Expats moving to Seoul usually have many questions, often about what to expect from life in their new home. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about living in Seoul.
How bad is the pollution in Seoul?
Seoul, like most Asian cities, has its fair share of pollution. Many South Koreans wear face masks to protect themselves from pollution and potential illness. During spring, clouds of yellow dust settle over Seoul. It's strongly advised that everyone going outdoors wears a face mask. Yellow dust originates in China and contains a number of industrial pollutants as well as fine soil particles. The Seoul Metropolitan Government does make a concerted effort to keep the city green.
Is public transport available 24 hours a day?
While there are some forms of transport available in Seoul, the subway and regular public bus system close at midnight or just after. The 'Owl Busses' then take over from 1am to 4am. These buses only drive eight routes, however, and those needing to go elsewhere may need to consider taking a taxi. Metered taxis are always available and many of the drivers understand some English. They are cheap for short trips but can be expensive over a longer distance. Ubers have also recently returned to Seoul and expats can therefore also order an Uber to get them wherever they need to go in the city.
Is it easy to get out of Seoul for a weekend?
South Korea has an extensive road and rail network which makes it easy to get out of the city. There are many mountain parks a few hours from Seoul, which have well-maintained facilities and hiking trails. All of the smaller towns in Korea have relatively inexpensive accommodation and a host of Korean restaurants to choose from. Travelling to some of the very small villages will require some knowledge of spoken and written Korean, but locals are typically friendly and are always willing to help.
What is Seoul like for children?
Although Seoul is a significantly large city, it's a fun place for children. There are lots of public parks with playground equipment. There also are ample cinemas and amusement park areas such as Lotte World. Korean culture values children and locals often dote on Western kids. As such, Seoul is a very child-friendly city and it is a safe place to raise a family.
There are also plenty of public and international schools in the city. Expats generally choose to send their children to international schools, as the language of instruction at public schools is Korean. There are many American and International Baccalaureate curriculum schools, as well as some Japanese and Chinese schools in the city. These schools come at a high cost but expats may be able to negotiate a school allowance into their contract.