing is free most of the time. In Shanghai, many clubs work with promoters to get foreigners into their bar. There are a number of clubs to choose from with free access and free alcohol, 

Besides the fact that you will probably never get to see every corner of the city during your stay, it is also one of the easiest cities to travel from. With 2 airports, the best metro system in the world, and the longest high-speed-rail network in easy reach, you can get to just about anywhere in China and the rest of the world with ease. This, combined with the fact that so many shops are open 24 hours and a lot of people speak English compared to the rest of the country, makes Shanghai an extremely convenient place to live. Another great thing in modern day China is the use of mobile payments. From supermarkets to small street vendors, you can pay for everything with your phone.  

In a big city like Shanghai, there is a massive choice of food available. There will be shops, restaurants and bars popping up and shutting down every week. You can spend as little and as much as you want - it’s up to you. Local food will of course be the cheaper option. You can have different cuisines every day of the week! If you don’t feel like going out for food, you can also get it delivered, by using one of the many delivery apps available.

Of course, there are pros and cons to every city. Shanghai is a great  place with something to do for everyone. But, just like any big city it’s more expensive here compared to other cities in China and Asia. It’s extremely easy to get around the city with the subway, busses or DIDI/taxi’s, but during rush hour, navigating through the city may seem almost impossible with the never-ending stream of people.  The weather in Shanghai can also be a bit extreme sometimes, with the heat and humidity in the summertime and winters can be quite humid too. Shanghai is a city with little to no crime, though people have a tendency to ignore traffic laws and jump queues. Littering and spitting in the streets are quite common as well.

One of the biggest issues for foreigners in China is that many western social media channels are blocked, meaning you need a VPN to access them. The “Great Firewall” is a project by the Chinese government to control access to the internet for people living in China. Luckily there are Chinese alternatives to your favorite apps and sites.  VPN free download

If there’s one word to describe Shanghai, it’s ‘dynamic’. It’s a mega-city which offers the ‘real and authentic’ China, while also having neighborhoods, which will make you forget you are in Asia. Especially if you’ve never been to China before, it’s a great introduction to the country. You also don’t have to worry about not speaking Mandarin, as most people speak a bit of English. If you’ve seen enough of Shanghai, it’s the perfect jumping off point to other destinations in China and Asia.



Seoul Sky TowerSeoul, the bustling mega-city, and the motto “the Soul of Asia” does its name justice. Seoul is the 5th largest metropolitan area in the world, so the city has just about anything you could imagine. If you want to live somewhere peaceful and quiet, then the city is probably not for you. However, if you like a fast-paced lifestyle with constant stimulation, it might be the perfect place for you.

Seoul is becoming a more popular destination among foreigners every day, which is mostly due to Hallyue; the Korean Wave that refers to the global popularity of South Korea’s cultural exports of pop culture, entertainment, music, TV dramas and movies. There is entertainment everywhere in the city, board game cafes, escape rooms, karaoke bars, soju bars, arcades, Seoul has it all. K-pop idols-in-training often give free street performances. Watch rappers, dancers, singers and musicians showcase their talents – the hearbeat of Seoul’s artistic talent and creativity! The nightlife is also very impressive, so if you like clubbing and going to bars, you’re in luck! Fun fact: Koreans are the biggest alcohol consumers in the world!

Seoul has a mixture of many historic sites and skyscrapers . There is a fair amount of museums, galleries and temples located all over the city, including the Korean War Memorial museum. Want to escape the city-life? there is an abundance of outdoor parks and recreation areas. There are also quite a few mountains that are perfect for hiking andtravel is very efficient, as the bullet train will get you from the city to the beach in just two and a half hours. There are even ski slopes just 40 kilometers outside of Seoul.  

Seoul is a shopping paradise, attracting millions of tourists who want to pick up the latest trends in Korean fashion or get their hands on Korean skincare products. The city has a diversity of neighborhoods with shops offering luxurious brands and also areas known for cheap shopping – great for small wallets. When you are done with shopping, you can walk into one of the many amazing themed cafés for a nice cup of coffee! If you’re feeling hungry, get ready for some authentic Korean BBQ! Next to Korean cuisine, you’ll also be able to find any other type of food, from Italian to South African food.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

South Korea is notoriously known for its focus on appearances and cosmetic surgery. Plastic surgery doesn’t have the same stigma attached to it as it does in the west. On the contrary, it             Korean Barbecue Restaurant  is normalized and viewed as an “enhancement” or extension of makeup. With numerous plastic surgeons, cosmetic dentists and dermatologist, the country is considered the plastic surgery capital of the world. With low crime rates, Seoul is a very safe city to live in.  The cost of living is a bit more expensive than in other countries in Southeast Asia, but comparable to Shanghai. If you are planning on going during winter, you have to prepare for the weather, with an average of -10 to 5 degrees! 

South Korea is a wonderful destination to experience a new place with a rich culture and history. There will never be a boring day in Seoul, as there’s a lot of entertainment, from board game cafes to the bustling nightlife. If you’ve seen enough of the Seoul, it’s very easy and fast to travel around Country.

Your experience is what you make of it

Overall both cities are excellent choices for anyone looking to experience the hustle and bustle of East Asia. They offer huge range of entertainment and opportunities for people who are willing to immerse themselves in the culture. Both destinations have a big expat community, so meeting likeminded people will not be too hard. Finding a full time job in Seoul as a foreigner is a bit harder than in Shanghai, unless you speak Korean or work in specialized field such as media or electronic. This might be something to keep in mind when you choosing between Seoul and Shanghai.

Wherever you choose to go, you will have a great time for sure. Your experience is ultimately what you make of it! 



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