Teaching English in Korea is usually a desirable choice because of the amount of savings you could accumulate over a short period of time. Korea has been top of the ESL charts for the past 10 years when it comes to salaries and benefits. Even teachers starting-out get paid reasonably and there is the opportunity to rack-up a good amount of money after one year.
The main question most incoming teachers ask is would I be able to save more money in the countryside or in a major city? This depends a lot on your experience, the salary you get offered and your lifestyle. Overall however, you can save money in both the countryside and the city while living in Korea. Here is a helpful Korean currency converter for the countryside and the city, so you can make useful comparisons.
Living in the Korean countryside can save you a lot of money. In my first three years teaching in Korea, I had the opportunity to live in Chungcheongnam-do province. This province is renowned for being 'really' countryside and the people are famous for being genuine and kind. Living and teaching in the Korean countryside is a lot cheaper than living in a major city, like Seoul or Busan. Living costs are lower and so are daily expenses. Everything from transport to grocery shopping will be cheaper than the city, especially since you cannot overspend on all the wonderful foreign goods and shops you have in the city. However, it is important to note, that this depends on how much you travel on the weekends and what you choose to spend during these adventures.
Expenses for 1 month:
Accommodation: 400,000￦ - 600,000￦
Utilities: 50,000￦ - 80,000￦ (Gas, Water, Electricity)
Gym: 40,000 - 70,000￦
Transport: 40,000 - 60, 000￦ (Bus)
Groceries: 250,000￦ - 350,000￦ (Food and Necessities)
Local Travel: 80,000￦ – 400,000￦
Korean restaurant: 8,000￦ - 18,000￦
Foreign restaurant: 17,000￦ - 30,000￦
Coffee date: 3,000￦ - 10,000 ￦
Street food: 1000￦ - 7000￦
Late night cab: 5,000￦ - 10,000￦
Night out: 15,000￦ - 25,000￦
Major City: (Seoul, Busan, Daegu)
When compared to the Korean countryside the city is considerably more expensive. However, this depends largely on your lifestyle and the way you choose to spend you extra time and money. If you have already lived in the countryside before, and do not need to travel Korea as much, then the city would not work out to be as expensive as you had previously budgeted. But, if it is your first time travelling and teaching abroad, then you will need to take into consideration that traveling Korea on the weekends and doing activities inside your city during the week, will add to your general expenses a lot.
There are of course ways to save money while living in the city too. For example, I have been living in Seoul for this past year and have managed to save a good budget every month by walking to most places and eating at home. I avoid catching cabs by using public transport, and try to take advantage of the many entry-free tourists sights Seoul has to offer. Also, I do only do one major trip a month and have lowered expenses on leisurely shopping and items I do not need.
Expenses for 1 month:
Accommodation: 650,000￦ - 900,000￦
Utilities: 80,000￦ - 150,000￦ (Gas, Water, Electricity)
Gym: 80,000￦ - 150,000￦
Transport: 50,000￦ - 80,000￦ (Bus)
Groceries: 350,000￦ - 500,000￦ (Food and Necessities)
Local Travel: 50,000￦ - 250,000￦
Korean restaurant: 15,000￦ - 100,000￦
Foreign restaurant: 30,000￦ - 100,000￦
Coffee date: 6,000￦ - 20,000￦
Street food: 2000￦ - 10,000￦
Late night cab: 15,000￦ - 30,000￦
Night out: 50,000￦ - 200,000￦
Countryside and City Miscellaneous Things:
2L Coke: 2,514￦
Bottle of Wine: 14,000￦
Movie Ticket: 10,000￦
Bag of Crisps: 2,500￦
Steak Fillet: 32,000￦
Train Ticket: 15,000￦
KTX Ticket: 35,000￦
Kimchi Jigae: 5,000￦
Korean BBQ: 22,000￦
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information on teaching in Korea!