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How hard is living in South Korea?


Living in South Korea can be a challenging experience for many people, especially those who are not familiar with Korean culture and language. This article will explore the difficulties that foreigners face when living in South Korea and provide tips on how to overcome them.

Cultural Differences

One of the biggest challenges of living in South Korea is adapting to cultural differences. The way of life in Korea is vastly different from that of Western countries. Koreans have a strong sense of community, and there are many social norms that may seem strange to foreigners. For example, bowing is a common greeting, and it is important to remove shoes before entering someone’s home.

Language Barrier

Another challenge of living in South Korea is the language barrier. Korean is a complex language, and it can be difficult to learn. Many Koreans do not speak English fluently, which can make it challenging to communicate with locals. It is important for foreigners to learn basic Korean phrases to make their daily lives easier.

High Cost of Living

South Korea has a high cost of living compared to many other Asian countries. Housing, food, and transportation can be expensive, especially in cities like Seoul. Foreigners may need to adjust their lifestyle and budget accordingly to live comfortably in South Korea.

Work Culture

The work culture in South Korea is notoriously demanding. Long working hours and high workloads are common, which can lead to burnout and stress. Foreigners may need to adjust their expectations and learn how to manage their workload effectively.

Social Life

Making friends in South Korea can be challenging for foreigners. Koreans tend to stick to their own social circles, which can make it difficult for outsiders to break in. Additionally, the drinking culture in Korea can be overwhelming for some foreigners.


Korean cuisine is delicious, but it can be a challenge for foreigners who are not used to spicy food. Additionally, many Korean dishes include ingredients that may be unfamiliar to foreigners, such as kimchi and tofu.


Finding affordable housing in South Korea can be difficult, especially in cities like Seoul. Many apartments require a hefty deposit upfront, which can make it challenging for foreigners to secure housing.


Public transportation in South Korea is efficient and affordable, but it can be overwhelming for foreigners who are not used to the system. It is important for newcomers to learn how to use the subway and bus systems to get around.


South Korea has a high-quality healthcare system, but navigating it can be challenging for foreigners. It is important for newcomers to understand their healthcare options and have a plan in place in case of emergencies.


South Korea has four distinct seasons, each with its own challenges. Summers can be hot and humid, while winters are cold and snowy. It is important for newcomers to prepare accordingly and dress appropriately for the weather.


South Korea has strict censorship laws that can limit freedom of speech and expression. Foreigners need to be aware of these laws and exercise caution when discussing sensitive topics.


Living in South Korea can be a rewarding experience, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. By understanding and preparing for these difficulties, foreigners can enjoy all that South Korea has to offer. With an open mind and a willingness to adapt, living in South Korea can be an unforgettable adventure.

Is it difficult to live in South Korea?

Moving to South Korea can be a smooth process if you are well-prepared before your arrival. While historically the country has not been welcoming to foreign migrants, this attitude has shifted with the increase in international companies coming to Korea.

Is South Korea good for foreigners to live in?

Are you considering moving to South Korea? Known as the Land of the Morning Calm, this country offers a unique blend of city and countryside living with a relaxed lifestyle and affordable cost of living. However, before making the move, there are several practicalities to take into account.

Is South Korea a stressful country?

A 2022 survey conducted in South Korea found that nearly 45% of respondents reported feeling stressed in their daily lives within the past two weeks.

Do a lot of Americans live in South Korea?

As of 2021, the number of US residents living in South Korea was approximately 57,800 people, which is a decrease from the previous year’s figure of around 59,700. This information was reported on August 5, 2022.

Is South Korea a happy place to live?

According to a recent report from the United Nations, South Korea is ranked 59th out of 146 countries in terms of happiness.

Is it expensive to live in Korea from us?

It is widely acknowledged that South Korea is a costly nation, with the city of Seoul often being listed as one of the most expensive places to reside in. According to the Mercer Cost of Living Survey of 2022, Seoul was ranked as the 14th highest cost of living among 227 cities.

Visa Requirements

Foreigners who plan to live in South Korea for an extended period of time need to obtain the appropriate visa. The visa application process can be complex and time-consuming, and it is important to ensure that all required documents are submitted on time. It is recommended that foreigners seek the assistance of a visa agency or immigration lawyer to help navigate the process.

Currency Exchange

Foreigners need to exchange their currency into Korean Won (KRW) when living in South Korea. There are many currency exchange booths throughout the country, but it is important to compare rates and fees before making a transaction. Some banks also offer currency exchange services, but they may require an account with them.

Driving in South Korea

Foreigners who plan on driving in South Korea need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) before arriving in the country. Driving laws and regulations may differ from those in other countries, and it is important to familiarize oneself with them before getting behind the wheel. Public transportation is widely available and often a more convenient option.

Tipping Culture

Tipping is not a common practice in South Korea, and it may even be considered rude in some situations. Restaurants and cafes may include a service charge on the bill, but it is not expected for customers to leave an additional tip. However, it is polite to offer small gifts or treats as a token of appreciation in certain situations.

Internet Access

South Korea has one of the fastest internet speeds in the world, and Wi-Fi is widely available throughout the country. Many cafes, restaurants, and public spaces offer free Wi-Fi access, but foreigners may need to purchase a SIM card or portable Wi-Fi device for reliable internet access on-the-go.


Korean etiquette can be complex and nuanced, and it is important for foreigners to understand and respect local customs. For example, it is considered impolite to blow one’s nose in public, and it is important to use two hands when accepting or offering items. Learning basic Korean phrases and showing respect for local customs can go a long way in building positive relationships with locals.

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