Living in Seoul for Beginners Seoul is the home of the Hallyu wave and with its breathtaking skyline, the dream of any big city lover. As it happened, Seoul was my home city during my semester abroad. There are some basic facts one might find interesting before starting to live in this vibrant place. So, let me introduce them to you.
The most important aspect about being abroad is probably getting from A to B. Luckily, Seoul as the capital city has a marvelous public transportation network. Be it by bus, train or taxi – commuting or traveling can’t be any easier. And it is not surprising. With over 9.7 million residents in Seoul, a sophisticated transportation network is necessary and even then, some lines are still packed with people all the time. Convenient processing of transportation access is done via Tmoney cards and literally everyone uses them. These transportation cards allow you to use buses and subways without the hassle of buying individual tickets and that at a lower price. You can buy and (re)charge your Tmoney cards at the convenience stores or use the charging machines which are located in the subway stations. When it comes to taxis, the app Kakao T is the easiest way to call a cab as it allows you to precisely set locations, track your driver and check the estimated transportation fee.
In Seoul, consumption is made as convenient as possible. Therefore, it is not surprising that many stores, restaurants and cafes have extended opening hours, even on the weekend. You can easily rely on enjoying your coffee until 9pm or visiting the shopping center until 10pm. Some of the convenience stores are even open 24h. So, nothing stands in the way of doing grocery shopping or going on a shopping spree late at night.
Let’s talk about food, which is super important. When ordering at restaurants, your table will be served “banchan” straight away. These are various vegetable side dishes like kimchi, sprouts, spinach, etc. which come absolutely for free and you may ask for a refill anytime. Water is also free in most restaurants. Lastly, tipping is neither required nor wanted. Koreans follow the mindset that it is the restaurant owner’s duty to pay his employees accordingly and not the guests’. So, just pay the bill as it is and that’s fine!
As expected of a metropolis like Seoul, people embrace evolving away from analog devices. In apartments, there are no physical keys or entrance cards. Rather, they use keypad locks with merely an access code. Opening and locking the door is done electronically for you, so you won’t forget. Another general fun fact are the automatic warning messages that every Korean phone number receives. Almost daily you are sent notifications, for example about weather warnings like an expected cold wave, a missing person or current developments of covid. The latter was particularly helpful as it automatically informed you about the official daily cases of infection or available shots of vaccination.
Seoul is undoubtedly one of the most convenient places to live. It was a great experience having it as the headquarters for my semester abroad and I genuinely enjoyed spending my time there. Inevitable wordplay alert: I loved this city with all my heart and S(e)oul
Julia Zitzelsberger is a Business Economics student who joined DIT in October 2020. Having a constant growth-mindset she likes to try out new things, like participating in the DIT blog. She spent the winter semester 2021/22 abroad in Seoul, South Korea.