Many Koreans live in apartments. High rise apartment buildings spread across the skylines of all major cities of South Korea. Living in your apartment while Teaching in South Korea may be similar overall to living in an apartment in the United States; however, there are a few interesting differences you should be aware of upon moving into your Korean apartment.
A Typical South Korean apartment
Life in Korea takes place on a lower level, on the floor. Traditionally, Koreans sit on cushions on the floor rather than sofas or chairs, and many apartments are designed to accommodate this way of life. Because of this, Koreans try their best to keep floors clean by taking their shoes off at the front door. I maintain this tradition in my own apartment to keep the floors clean and because I'm now in the habit of taking my shoes off when entering other homes and places of business.
Say goodbye to shower curtains and bathtubs. Most small Korean apartments come equipped with a shower head tucked away in the corner of the bathroom. You will often find yourself showering right next to your sink and toilet. While brushing and shaving as you shower is quite convenient , prepare for the entire bathroom to be soaked when you are done. Check out a video tour of an Aclipse teacher's apartment to see what I mean.
Understanding and interpreting appliances in your Korean apartment can be confusing as the instructions are usually written in Korean. I had a Korean friend teach me how to use various appliances in my house and he even drew diagrams to help me remember what button does what.
- Washing machine/dryer- Washing machines and dryers in Korean apartments are a single unit. The machine will automatically switch from washing your clothes to drying your clothes, a great convenience. However, the dryer uses a lot of energy and can make your electric bill soar. To save money I hang dry my clothes, a very common practice in Korea. I had a difficult time deciphering the washing machine with its many buttons, all in Korean. My Korean friend was a huge help.
- Heater/Air conditioner- Most Korean apartments are equipped with heated floors. Heated floors keep the apartment nice and toasty in the winter. It is wonderful to wake up on a cold morning and put your feet down on a warm floor. This is one of my favorite features of living in a Korean apartment, a real luxury.
- The air conditioner most likely will be a tall, upright unit tucked into the corner of the room. You will find these in many homes and businesses. They are remarkably efficient at cooling down a room. However, using your air conditioner all the time can get very expensive. To save money I open the windows and turn on the fan.
- Kitchen appliances- Korean kitchens are probably similar to what you are used to, with a few quirks. Your kitchen will probably not have a range like you are used to. My kitchen has a gas stove and a small counter top oven. You may or may not have a microwave. My kitchen also came with a large rice cooker and a supply of chopsticks.
- Front door- Say goodbye to your key ring. A 5-digit code entered into a key pad unlocks my front store instead of a key. My door is also equipped with a security alarm. I find it freeing not to carry a key around with me all the time. I never have to remember to bring my key or worry about losing it. I can also easily give the code to a friend if they need to enter my apartment. It’s a wonderful and surprising modern convenience of living in a Korean apartment.
- Cable and internet- Getting cable and Wi-Fi hook ups in your apartment is easy and convenient. You may run across a TV show or movie in English on a few channels (CSI and action movies are popular), but the only 100% English station is CNN International.I do not have a Wi-Fi modem installed in my apartment because I can easily access other networks in my building. However, my fellow teacher friends have set up Wi-Fi connections in their apartments with no hassle.
Korean apartments are much smaller than apartments in the U.S. Korea is a small country with a large population, and everyone must live in smaller spaces and in tighter quarters. You will probably hear your neighbors moving around next door and people walking around on the street. But, this is all part of the adventure of living in South Korea.
Adam Montgomery is a 25-year old teacher at the Chungdahm Branch on Jeju. He has been teaching in Korea for six months. When he is not teaching, he enjoys exploring the wonders of Jeju and Korea.