Seoul, South Korea Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, South Korea 02/08/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Previously lived in Rome and Brazil

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

You can get a direct flight from Seoul to Atlanta but the USG probably wont pay for it. Most flights route you to SFO and then another connection or your final stop. Plan for at least 2 connecting flights and a 15-18 hour trip. Price can be reasonable if you plan ahead.

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3. How long have you lived here?

about 2 years (left 6/2015)

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

government (USG DoD)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

DOS personnel live on base. DoD personnel get LQA and find their own housing. DoD gets the better end of the deal. Most people live in luxurious high rises with lots of amenities. Single family homes are rare unless you live in a rural area or out near Pyeongtaek. I was a single person with a 4 bedroom penthouse apartment.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

USG bases have a very good commissary. I also shopped in a local grocery story and found the selection and prices to be comparable to the U.S. Fruits and veggies are expensive. The Korean diet has a lot of meat and vegetarians might struggle a bit. Also lots of pesticides so you might want to seek out so-called organic markets.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

the army exchange and commissary cover most household goods. I would actually bring less of those things with me.
If you are a 'curvy' person you will struggle to find clothes that fit and amazon will be your best friend. if your feet are bigger than a size 7 you will be ordering shoes too. If you are a woman, you better bring a good supply of 'feminine products' and be prepared to order from Amazon.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

American fast food is everywhere but it isn't cheaper or better than the Korean chains. There are lots of McDonald's, Burger Kings, Pizza Hut, and Popeye's chicken places off base. Skip all of them and eat and at Korean restaurants.
Note that some places don't really like singles eating alone (portions are for 2 people) but delivery or take out is easy so you don't miss out.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

I didn't have any insect problems in my house or anywhere else. They use a lot of pesticides here (which is its own concern) but it kept the bugs away.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

It's expensive and most people don't do it. They may pay a maid to come in once or twice a month but it's not cheap and the quality isn't that great.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The army bases have free gyms but private gyms are pricey and don't have American style or quality equipment.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I never had a problem using my credit card. Best thing to do for cast is take out USD on the army base and exchange for won just outside the gate.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Lots of English language Christian services around.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You don't 'need' Korean but your life will be way easier if you can at least read it and know how to ask for simple directions.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Seoul is not equipped to deal specifically with physical disabilities. The intrastructure is better than most places but that doesn't translate accesibility. If you can afford personal assistance, you will need it.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Buses and trains are safe. taxis are generally affordable but make sure you know your route to avoid being ripped off.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Don't bring a huge car...roads are descent and parking spaces are small. People don't really take care in avoiding bumping other cars so if you bring something, expect it to get dinged and scratched up. I personally bought a local car because it would be easier to maintain and service. You will have to order parts for American cars unless you want to pay a fortune. People usually ordered car parts and tires through the APO.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

YES... the internet service is usually included in your lease so I don't know the cost. Negotiate internet and cable with your leasing agent.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You can get a phone on base or bring your own unlocked one. Most people get cell service through the army base. Plan prices are comparable to the U.S. the coverage is outstanding and works at all the metro stations. Data speed is FAST and service is very reliable.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

I dont' have any pets...but kennels are really a thing here. I have only seen them on the army bases. Korean people tend to leave their pets chained up outside or in cars. If you travel you will need to make arrangements with coworkers to watch your pet.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

other than teaching English (make sure you have the right visa for this!!!!) your job opportunities as an expat are limited.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

there are many groups that organize volunteer activities. Many are centered around education, cleaning, and single mothers (who are kind of shunned).

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

typical U.S. dress code at work. In public people cover their arms but show lots of leg.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Not really...crime is very low but take normal precautions. Sexual crimes are under reported and I have had friends who were harrassed and it was not taken very seriously by the local authorities. Your risk of being a victim is low...but please educate yourself on the criminal justice system once you arrive.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

healthcare is generally good...but it doesn't meet U.S. standards of hygiene in my opinion. Do your research.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Unfortuately the air quality is affected by the yellow dust that comes over from China. In the spring the air can be hazy and very bad for your health. Keep a smog app on your phone and pay attention. A lot of people wear face masks but if you just stay inside on the worst days you should be fine. Thankfully the yellow dust season isn't that long.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

my friends with allergies had to ramp up their medication.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Summers are very humid and hot and the winters are bitterly cold with ice and snow. They don't clear the ice from the roads so be careful when driving.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most USG people attend the schools on the army bases (DoDea). I have no children so I don't have any direct experience. From my friends with little ones it seems like it's a mixed bag depending on what teachers your child has. I did like that people on the bases really worked to make sure the kids had a well rounded experience (sports, career days, student productions). I participated in some events and really enjoyed myself.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

I don't have kids...but there is childcare on the bases. It's not cheap...and it's a mixed bag. Some people have opted to enroll their children in Korean programs.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

lots...I don't have kids but my coworker's children participated in lots of sports programs. They traveled around Korea and even to Japan and other countries to compete.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

size of the expat community is large. Morale is generally good but some people complain about everything. Those are usually the people who are afraid to venture off base and don't go anywhere.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

See above comments...there isn't anything you can't do here. I went to concerts, festivals, hikes, beach trips, etc. Had the time of my life.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a FANTASTIC place for singles, families and couples.
I'm single and this is literally the best place I have lived in my entire life. Very easy to meet new people ( meetup and other groups/apps are very popular). Korea is a social country and I never had a dull weekend. My friends were other singles, couples, families with young children...it didn't really matter. I loved living in Korea and to this day I still chat with friends I made there.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Korea is a bit conservative about this...there have been organized protests against mistreatment of homosexual couples. I have not heard of couples being targeted or harrased but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Korea is a racially homogenous country and people who look different will get stared at. The problem isn't as bad as it used to be but it still happens. I am a black woman and I had lots of questions about my hair and people assuming I was from Africa (or the Phillipines?). Some of my friends who taught English reported that job adds stated they only wanted 'white American' applicants. My personal experience- I didn't really have any problems like that. If I went in a small town, people were curious but they weren't rude to me. Gender roles are complicated here...on paper women and men are equal but that is not really the case.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

There is always something to do here (hike, festivals, movies, exploring different parts of the country). It was very easy to meet people and I formed many good friendships with people from all over.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Hiking is huge here. There are lots of outdoor activities and many groups that organize weekend bus trips around the country. There is so much to do for everyone. The country is small so I don't know about any hidden gems- however you will have a few special experiences that you will hold dear to you.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

skin care products.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

If you aren't paying rent you can save...but it's also easy to burn money with shopping, entertainment and travel. It's very easy to get around with public transportation even with no knowledge of Korean- but I recommend at least knowing how to read it. The buses and trains are safe and very affordable.

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10. Can you save money?

yes...if you are conscious of doing so.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I think I knew enough...i had a good sponsor. find out exactly where you will be working and know the transportation situation before you get here.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

absolutely

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

household cleaning supplies, food products, socks!

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4. But don't forget your:

underwear, personal hygiene products, bras

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

kdramas, kpop...not informative but very popular and gives you a starting base for chatting up people! The internet is a better resource than any book or DVD. I recommend 'escape from camp 14' and Chang-rae Lee's "The Surrendered" for a good background on the history of this country. Visit the War Memorial Museum in Yongsan when you get here too...

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

just search the internet...plenty of facebook groups to join

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Seoul, South Korea 02/03/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Previously lived in Cartagena, Colombia

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Seattle, WA. There are non-stop flights, about 10 hours each way, with a confusing time/date change.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2014-2016

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

USG

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Currently, most housing is on Yongsan Army Base. This is changing as the base moves toward closing. Also, if you are not State, likely there will be no room for you on base. We live in a great apartment on the 36th floor, with a view of the Han River. We love it! On base, you have mostly stand alone housing, with the attendant mowing and raking of leaves. My commute to work is 25-35 minutes by subway. The same drive runs anywhere from 20 minutes to nearly an hour depending on traffic. From base housing there is a shuttle.

Housing on the local economy can be found at any range of prices and sizes. You have to use a real estate agent for rentals.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

While the base is still open, there is commissary and Exchange access for USG employees. The commissary is just like a Safeway or Albertson's in the States, with similar prices. Out in the city, groceries tend to be a bit more than the US, especially meat. There is one CSA that has been around for almost two years -- we love the fresh veggies we get each week from that!

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

You can get anything you'd want, either locally or through the DPO

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are literally thousands of restaurants, at any price you want to pay. Many American chains as well. One thing that is different here -- many places only have 1-3 items on the menu. So going out is much more about deciding exactly what you want to eat and then going to the place that has the best whatever-that-is. And everyone in your party has to agree. The foodie scene is getting bigger all the time, as is the craft beer movement. You do have to research and ask around to find the "hidden gem" restaurants. Otherwise you'll pay too much for mediocre food.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

If you want full-time help you must sponsor a third-country national. We did not do this, so I can't speak to the process. Part time workers usually make about US$10/hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a gym on base that is free, with small fees for classes. It is also fairly easy to run on base. There are miles and miles of bike trails along the Han River. Also lots of hiking available nearby.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are ubiquitous. Koreans rarely use cash.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Zero. Many signs are in English, the subway has English announcements, there are taxis specifically for foreigners, there's a free translation service available by phone. While knowing some Korean can make life richer, you can get by for sure.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

This city is much easier to navigate than many others around the world.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The subway, bus, train, and taxi systems are fabulous and inexpensive.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We did not have a car and did not miss it one bit. If you live on base a car might be more useful, as you have to walk further to access public transportation. Traffic can be pretty awful, too, and parking can be limited. Unless you really want to stand out, bring a black, white, or silver car. It seems that's all the Koreans drive! There are always cars for sale, either diplomatic or military. One friend had a very easy time buying a used car on the local economy, too.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet is cheap and super, super fast. We pay about US$34/month for internet and land line and regularly get 95M speeds.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We got one cell phone from the vendor on base. It was a two-year plan, but you can get shorter contracts. You can use an unlocked phone and just buy a Korean sim, but you have to take the phone to a special government office to register it first. Any cell service vendor can explain it to you.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

If you want to teach English, yes. Otherwise it is harder unless you're fluent in Korean. However, telecommuting is easy because of the great internet.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Koreans are sharp dressers, both for work and play. You can wear whatever you want, but you will stand out if you're sloppy.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Not at all. I worry more on the military base than in the city!

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Excellent medical care, both on base and locally. There is some medical tourism, mostly for elective procedures.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Adequate. There are times when toxic dust blows in from the Gobi Desert, but as long as you pay attention to the alerts, you can minimize the impact. Otherwise, general big city air quality.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Seafood/shellfish allergy sufferers will need to be careful here, especially if you don't speak Korean. Many local dishes have some kind of seafood.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

There are definitely 4 seasons. Spring is gorgeous. Summer can be hot and muggy. Fall is short. Winter is surprisingly cold, although very dry.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Many excellent choices, I'm told.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The number of foreigners in Seoul (and all of Korea) is enormous. You see expats and tourists everywhere you go. For the most part it seems people are happy.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of restaurants, bars, clubs, concerts, sporting events, and various outdoor activities. Base has a movie theater, pool, and bowling alley. Korean barbecue restaurants are a lot of fun, too! Also, most Korean evenings involve at least one stop at a place that sells fried chicken and beer.
You can be as busy (or not) as you want.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Everyone. There are lots of things to do for all ages, abilities, and interests!

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I have encountered.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Going to see Korean baseball, which is much more of a party than American baseball. Riding the train down to Busan, taking in the countryside in comfort. Jeju island. Easy travel to other countries in the region. Feeling safer than anywhere I've ever lived.

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6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It's very easy living! Modern, clean, and culturally interesting, with tons of activities no matter what you like to do.

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7. Can you save money?

We have, although not much. It can get expensive to do all the fun things here!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How easy it would be to get around, even without knowing any of the language. Would have saved me some emotional stress!

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely!

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3. But don't forget your:

Bike, hiking gear

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Seoul, South Korea 07/15/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, various cities throughout Asia,.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

D.C. Flights from the U.S. Are about 12 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Government and educator.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing on base is small but not bad. There are front and back yards, so it is great for families with kids.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are expensive on the local market, so we often did our shopping at the commissary on base.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing really.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Fast food outlets are everywhere and reasonably priced. Restaurants are awesome here; you can eat just about anything, but the local food is what we loved the most!

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

There are mosquitoes but no serious diseases like malaria.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic pouch. Korea's postal service is surprisingly affordable, too.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available and fairly cheap. $10 per hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, on base, and they are free.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Widely used and available.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Many are available.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It's helpful, but some Koreans do speak English. They will try to assist you more if you show genuine effort in conversing with them in Korean.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Some subway stations have many stairs, but sidewalks are quite good here.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Very affordable and safe.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any car is great to have here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, it is available, but the qualitycan be patchy on base.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The U.S. Embassy issues phones for staff, but if you want your own personal phone there is a place on base near Starbucks and also others throughout Itaewon.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Not sure. I would assume so.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes, my wife taught English in Korean elementary schools.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many. Look at orphanages throughout Seoul for rewarding experiences.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Office attire at work. Koreans are quite formal, too, but anything goes, really.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Just the usual concerns every now and again --- when North Korea decides to do testing.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is great. We have had good experiences.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Generally not bad, but during the Spring season yellow dust can be problematic.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Yellow dust during Spring can affect allergies.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

4 distinct seasons. Winter can get quite cold, Summer is very humid, Fall and Spring are wonderful.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are international schools throughout Seoul, but we had no direct experience with them. I believe there are schooling options on base, but it could be difficult to get in.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

My wife worked in Korean public schools during our time there, and she often mentioned the fact that there is a shortage of special-needs programs here.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, they are available, but we didn't have any experience with them.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes there are.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Quite large. There are many U.S. military personnel, as well as teachers from all over the world. We made lots of friends, it was great. Dinner parties in embassy housing were quite common.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

"Norebangs" (karaoke/singing rooms) are a lot of fun. We would go out often with our friends and colleagues. There are lots of restaurants. The nightclubs are of fun, too!

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for all. There is always something to do.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I think so. There is an active night life in Itaewon for the LGBT community. But in general Koreans are quite conservative, so they don't really talk about this.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. Koreans are very nationalistic, sometimes to the point where they think they are completely pure. There is an obvious disdain towards Japan and other Asian countries. People of color usually get the "Africa, Africa" comments even if they are not from Africa. Also, be mindful that some groups in Korea are very religious and will often try to convert you to their beliefs.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Making life-long friends, trips throughout Korea.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

We traveled quite easily and inexpensively using the bullet train to other cities like Busan and Daegu, and we flew to Jeju Island. Throughout Seoul there are a lot of parks, temples, cafes, and restaurants. The food here is amazing, and some places are quite cheap.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Chopsticks, hanboks, pottery.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

This is a great country for cultural experiences, making friends, and night life.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes and no. It is quite expensive to live here, but if you stick to a budget you can save a little.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Koreans like to move quickly, so don't get offended if they seem rushed all the time.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Definitely! We have great memories of our time in Korea.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience! It's quite a bustling city, so take care when walking around. It gets crowded on the subway, and Koreans some don't care if they walk into you.

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4. Do you have any other comments?

We usually don't think about going to a post more than once, but we would definitely come back here.

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Seoul, South Korea 02/27/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is our third expat experience but first in Asia.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC. There is a nonstop from Dulles but generally you connect through Detroit, Dallas or San Francisco.

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3. How long have you lived here?

7 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I am an EFM. My husband is here with the Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Embassy compound on the base. Houses are okay. Nothing special. It is great to have a yard for the kids and access to the base sports programs for the kids. Of the three places we have lived, this is the smallest house we have been in.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Commissary prices are comparable to DC. You can find most everything you can in the States. Speciality and organic items are limited. Usually you can find fresher and better prices on produce on the local economy.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Everything is available here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

More fast food than you could ever want on base and delicious food from around the world in Seoul. It is a foodie's dream. Seoul is expensive though!

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO through the Embassy. It is also nice to have the post office on base to mail packages so you don't have to take everything to the Embassy to send out.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I pay US$10 an hour for a part-time housekeeper.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Free gyms on base.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Safe to use on the economy but our U.S. ATMS can only access the ATMs on base.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

I know just enough to get a taxi home and can function fine. Of course the more you know, the better off you are.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Lots of stairs to the metro but it is a very developed city with good sidewalks. Every sidewalk has raised markers to help the blind find their way.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

safe, affordable and you can pretty much go anywhere.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any but if you get a Korean made 9 seater it is a huge advantage to be able to drive in the HOV lanes.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It is available but surprisingly slow. Supposedly they are working on making improvements to the lines in the housing area.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

One Stop near the Starbucks on base is the best deal. Cell phones plans run about US$90 a month for unlimited data and talk.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

First-rate medical care. U.S. or London-trained doctors. Their hospitals are huge and are run very efficiently. The med unit here doesn't do a lot of hand holding to help guide you through the process like I have had at other posts but once you get to know the system, the medical care itself is great. Every hospital has an International Patient check-in desk and they help you.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Generally okay except for the yellow dust in the spring and when the pollution from China comes in.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

pollen, pollution, dust - also they eat pretty exotic food here with very little labeling on the packaging.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very much like Washington, DC. Four distinct seasons- hazy, hot and humid summer. Short but very nice spring and fall. Our winter was mild but I understand they can be very cold too.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Schools are one of the biggest drawbacks to living here. It is difficult for embassy kids to get into the DOD school. While YISS, the school closest to housing, is a beautiful facility, we transferred out. In my opinion, the teachers are not qualified, the rules are unbelievably rigid and strict (no talking in the lunchroom), and it has an evangelical Christian philosophy that affects education (e.g., my kids learned that kids dinosaurs did not exist, no discussion of evolution). SFS is the oldest international school in Seoul and while it is more established and a bit more diverse than the other schools, it is also quite religious. KIS, is a great school, but it is far from housing and is still struggling with bringing more expat kids into the school. We have chosen KIS and are happy with it, but there is no clear and obvious school choice. It has made our transition to Seoul particularly difficult.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

KIS has a very good program to help kids with learning needs. Not sure about other needs or schools.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

I know there are a lot of options here and people seem happy.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, great programs through the base. The schools have programs as well.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge. There are two big women's groups - SIWA and AWC - which offer a lot of activities and ways to meet others and to get to know Seoul better. The Embassy community is different than the "usual" make up of embassy cones. It makes it harder to get to know others as people generally stick to socializing with their office groups. The CLO here is great and has worked hard to plan fun outings and good community building activities.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I would say yes to all. Our housing is near Itaweon, so a great spot for singles or couples. We came here because we wanted the family life the base offered.

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3. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The base has a great library which we can use. After being away from public libraries for many years, it is nice to check out books again! Lots of other interesting things to do depending on your interests- hiking clubs, cooking clubs, language groups, book clubs. Skiing is nearby in the winter. We have been white water rafting and pear picking. Lots of ways to get out and explore nature here even though you are in a megacity.

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4. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It is easy living on the base. You have a the PX and commissary so you have access to U.S. goods and the prices are dramatically better than on the local market. There are places to tour and see throughout Seoul and Korea which are great too.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I am honestly not sure. Seoul has some major positives (U.S. conveniences on base, beauty of Korea, great sites/food in Seoul) but some major negatives (isolation on base and not getting immersed in Seoul, expensive to travel out of Korea, drawbacks of schools, odd mix of embassy community) that make it difficult to decide. There isn't much in the "middle" here.

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2. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Who Ate Up All the Shinga?: An Autobiographical Novel (Weatherhead Books on Asia),

I'll Be Right There,

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea.

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Seoul, South Korea 01/23/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes, with family, but I'd previously lived in Russia as a college student.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Utah, about a 24-hour trip with layovers (generally in Seattle and Japan). There are direct flights from San Francisco that are shorter.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years from 2010 to 2013.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Military.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Apartment living off-post (Embassy housing at Yongsan is a community of houses with yards on the Army post in its own section). Apartments are small near Yongsan Army base but very modern and generally nice. They are more spacious further away. We stayed in Park Towers and loved it.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Veggies in season are super cheap, especially from sidewalk farmer's markets. Fruits and meats are expensive. The commissary on post is fairly well-stocked.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Between the commissary and PX and APO, we could get pretty much anything. If you need specialty items for allergies, gluten-free, etc. that Amazon doesn't ship, stock up on that.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything, just more than in the U.S. off post, and same as in the States on post.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes in some areas, but not too bad generally.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Army APO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

About US$10 an hour. We had to let ours go when she kept asking us to buy stuff at the PX for her, asked for advances, stopped answering the phone when we called to schedule her, etc. Most people have good experiences.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Available, free on post, not sure how much off post.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Most places accept credit cards, except the outdoor markets.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Protestant, Latter-day Saint (Mormon), and others.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

We got by with just the basics (hello, goodbye, please, thank you, and a few other things). Lots of Koreans speak English, the signs are all in Hangul and English, and everything on post is English. I wish we would have learned more Korean, but it was really easy to get by without it, so we did.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Not too bad--there are generally accommodations, although not all subways have elevators or ramps.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, they are all safe and affordable.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Anything. Smaller would be better for parking. If you buy a 9-passenger minivan here, you can drive in the bus lane, making trips out of the city SO much better traffic-wise.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, excellent service off post (I've heard on post is slower/more expensive). We paid about US$25 and had screaming high-speed Internet. You have to use a VPN for many U.S. sites to work.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

If you have on-post access, the One-Stop on post by the Embassy Club/Jamba Juice has the best deals. But it's the home of Samsung. There are awesome phones, awesome service everywhere.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Not sure.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

This is a big complaint for many spouses. There are limited options on post but the SOFA agreement doesn't allow spouses to work off post.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are orphanages, volunteer opportunities with the schools and sports on post, and through local church groups.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Very formal. Koreans dress up even for recreation, with sporty, matching outfits. Couples often match. Regular day dress is much nicer than most Westerners. Women wear heals and skirts most of the time. Also, very modest tops even if shorts and skirts are very short.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No, it is SO safe. A friend lost a wallet down along the river trail. It was returned with all cash and everything still in it!

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical is generally very good. The post has an American hospital and dentist, but off-post care seems very good also. Orthodontics off post was great.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air is OK with some really bad days when winds bring pollution over from China. Some seasons, it seems like every day is red (dangerous for outdoor activities), but other times it's barely noticeable. There are lots of trees and parks to help mitigate the haze.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot, humid summers with monsoon rains in July (sometimes very, very wet, other years just really humid); amazing, long fall with wonderful weather (although sometimes windy); cold winters; unpredictable springs (some great days, some rain, lots of wind).

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Our kids went to the DOD schools on post and they had great experiences. Teachers are kind of hit and miss and we heard bad things about the high school, but had incredible teachers for KG and 6 between our three kids. Only one really bad experience with a Kindergartner teacher. There are several wonderful international schools in the area, including YISS, SIS, and more.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Same as in U.S. for the DOD schools. Can't say for the international schools.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, most of the Korean options are full-day, every day It was hard to find a half-day option. There is a Christian program called Mustard Seed that has more options.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, through Yongsan Army post or schools or community. KORAM is a great year-round soccer club on post for U9 to U15.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large and generally very good.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of great restaurants, Itaewon is famous for restaurants from most countries around the world, there are also tons of bars, and Karaoke is huge.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, great for everyone. There is SO much to do. It's family-friendly but there's plenty for couples and singles too.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not sure.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I've heard that there are issues with Koreans being very prejudiced, but did not see this personally.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visiting Seoraksan National Park and Sokcho beaches was so fun. Chinhae cherry blossoms are incredible. Yongin recreational forest has great paragliding and a fun hiking/camping area. Favorites in the city were Dongdaemun, Myeongdong, and Namdaemun markets, hiking Seoul Tower, the Seoul zoo is great, tons of amusement parks, DMZ tour, museums, etc. There are just so many things to do here.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

If you're into amusement parks there are Lotte World, Seoul land, Everland, and others. If you want culture and history, there are tons of museums and historical sites, Buddhist temples (Seongmodo island is awesome off the west coast). The folk village in Suwon is wonderful. The national and war museums are free and huge. Butterfinger Pancakes has the world's greatest pancakes (the mozzarella cheese pancakes, seriously, try them). There are movie theaters, silly museums (ice museums open all year, trick eye museum, hands-on reptile/bug museums, rolling ball museums, kids museums, etc.). The Children's Grand Park zoo is free and great. You can do stuff every single weekend and not run out of stuff to do here.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Purses, Korean souvenirs (fans, carvings, etc.).

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It is very safe, there are lots of things to do both in and out of the city, the U.S. expat community is fantastic, public transportation is great, the people are very kid-friendly, the shopping is fun. LASIK/LASEK surgeries are exceptional quality and very low cost compared to in the States. I had LASEK done in Myeongdong at Dream Eye Center and highly recommend it to anyone.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, but only if you're careful. Cost of living is high if you do everything there is to do and use taxis a lot. Also, there are lots of great travel opportunities but they are more expensive than you'd expect so many people use all their extra money on travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Despite the culture shock of being surrounded by a HUGE city, hangul, and millions of people who all look the same, Seoul is a great place to live. We loved our time there and it was a favorite for our kids.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I would go there again in a heartbeat. Our kids would be so excited to hear we were going back.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Wall hangings (you have to have a special wall-track to hang any pictures in the apartments here and most walls don't have them).

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure and shoes!!! (if you are bigger than a women's size 8, it is VERY hard to find shoes here).

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag

The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Although Seoul is a HUGE city, you don't have to go very far out of the city to find outdoor recreational opportunities for hiking and camping. It is prettier than we expected and while never far from the city, there are chances to get away from the city. Our kids loved the views from our apartment on the 29th and 22nd floors.

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Seoul, South Korea 09/11/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Tokyo, Taipei, Malaysia.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Los Angeles - Flight is about 10 hours with many major airports in the U.S. that should offer direct flights to Incheon Airport, which is a major Asian hub.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Been living here on and off, total of 7 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Apartment in Kangnam. It was a 1 bedroom with laundry equipped. Commuting takes about half an hour from here to the Embassy.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

If you shop at E-Mart, Korea's equivalent of WalMart/Costco, it's about 20% more expensive than comparable American pricing.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Hot sauce, Mexican food condiments, ziploc bags.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

You will find most American chains here, with the exception of Mexican. Prices are similar to the U.S., but in the summers McDonald's used to have 3000 won (A little under 3 bucks) Big Mac combos which I ended up indulging more often than I should because it was such a cheap meal. Also, fast food made here tends to look remarkably like they do in photos because Korean entry-level workers here take extreme pride in quality and workmanship, even for the lowly burger.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitos are easily mitigated with the number of ingenious repellents they sell here. I know it's not good for you, but I fell in love with the scent of mosquito coil incense.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Korean Post works just as fine as DPO/APO.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gym memberships are ridiculously expensive here.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Electronic and card payment are used virtually everywhere here, even in the boonies. I had absolute confidence using my credit card everywhere.

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4. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

AFN is available and there are several English newspapers here.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None to just get by, but being able to read the language will open quite a few doors for you. Koreans love it when you try to speak the language, will doubly respect you for knowing how to read it, and it might be the ticket to open some doors you never would've imagined.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It's not like the ADA laws here in the U.S., but people with physical disabilities are accomodated well and treated with respect in the S. Korean infrastructure.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Extremely safe and affordably. Fun trick, every subway fare you take (either via outdated ticket or RFID card) also entitles you to one free bus ride connection right after. Taking the time to learn the extremely well sorted public transit system in Seoul will allow you to make appointments and meet people with surgical precision. It's a reason why Koreans take punctuality as seriously as the Japanese.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any car will work here, but buying local Korean cars are best to mitigate costs.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Fast and extremely cheap. I download at 10 megabytes a second (100Mbs internet speed) for about US$70 a month. With a VPN, you can get all the Hulu and Netflix you want.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

A wide array are available here, often on the cutting edge of new.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes! You must take care of this in the U.S., whether its a cat or dog. You'll need a minimum 3 month lead time to get all the tests, records, and results that the S. Korean gov't wants.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, Koreans treat some of their pets like their own children.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Here's a secret tip I used when I first arrived here many many years ago. Go to local Korean colleges and see bulletins or ask if any students need help with their English essays/HW/etc. Korean's pay big bucks when it comes to their education and despite the significantly easier pace they take in universities compared to high schools, there are still many eager to further themselves and pay for it.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Formal.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

If you're an American, this is an extremely safe country. There are security cameras EVERYWHERE. Big brother is always watching, and the people in the country know this. I've walked through subways filled with homeless people sleeping and they keep to themselves.

If you're the type of guy who enjoys the nightlife and likes to go out and party, it's always a good idea to exercise caution in the wee hours of the morning as it's still common to see people acting like a fool at 4am.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Healthcare here is 1st world with the latest in advancements.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

It's dirty and the smell of burnt sweet diesel mixed with gasoline is one of the characteristic scents of Seoul.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Humid and rainy summers, frigid cold winters. Last winter I spent here, it reached -25C regularly and I nearly panicked from being too darn cold when I under-dressed like a fool.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge. There will be tons of people and gatherings for you to find here.

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2. Morale among expats:

Excellent. Sour pusses among expats are those who refuse to learn basics of the Korean culture.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Endless. This is a city where it's too easy to meet new friends to hang out with if you learn some basic Korean. If you like drinking, Seoul will turn you into a happy, functioning alcoholic when it's not work hours.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Absolutely! There's something for everyone here in abundance.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

They are tolerated and expat LGBT will have no problems here, but despite what you see on TV and Korean pop culture, homosexuals among the Koreans here are still treated like a mental disease.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Only if you're Korean yourself. Otherwise, no issues.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Touring the entire country with easy access to public transportation about 95% of the time, knowing how to beat the endless number of big brother cameras that completely cover this country when you speed on roads, being able to eat something and find it open at virtually ever hour of the day, all days, everyday. No exception. Seoul does not sleep ever.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Korea has plenty of beautiful natural traits to it that will make it friendly for outdoorsy hikers. Hiking is a national pastime here. Make sure to visit (and please, do so with respect) some of the gorgeous Buddhist Temples which are considered treasures.

If you're a bachelor and like drinking and partying till the sun comes up, take the KTX to Busan in the end of July/beginning of August and go to Haeundae Beach. They regularly have a million people there on a small strip of land. I've never seen so many beautiful women at any one place in my life, and fun loving Koreans down here on the Southern tip are used to seeing tourists from Western countries here and it's safe to even sleep at the beach.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Beautiful handmade Korean household goods, ceramics, pottery, utensils, fans. Again, try making some friends and embed yourself into the local culture instead of going to the easiest major tourist site where you'll get ripped off with Chinese made goods listed above. There is still an extremely proud and cultivated world of classic Korean goods that is popular here.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

A 24/7 city that is safe to roam 24/7, wonderful native cuisine, clean streets, and amazing public order.

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11. Can you save money?

It's very possible if you will eat the local cuisine and limit your night outings.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely! Seoul is called the Miracle on the Han River for a reason.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Perceptions of conservative Asians, inflexible eating habits, bad manners, claustrophobia of being surrounded by crowds.

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3. But don't forget your:

Winter clothing, American sized clothing in general, appetite for eating beef for cheaper prices.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Korean TV and film you can see on Netflix will never ever be an objective view of daily life here, same way U.S. reality TV can't substitute either. But they will give you a glimpse of how things look and sound.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Seoul is a very intense city and moves very fast. Subway commuters here will take some time to get used to (if you ever do) being rudely bumped by unapologetic people of all ages and gender rushing their way around without ever apologizing. It's a high paced city with tons of things to do. Only a handful of mega cities in all of Asia are as safe and comforting to travel around as Seoul.

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Seoul, South Korea 01/01/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

A third expat experience, after living in Europe and East Asia.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC.The flight from Dulles to Seoul, Incheon is about 14 hours. It's about 19 hours, if routed through Tokyo with a two hour layover.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Two-Year assignment to the U.S. Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

High rise apartment buildings are scattered throughout the city. The Embassy compound consists of post-war era duplexes, in a serene neighborhood with plenty of trees. Although it would be much more exciting to live off base, green grass for kids and dogs is a rarity in Seoul.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Food is fresh, but expensive on the local economy. The Noryangjin fish market has excellent seafood at great prices. Vegetables are fairly cheap if you buy them from a market or street vendor. Fruit can be expensive. Everything is very affordable at the Commissary.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

If you have specific toiletry products that you like to use, I suggest bringing extras. If you are not picky about brands, then this won't be a problem. If you have access to the Commissary or PX, you should not have any problems.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

The best thing about Korea is its food. Meals are pretty cheap and always include kimchi and other panchan (side dishes).Two people can easily eat a full meal for 14,000 won ($14) or less. I recommend trying the variety of stews - or jiggae. Bibimbap - rice mixed with meat and vegetables- is a reliable staple and Korean BBQ is also delicious. Samgyupsal -pork belly -- never disappoints!You may also want to try Korean style "chikin" - or fried chicken -- which is quite popular and comes in many delicious flavors. Prices are very reasonable. A meal with any of the above mentioned items easily goes for 7000 won ($7) per person. Korean restaurants generally have very quick service. But there are designated Korean fast-food chains, such as the Lotteria - which serves hamburgers and fries. Kimbap Heaven (Kimpap Chonguk) is another one of my favorites. You can get a generous serving of your favorite kimbap roll (sort of like a sushi roll) in about 2 minutes for under 4000 won ($4).Western fast food is slightly more pricey. KFC, Popeyes, McDonalds, and Burger King are all available. A new Taco Bell recently opened in Itaewon. Korean style Chinese food, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, and Japanese food are widely available in Seoul and other big cities. Coffee shops are widely available.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Life could be hard here for a vegetarian, at least on the surface. Tofu soup often has a meat broth and even the vegetable kimpap sometimes has a little ham. However, one can find vegetarian restaurants, with a little bit of research. If you're not at a vegetarian place, you have to be very specific about not wanting meat when ordering.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes can be a problem in the summer.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Government employees use APO.FedEX and local mail services are also available.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Housekeepers come once a week for $160 a month ($40 per week).Nannies are about $800 per month, plus costs of sponsorship. Babysitters are $10 per hour. Dog walkers are also available.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are gyms available on the local economy. The base has two gyms.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs are very convenient on base. If you don't have access to the base, international ATMs are located at major hotels. Credit cards are widely accepted at major establishments and safe to use. However, when market shopping or bargaining in Itaewon, discounts are only available if you pay in cash. Always have cash available if traveling to smaller towns outside of Seoul.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are churches, temples, and mosques in Seoul. Some of the larger churches offer English languages services or translations.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The International Herald Tribune, The Korea Times, The Korea Herald

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

The more Korean that you know and use, the better your experience will be. Koreans seem to genuinely appreciate when people learn their language. Knowing Korean phrases and making an honest effort to communicate in Korean pays dividends toward making friends and learning about the culture. In Seoul, you can make it around without any Korean -- but you would really be missing out on a lot. If you plan to be in Korea for a month or more, invest time in at least learning the alphabet (Hangul) and basic greetings. It would feel isolating after awhile to not be able to read the signs or to communicatewith the basics. Outside of Seoul, communication can be almost impossible without some Korean.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Newer buildings are more friendly to people with disabilities than older buildings, but it would still be challenging. Cross walks are equipped with signals for the visually impaired. The subway also has braille on each platform.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The subway is clean and affordable: you can ride almost anywhere in Seoul for 900 won (90 cents). Buses run frequently and are just as cheap as the subway. You can take a taxi across town for under 10,000 won ($10).Taxis are a great place to learn and practice Korean. I have met some very kind taxi drivers in Seoul.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

High speed internet is widely available.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phones are plentiful. Everyone has one.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Our pets did not need to be quarantined and the processing through customs is very simple, if you prepare in advance and have the proper health certificate/vaccinations.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

You will have to shop around, but quality vet care is available throughout Seoul. There is a 24 hour vet clinic in Kangnam (Chiryo Myeong Myeong/ Bow Wow Care)that provided us with excellent care when our dog was sick. There is also a well known vet clinic in Itaewon. Kennels are available. The best one that I have found is a Korean speaking place in Kangnam called Puppy School. It's probably best to have a Korean friend help you when contacting them. Kennels sometimes have breed restrictions.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes, if you want to be an English teacher. Defense contractor types also tend to do well.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Very formal at the office. Relaxed, but slightly more formal than in the U.S. in public settings.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Seoul is extremely safe. Women, children, and elderly people walk alone at night, in downtown areas. Itaewon has really cleaned up in the last several years-- don't believe any negative hype. Compared to New York, DC, or any other big American city, Seoul is very safe. Exercise the same caution that you would in any large urban area.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Excellent medical care is available in Korea. Many people get orthodontic work done or lasic surgery. Plastic surgery advertisements are everywhere!

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Generally moderate to unhealthy in Seoul.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The spring is short, but pleasant. Summer is hot, humid and rainy. Winter is long, and bitterly cold. Fall is beautiful, but way too short.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Education fever is very real in Korea. In that light, there are several reputable international schools to choose from. I don't have children, but I have heard good reviews from colleagues with children. There are also DOD options.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large. There are thousands of English teachers in Korea, a fair amount of business people, and a large military presence.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally good, but it depends on one's situation. It can be a difficult culture to break into, if you want to experience things in their truest form. If you are not worried about totally integrating with the Korean population, are content with doing "touristy" things, andenjoy living as an "expat"/"foreigner" - Korea can be a very easy place to live. If you make Korean friends, learn some of the language and are open minded about Korean food, you will probably do okay. Do I miss home when I can't walk into a store downtown and find my shoe or clothing size?Sure. But I also enjoy sitting on the heated floor of a small restaurant, trying to make sense of the menu and ordering food in my best Korean. The restaurant worker will usually smile at my efforts and then I get to share samgyupsal, kimchi and all the side dishes with my husband. That's the sort of thing you can only experience in Korea.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

If you like karaoke, norebang (karaoke rooms) are everywhere. Movie theatres are high quality. Korean restaurants are cheap and good. If you are part of the Embassy community, there are many opportunities to join clubs and socialize on base. People host house parties and BBQs. Many expats seem to find ways to volunteer at orphanages and animal shelters.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Like many cities in East Asia, this can be a difficult post for single women who are looking to date. There is a significant military presence in Seoul and throughout Korea, and you sometimes see soldiers who marry each other or the occasional new relationship between an expat woman and an expat man. However, it seems that most expat men here- whether English teachers or military affiliated - date Korean women or women from the Philippines. With that said, I have seen several Caucasian and African-American women who have married Korean men.(But I can count them on one hand.)Single men seem to have many options. This is a great family post. Seoul is safe, has several theme parks and child-oriented tourist attractions, good schools, and good medical care. As a married couple, we really enjoyed our time here. There are plenty of local restaurants to explore and plenty of adventures to be had at local markets and shopping centers, by visiting Jeju Island, or taking a weekend hiking trip.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It seems to be very "don't ask- don't tell."I have heard that there are gay-friendly establishments in Itaewon. In 2000, Korean actor Hong Seok-cheon was the first celebrity in Korea to come out. He was subsequently fired from a popular variety show and has since made a comeback as an entrepreneur.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. Those who say otherwise have probably not experienced it first-hand. There have been several instances when people have physically moved away from us on the subway and made no secret about not wanting to sit near us. Another African-American friend has experienced the same thing. Once when we were eating at a restaurant with a group of friends, a man approached us and we did our best to have a conversation with him in Korean. Afterwards he said, "I never liked black people, but now I do since I met you."(I am sure that in his mind, he thought this was a compliment.)This isolated incident certainly does not represent the majority of the population in Korea, and it did not define our whole experience. However, it was disappointing to experience this sort of thing in such a large city that has seen its fair share of expats. Other common prejudices include shop keepers and market people ignoring "foreigners" -- even when you speak to them in Korean. Again, the majority of shop keepers and market people will not do this, but it has happened to me often enough that it is worth noting.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Enjoying the lanterns and the crowds during an evening stroll along Cheoggyecheong Stream. Getting out of Seoul and exploring Korea's seven other provinces.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Hiking, skiing, eating, visiting the Yongsan Electronics Market or Techno Mart, going to the CGV movie theatre, shopping in Myeongdong, Namdaemun, and Dongdaemun, visiting a folk village, touring the DMZ, and learning about Korean War history. Practicing Korean.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Hanji (Korean paper) art is beautiful. Perhaps antique furniture? Celedon tea sets? Unique designer womens' clothing, if it fits? A hanbok (traditional Korean clothing)?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Eating kimchi, a spicy fermented cabbage; buying K-Pop at bargain prices; watching Korean dramas on local TV.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you avoid expensive restaurants and don't travel much.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, because I like my job, and I have invested in learning the language. However, if you are looking for a more exotic experience, you could get very bored here.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

perceptions of Korea based on stories from relatives who visited Korea thirty years ago. Tailoring is not cheap and Koreans enjoy a very high standard of living.

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3. But don't forget your:

sense of humor and assertive or defensive driving skills, depending on how you look at it.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Lonely Planet Korea; The Two Koreas by Don Oberdorfer; Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick; And So Flows History by Hahn Moo-Sook. Once you arrive in Korea, I recommend searching for a title such as "Our Country, Our Culture: How to Explain it in English."It's sort of interesting to read from the Korean point of view.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Shikgaek (Gourmet)- The story of a restaurant, two brothers, and how to be the best chef. Makes many cultural and historical references and shows scenery from around Korea. Alone in Love - A drama about a divorced coupleThe Man Who Can't Marry - A drama/comedy that takes a look at the life of an unmarried 40 year-old man.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Seoul has diverse beauty salon options. There are several shops in Itaewon where people get their hair braided and the hair stylists on base can give every type of perm, do braids, and cornrows. Be sure to read about the Korean War before coming.2010 was the 60th anniversary of the conflict and commemoration events will continue through 2011.

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Seoul, South Korea 12/27/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, also lived in Lome, Abidjan, Cairo, Ottawa, Port au Prince, Douala, Seoul, Sidi Slamaine (Morroco), St. George (Bermuda)

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Las Vegas. One hour to LA, 11 hours to Seoul

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 1/2 years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomat

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Terrible embassy housing, drafty, all clustered on an Army base, not close to public transportation. Very well maintained, however.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

For diplomats, cheap food and supplies are at the military commissary, Mostly all American products, some Korean items. Off base, better fresh vegetables.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing special.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Nice restaurants of every kind. From 5.00 to 50.00 per dinner, depending on what you like. You have McDonald's, Taco bell, and just about everything you can think of. And the Bulgarian restaurant is just perfect!

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

The commissary has Bob's Red Ball stocked, for gluten-free products and some-gluten free Pasta. There are also boca burgers in the commissary. It's adequate. Off base, there are gluten-free bakeries with bread and rolls.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

US diplomats have the APO, pretty reliable, but wrongly-routed mail is not unusual. Books can very very slow, over a month.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Help is usually 10.00 per hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The gyms on base are free for diplomats, but are dirty and unplesant, but with nice machines. Gyms are easy to find and are much nicer off the base.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

you can use credit cards just about everywhere, very reliable. For non-Korean-issued ATM cards, you need to find a "foreign" machine. On base the ATMS give local or US currency with no service charge.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The base has military cable TV, you will just love watching FOX news! Also included: HBO,Star, local stations and Animal Planet! There is also satellite and internet TV available.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None if you keep to the international areas and the base. Other times, you would be very lost. The US Embassy switchboard is open 24 hours a day, and I have used them for translating.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Not good, lots of stairs, cabs are ok though, subways have lots of stairs.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The KTX travels at 200 miles per hour across the country and it is inexpensive. Other trains are less expensive. The buses are nice: a four-hour trip can cost up to 18.00 US dollars -- not bad!

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You can bring any car, but fixing a Korea car is very inexpensive, parts are made next door in China. It is easy to buy a used car here. There is no car theft or carjacking. Driving is organized but agressive. People will run lights and stop signs, you have to be very aware while behind the wheel.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

On base, the Korean Telephone Internet is about 35.00 per month, fiber optic, fast.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You must use a Korean cell phone and buy it here, the system is not universal. Any phone that works anywhere else often won't work here. Some BlackBerries work here, good luck!

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No, if your papers are proper. Rabies protection has to be within a certain time frame, and a certificate of good health has to be current upon arrival.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Seems ok for cats on base.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Teaching English is easy to get, but a visa can be required. For American diplomats, you can bring students on base "legally" to teach them. The US military advertises jobs as well.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Suits mostly, for English teachers, very casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None. It's a very safe place, no real crimes against persons.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The military hospital is undependable. It is first for the military. You can wait hours and be turned away; not recommended. Off-base, Samsung is top notch, and St. Mary's is good, too, with international reception centers. Skin care is fantastic. Hair transplants, the best.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air is ok, not much polution.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very cold winters, mild summers, not too hot.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Many, thousands with the US military and the English-teaching community.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good morale, except for singles forced to live on base, who dislike the living arrangements very much. Families just love it though!

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Easy to find a party, and the bar scene is fun.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

U.S. Embassy housing is particularly nice for families all clustered together. It's terrible for singles, in a fish bowl, all clustered together. As a diplomat, you're in the Army now, not in Korea.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It's great for gay and lesbian people, lots of places to go and the expatriate gay community is friendly and interfaces with the Korean gay community well.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

This is not a very religious country. Koreans deal ok with other races in general. They had put up with the US military for 60 years.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Touring Korea is fantastic, there is so much to see, and the clasical Arts are available, symphony, dance, and many visiting artists.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Great art centers, concerts, performances, great guest artists, great places to visit, beautiful beaches, all pretty reasonable.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

furniture and custom-made clothes.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It's a very modern town, with very inexpensive public transportation, and many things to do and see.

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11. Can you save money?

Only if you don't eat out (its expensive here) or eat cheap Korean food.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Never. I hate group housing compounds, and the constant interface of the US Army base and the army police is terrible. Living on base pretty much kills the experience here unless you have a family, and then it's really nice living close to your kids' friends. So for families, yes, singles, no.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

not much.

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3. But don't forget your:

wallet and your sense of adventure. There is lots to do here. Get out of Seoul and see the countryside.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This post is an Army post. You don't experience Korea in you day to day life. If you ever wanted to be in the Military, this is the post for you. If you are single and want privacy, don't come here, if you can't stand living in a fishbowl. Your neighbors are your co-workers, its just hard to seperate work and your personal life. On the other hand, Koreans are fun and easy to mix with and the expatriate community is great. Once you get off base, you can have fun.

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Seoul, South Korea 09/30/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I lived in Caen, France

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years from 2002-2004 and 16 months from 2008-2009.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

13-hour direct flight from Washington D.C.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The US Embassy housing compound is typical government block compound units built about fifty years ago. While they aren't that dynamic architecturally, they are comfortable with reasonable amenities and nice yards, typically. GSO is VERY responsive and friendly here. Expats in Seoul working for multinationals live close to the military base and, if there housing allowance allows it, may find very upscale housing with nicely designed interiors with yards. Most Seoulites live in the literally thousands of high rises around the metropolitan area. Some are made for the pages of Architectural Digest while some, at least on the outside, could be a slum in any rundown neighborhood in the world. Design is better here as Seoul will be designated the Design Capital of the World in 2010.Developers have their work cut outfor them to undo the aesthetic misfortune created by their predecessors in the 1970s and 80s.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Plentiful. Groceries are not cheap here if you can't step outside of your comfort zone. If you have access to the US Commissary on base, then you can find virtually anything you need; however, if you are an expat that lives on the economy there are still affordable options. There is a Costco with both western and Korean items; E-Mart is a hypermarket that has excellent selection of produce, fresh meats and fish, and western items albeit expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

As a US Gov't. employee with base and commissary access, you needn't worry about availability of items. That is the case if you don't have access too although be prepared to pay higher.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are many decent to excellent restaurants in Seoul. If you like Korean food, you can get a feast for a very reasonable price, typically four to five US dollars. Most Korean restaurants are good as they know that with so many restaurants, they'll go out of business with substandard service. Seoul has more non-Korean restaurants opening all of the time from the moderately priced to the over-the-top ultimate epicurean experience and the expense to boot.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

After the rainy season, the mosquitoes incubate and come out in September and can last into early November. They are small, quick, and aggressive. Many people use mosquito nets and have the tennis racket zappers, which can be a lot of fun.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

US Government employees have use of an APO for US Mail. Fed Ex is available also. Other expats may use the Korean mail service and the usual courier services: Fed Ex, DHL, and UPS.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Most full-time (40 hours per week- weekdays) cost anywhere from $650 to $800 depending on what other benefits you provide (airfare back to their country, etc.).It's more expensive than most places in the world as the cost of living for them in the economy can be quite high.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gyms are available and some are similar to US-style gyms. The military base has a nice gym that is free and a nicer one that has a monthly fee. Many parks in Korea have outdoor workout equipment next to hiking and biking trails.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are easy to use at most businesses. If you're doing business with street vendors, they prefer cash. ATMs in Seoul are primarily for Korean banks although you can get a cash advance at some ATMs affiliated with international banks.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

On the base there are English-language services as in areas around Seoul where expats predominantly live- it's not an issue.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The Korea Herald and the International-Herald Tribune (partly owned by the New York Times) are available.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Koreans have come a long way with English, but without some basic Korean you will have a very frustrating experience. To know the language is to know the culture. Take at least an introductory course in order to learn the very user friendly and logical Korean alphabet.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Although the infrastructure is excellent here, not all areas are accessible by wheelchair for example; and, anyone with mobility issues will find it difficult at times navigating the city as many facilities, usually low rise, do not have elevators leading to multiple floors.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes. Trains/ subway cost about one US dollar for an average in-town jaunt- buses the same. Taxis cost typically four to five dollars for a ten to fifteen minute ride. Clearly, when traffic is heavier and the ride longer, one will pay more.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

There are no carjackings in Seoul. If you plan to buy a car in Seoul, get a Korean make as the repairs and parts are much cheaper than having a non-Korean make serviced; however, if you bring a car, you can get parts and service. NOTE: when driving in Seoul, it can be treacherous. While Korea has top-notch infrastructure, people still drive like they are in the developing world as they do not really stay in the lines, don't come to complete stops at intersections if they stop at all, and will cut you off in an instant to get an edge in the flow of traffic. It's L.A., Atlanta, or D.C. type of traffic. If you are in an accident, you will pay60 percent if you are at fault and the other party will pay the rest even if they were not responsible for the accident whatsoever. It's considered a vehicle operator user fee essentially.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Korea is considered the "most wired" country per capita in the world. Internet speed is superfast as Koreans would not tolerate slow connection speed. It's reasonably priced, typically $US40.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phones are great here as this is the land of Samsung and LG; however, for expats the rules of acquisition and service plans are restrictive and quite expensive. In most cases, non-Koreans have prepay plans although there are some contract/ monthly bill scenarios available depending on status.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Very briefly. The US Embassy has a customs and procurement specialist that will facilitate the entry of pets upon arrival. Be prepared to pay a cash fee and have paperwork ready prior to arrival. If you're with the US Embassy, this could not be any more efficient.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Pet care is good here although if your cat or dog is ill and needs blood, you may have to source it from a blood bank in the States or elsewhere as it is scare or non-existent in Korea.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Most jobs for people that don't already have one here are based in the English teaching profession. It is very difficult to come to Korea and find work in a corporate environment without prior connections or a solid network.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Formal business attire. Korean dress to the nines. If you're socializing, it can be come as you are, but not necessarily like Jeff Lebowski.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Unhealthy, but Seoul is rapidly becoming a green city. Most, if not all of the buses run on LPG.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Not sure. I got Hep A and B, dengue. There is no need for malaria treatment in spite of the pesky mosquitoes.

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Other than one particular issue to the north, Seoul is perhaps the safest place that I've ever been in my life. There are petty crimes, but it is rare and isolated. There are poorer parts of town, but there are no safety correlations.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is excellent. This used to be a post without an RMO, but that has changed. The base has a military hospital which provides limited services to non-military government personnel. The medical office through the embassy provides referral services for local practitioners at state of the art medical facilities in Seoul. Doctors here are excellent, well-trained, and often speak English very well; however, they do not like to be questioned about philosophy. It's a "my way or the highway" type of attitude.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Four seasons- fall and spring are beautiful. Winter is a damp cold, but rarely does it snow with any precipitation. Summer is similar in temperature to the mid-Atlantic US with a rainy season that lasts about four to five weeks from July to August. When the rainy season is over you can see the steam coming out of the ground the last week of peak summer heat.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are a few international schools to choose from in Seoul from pre-school to high school. Most of the schools consist of expats, but many are populated by permanent ethnic Korean residents whose children have foreign passports, a requirement to attend such schools, in order to get a hand up on other Korean children since these schools are typically English speaking. Many expat kids can be chastised by the cliques of Korean students that know one another since they have grown up and gone to school together for a long time. Korean is spoken on the playground of these schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

The local schools often shun children with special needs. I knew of one parent whose kids went to private school; however, there special needs child attended the US Military school that catered to children with such needs. Many parents end up homeschooling these children due to lack of services. Attitudes in Korea are changing, however. It will require a network and infrastructure to facilitate.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Preschools include: Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC); Preschool Academy (PSA); Franciscan School; Namsan School; Rainbow Preschool. Preschools are very expensive in Seoul with many of them costing over $10,000 US and up to $20,000.The military base has a part time preschool for eligible government personnel and there is a daycare facility as well that follows rules and regulations outlined by base command and is quite good.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes- there are tae kwon do clubs and other martial arts programs. Most sports are offered at schools; however, the military base has a number of sports offered throughout the year.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Not real sure, but korea4expats.com and globalseoul.co.kr probably have that information. It has grown considerably since we were here in 2002.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

For US Embassy personnel, it can be quite enjoyable depending on the attitude of colleagues. There are some established events and traditions on post that are really a great deal of fun. Of course, there are official functions as well as the Marine Ball and the number of activities and special events offered on the US Military Garrison where most US government personnel live.

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3. Morale among expats:

It wavers. If you come here and try to compare things to your own norm, you're going to be disappointed at times. If you come here with an open mind and explore Seoul and immerse yourself in the culture, you're going to have a great time.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes to all of the above. Seoul and Korea as a whole is waiting to bust out of its shell. There are so many interesting things to do in Seoul and Korea. The problem is that things truly get lost in translation. I've been here for three years now and feel like I've just scratched the surface because so many things that I'd like to see and understand are not articulated in a way to appreciate them completely.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There seems to be pockets in Seoul where homosexuality is prevalent and tolerated. However, your typical Korean is not really warm and fuzzy about the subject.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Koreans are very much about outward appearances and will discuss one's appearance very candidly, which can be refreshing. However, xenophobia, while diminishing as Seoul becomes more transient, is still pervasive. Non-Koreans are often addressed as "foreign person".

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Seeing the DMZ is a must; it is a fascinating yet chilling experience to come face to face- literally- with someone that could spark an international incident with the slightest shows of disrespect. Hiking is the national pastime in this country as you'll see Koreans and expats alike heading to local mountains routinely for sometimes grueling hikes straight uphill- no switchbacks. There are many palaces dating back 500+ years. There are theme parks for kids and families. Spas/ saunas are prevalent and can range in price for entry from ten to thirty US dollars for entry. At these places you can soak in multiple mineral baths of varying temperature, get a massage, sleep, and eat a reasonably priced meal. The best thing to do is befriend Koreans and do what they do if you want the best Korean experience.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Celadon pottery and other earthenware; custom-made clothing; Korean art and supplies; handcrafted households items made from silk, rice, and other materials.

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9. Can you save money?

Seoul is not cheap, but if you live like a Seoulite and take advantageof some of the things that are value-added, it's not too bad.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

In a second.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Attitude.

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3. But don't forget your:

Korean-English dictionary

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

I don't know of any.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

I don't know of any.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

JSA; Shiri; Old Boy (very disturbing but avant-garde); My Sassy Girl; The Way Home; Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall, and Spring (something like that)

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Like any new place, Seoul depends upon the attitude of the expat. This can be a great post or it can be one where you're totally isolated. The best thing to do is learn some of the language, get out into Seoul and the rest of Korea (GPS recommended), eat the food, and make Korean friends (FSNs are great about sharing their culture).You will have a great time here.

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Seoul, South Korea 07/30/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Government.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

11 hours to West Coast and 14 hours to East Coast - direct flights are available to major cities.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Single family duplex housing on a military compound. Commute time to Embassy is about 15-25 minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Cheap and affordable on base. Expensive on the economy.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing I can think of.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Just about every type of fast food and world foods are available. Quality of world cuisines are rapidly increasing although often expensive.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO available.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Embassy officers are allowed to sponsor domestic help. The process is not that difficult but you have to have someone identified. Also, very affordable compared to the local economy and any help you can get in the US.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

On base, credit cards are accepted and ATMs are available. Off-base, major hotels and restaurants accept foreign credit cards. Some ATMs accept foreign cards.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, on base.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes - affordable.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Not much although would be very helpful when traveling outside of Seoul.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many buildings have handicapped access and so do many forms of public transportation (subways, buses).

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

They are all very affordable and safe.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any and all types of vehicles are fine. Luxury foreign vehicles are an increasingly common sight, despite high prices. Traffic can get heavy like most major cities but experience will help you navigate more efficiently. Most drivers in Korea use a GPS Navigator (including almost all taxi drivers).

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Very good service at around US$35/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Internet based phone if you can but its pretty cheap now. Korea is one of the most advanced countries in the world in terms of telecommunications.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Not sure.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Seems that way. Always demand for English speakers.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business attire. Koreans are very fashion conscious.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

It has improved a lot in the last 10 years. But still a problem like most major cities around the world.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None to speak of really. One of the safest places on earth. Some incidents due to excessive drinking.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Top notch medical care. Koreans are particularly good at dental and skin care.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Four seasons - similar to DC.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Several choices -excellent reputation.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Not sure.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Available on the base. Mixed reviews.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Lots.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Great night life. You can find people out eating/drinking well past midnight every single day of the week.

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3. Morale among expats:

Generally not to bad although you hear the usual whining about pollution, traffic, etc.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for families. For singles, definitely mixed. Some love it, some not so much.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Generally not that tolerant but there are sections of the city that are known to have gay bars/clubs.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Religiously tolerant society.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Lots. Palaces, museums, water parks, theme parks, sightseeing, etc. Also, hiking, golfing and skiing are popular activities.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Art work and pottery.

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9. Can you save money?

If you like traveling, shopping, and eating good food outside the base, definitely not. But if you rely mostly on the base, you can definitely save.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Impressions of Korea as a developing country.

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3. But don't forget your:

Wallet. It's expensive.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Seoul, South Korea 05/01/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I've lived in three other large Asian cities.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I am a U.S. government employee.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Good non-stop routes to many cities in Asia, the U.S. and Europe.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

One story ranch style duplex homes on the army base in a shady, tree lined compound. It's very safe for kids and quiet. The houses are modest but adequate and most have nice yards. The quiet park like compound is the best part of this post. Commute time is about 15-20 minutes to the Embassy, but traffic is bad.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Excellent and very low priced at the commissary on base. It's not Whole Foods and you won't find your organic olive bar here, but it has the basics and is really cheap. The PX is akin to a large Target or Wal-Mart and has your basic household items. Everything else can be brought in via the APO.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Everything is available here. Perhaps some gardening items.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Many available-there are several fast food restaurants on the base and many in Seoul. However, the best aspect of Korea is its food-which is also fairly affordable if you stick to the small regular street restaurants.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I have APO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Expensive. The new South Korean visa regulations regarding the sponsorship of third country domestics has created a lot of problems as well as added to the expense.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

You can use your credit card or debit everywhere on base. Credit cards are not as widely accepted in Korea as in the U.S. but are still accepted at many major locations.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

All available on base.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Good AFN Cable, affordable. English papers and magazines also available.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You don't really need to know any Korean but it is, of course, nice if you do.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Some. As with many large Asian cities, no thought has been given in Seoul's urban planning to those with disabilities (or even small children in strollers).

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right-same as the U.S.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Safe and affordable. Buses are great and the subway is also excellent.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Anything would be suitable. There are several good garages next to the base that can perform routine maintainence.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Great broadband at about US$35 a month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Everyone has one-either provided by work or bought themselves.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype. Phone cards.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Good pet care on base.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes. Teaching mostly.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business-suits, the usual. Same as at home. The Koreans dress more formally than most Americans and are very style conscious.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Bad compared to the U.S., but moderate compared to other polluted Asian cities. Not nearly as bad as I'd been led to expect.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None really. The usual caveats apply regarding being out late at night at bars, etc..

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Good health care is available here (a lot of Class 2 medicals get placed here) both on the base and on the local economy. There is something of a plastic surgery boom going on amongst expats. No real health concerns-save traffic accidents.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Cold winters, some snow. Hot muggy summers. Similar to D.C. There is a bad mosquito problem on the base.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is the Seoul American School and elementary, junior high and high school on base. I've heard mixed reviews.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

This can be a problem. There are two daycare facilities on base-Mustard Seed and the base's community daycare. Nannies are difficult to sponsor and it is expensive to sponsor them. Most are from the Phillipines.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge-thousands.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of nightlife, bars and restaurants, although expensive. People on base are BBQ mad-it's like somekind of Stepford-ville on the weekends.

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3. Morale among expats:

Pretty good.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Very good for families and single men. Not so good for single women. Very bad for single parents (too expensive).

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Moderately tolerant. There are some gay bars and nightlife, etc.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not too much. Seoul is a tolerant city. There are mosques, churches and Buddhist temples here and expats of all colours. That said, this is not the most multi-ethnic city in Asia.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Hiking, visiting the palaces and few historic sights, gardening (in your own yard), a variety of small town activities on base (bowling, put put golf-if that's your thing), some okay shopping, sight-seeing, going to the beach (in southern Korea), and all the sleazy bars you can shake a stick at.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Traditional styled Korean blanket chests and celadon pottery are about the only unique items here. The rest of the junk is knock offs from China that can be bought cheaper in China if bought at all.

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9. Can you save money?

No no and more no.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No. Who wants to live on an army base? Plenty of people, it turns out, but not myself. It puts a huge barrier between you and Korea. Many people never leave the base except to go to the sleazy bars in Itaewon. It's not an interesting cross-cultural experience. Seoul is way too overpriced for what it is-which is a city not nearly as sophisticated as Tokyo nor as interesting and cheap as a Bangkok or Beijing. For these prices, I could be in Paris.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Belief that Seoul is a shopper's paradise. It's too expensive and most of the stuff is from China anyway.

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3. But don't forget your:

Debit card. You can use it everywhere on base.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

This is a good post for some, not for others. Consider your needs. It's expensive and the army base is a drag. The city isn't very colourful or exciting and the traffic is horrific. On the other hand, it's safe and you could easily snooze through your three year tour here without ever realizing you're overseas at all. You decide whether or not that's something you are interested in.

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