Beyond Surviving: 5 Tips for Thriving in South Korea

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I’ve lived in my adopted home for a decade, and I’ve met foreigners who were thriving while I’ve also met plenty of them who were only surviving, and sometimes just barely. If you’re new to Korea, here are five tips to make your life awesome.

Embrace Korean Culture

There are many aspects of Korean culture that I love, but my favorite thing of all is how Koreans have great nights out. First course: BBQ. Second course: drinks. Third course: singing room. Fourth course: more food and drinks. It really is an excellent time, so make sure you go to work dinners, or find a Korean friend or two to show you the ropes.

Learn Korean

At minimum, learn how to read because it opens up so many opportunities for travel and eating. Then, keep studying; Koreans will love you for it.

Explore Korea

There’s so much more to Korea than the concrete jungle you may live in. Busan has some off-the-beaten-path places where time slows down and you can breathe. Gamcheon Cultural Village, Dadaepo Beach and the Nakdong River are places I keep going back to. Outside Busan, check out the Boseong Tea Fields, Namhae and Jirisan National Park.

Make Your Home a Real Home

If you’re only planning on staying in Korea for a year, you may be tempted to buy nothing. This is always a mistake. Buy a bicycle or surfboard, get a pet, plant a garden – whatever you need to do to make your place a happy haven.

Find the Realistic People

There are three groups of expats in Korea: the haters, the lovers and the in-betweens. The haters like almost nothing, and the lovers see absolutely no negatives about living in Korea. The ones to seek out are the in-betweens – the realistic people who see that Korea, like their home country, is filled with both positives and negatives.

Jackie Bolen is a university teacher in Busan who thinks that she lives in one of the best cities in the world. She is the author of the book How to Thrive in South Korea: 97 Tips from Expats, available on Amazon. You can find all her projects at