I sat down with former EFL teacher Colleen Hartley (now an overseas recruiter with Aclipse) who taught in South Korea for 2 years. In our interview, she answers some common questions about moving to South Korea. You can also watch and learn more about Colleen's experiences in South Korea here!
How difficult is it to set up a bank account in Korea as a foreigner? Well, the first thing you need to know is that the school will help you set it up, so don't stress over it. You can create a remittance account that connects to your bank account here in the US. All you need is your account number and your international routing number, which you can obtain from your bank here (it's different than the routing number on your checks). There are some minor fees involved but it’s really simple to do a quick banking transfer in-person or you can even do it online. And your ATM will work over there; most major banks will accept your ATM card, such as Bank of America, but of course there are fees. By the second week you’re there, you’ll have a bank account. Bring 200-400 dollars in won (or you can exchange it there). To bring won with you, make sure you order it from the bank 2-3 weeks before your departure date. You can also exchange USD for Won at any major airport. I recommend taking out one lump sum and putting it into your newly created Korean bank account and then you’ll be able to stop taking money out and just pay a one time fee-the ATM transaction fee and exchange rate fee. That will get you going in Korea and pretty soon you'll be getting paid by your school and they should be able to deposit that directly into your Korean bank account.
What about setting up a phone in Korea? Korean phone service companies can be very skeptical about setting up a plan for foreigners. You’ll probably have trouble finding a Korean friend to co-sign on an account. So here's what I think is the best and easiest way to go about it. Buy a used or new phone and get a pay as you go phone, which means you can add minutes as you use them. That can get to be expensive but texting is a much cheaper option. Usually, you'll text your friends in Korea more than you call them anyway and you can use Skype to talk to your friends and family back home. Otherwise, the KEB, Korean Exchange Bank, has an international phone plan for foreigners. You can call home at a much cheaper rate without phone cards. If you go to www.KEB.co.kr/English you might find out more information about bank accounts in Korea, as well as international phone plans.
Where can you buy English language books in Korea? Buying English books is really easy if you know the right places to shop. There’s a famous store in Seoul called What the Book? And if you don’t live in Seoul, you can order it online from them (shipping from Seoul to another city in Korea is a lot cheaper than ordering off Amazon, for example). http://www.whatthebook.com/ This is the cheapest way to order books in Korea. It also gets delivered right to your house! I think they have the largest collection of used English-language books in the country.
Thanks to Colleen for taking the time to sit down with us and share all this great information! If you have any questions about living in Korea, please feel free to comment and I will get back to you ASAP!
Watch Colleen's South Korea video where she shares more about her experiences teaching in South Korea. Just click here.