Getting Set Up
Housing – in most cases, this will be done for you by the school, though some schools offer temporary housing while you look for your own place. This has pros and cons, in that the housing allowance may not cover the cost of your place, but you obviously have a lot more flexibility. If you are stuck finding your own place, finding an English-speaking estate agent is all but essential. For this reason, if you’re planning on living in a rural location, we suggest you accept any offer of housing from the school, or request their assistance in finding a place. Not doing so could leave you in difficulty. In the bigger cities, most expats will be able to help you out with some contact info or recommendations.
Opening a bank account – To open a bank account in Korea, you simply need proof of employment (you cannot open an account as a visitor) and one other form of ID. Typically this will include both your visa and a letter from your employer. Then, go to the branch you hope to use (we recommend you find one of the many banks that’s situated close to both where you live and where you work), and track down an assistant who speaks English (alternatively, bring along a native friend). You’ll need a minimal deposit (in most cases just 1000 Won, less than £1), and you’ll be provided with a bank card and a bank book after signing the relevant paperwork. The bankbooks are a great way of keeping track of your spending, as many of the Korean ATMs allow you to print a full record of your transactions by inserting the book into a machine.
Bills – when you sign your contract, the landlord will sign over all bills relating to the house to you, much in the same way as would happen at home. Korea, though, has extremely convenient methods of dealing with payment. When you get your bill, you can simply insert the bill and your bankcard into an ATM, and follow the payment options (after clicking the English link, of course!).
Mobile Phones – many schools require that you have a mobile phone and are contactable at all times. In this case, they should co-sign your mobile phone contract and sort everything out for you. If your company doesn’t do this, though, you should be aware that it can be very difficult for a foreigner to get hold of a mobile phone alone, especially a contract one. We suggest you find a willing co-worker to sign alongside you, as the ‘pay as you go’ options can prove extremely awkward, especially when it comes to explaining to convenience store staff which top up card you need.
Cars or Motorbikes – Technically you’re required to get a Korean driving license in order to drive in the country, as a resident (there’s no such requirement for tourists). Assuming you have a license in a developed country, this is usually a case of finding out where the local driving office is and completing the necessary paperwork, as well as paying a small fee. Many expats risk it, however, and licenses are rarely matched up with residential status to find out if you are in fact a tourist or resident. We wouldn’t’ recommend gambling, but at the same time you’ll probably be fine. In most big cities, public transport is excellent, and local car prices are far from cheap. Traffic tends to be bad, too. Scooters can be a great traffic dodger, and cars are ideal for the longer-term resident stuck out in the sticks (don’t forget insurance or you could be hit for an absolute fortune). Otherwise, it’s probably not worth the hassle.
Medical assistance – Most major cities have English language doctors who are relatively affordable. Obviously we can’t give tips here for every location, but this is another ‘ask the expat’ or ‘ask the office’ situation: best get the info as soon as possible, if only for your own peace of mind.