Living in Korea has been an amazing experience and there is nothing in the world that I would change it for. It has been during these years that I have become independent, as it was the first time that I have lived outside of my parents' house. One of the adjustments that I had to learn, and you will as well when you are teaching in Korea, is learning how to operate your apartment. This blog will introduce you to some residential Korean customs and teach you how to utilize many of the appliances that you will have in your Korean apartment.
Many teacher apartments in Korea will have a refrigerator/freezer, bed, ondol (floor heating system), air conditioning, washer/dryer and appliances that were probably left behind from previous teachers. Since almost all of the appliances are written in Korean, hopefully this guide will help you do some of the basic necessities you need to live in Korea.
The washer/dryer unit will be similar in almost all of the apartments. Since Korean housing needs to be compact, the washer will almost always also serve as a dryer as well. However, most of the time, the dryer will not work well due to the moisture left from the washer. I strongly suggest that you invest in a separate drying rack or outside hangers so that your clothes can dry well. Another thing is, many times the washing machine will stop the rinse cycle due to the amount of clothes in the washer. So you may need to take some out to continue to spin cycle. This may become tedious but do look out for it. Here are some key functions that you need for your washer/dryer:
세탁 - Laundry 건조 - Dry 표준 - Normal
삶음 - Boiling 급속 – Quick Wash 란재리 – Lingerie/Underwear
타월 - Towel 침구 - Bedding 커튼 - Curtains
헹굼 – Rinse Cycle 탈수 – Wring Out
You can also choose to use a dry cleaning service. My dry cleaners are on the first floor of my building. You can usually find dry cleaners relatively close to your home and their prices are not too bad ranging from (2,000-5,000 won) per item. Obviously, larger items like jackets and blankets will be more expensive (8,000 to 15,000 won).
One thing I love about Korea is the heating system. Where I’m from, if I woke up in the middle of winter, the floor would be cold and it would wake me up from my drowsiness. However, in Korea the heating system is underneath the floor. Thus, your entire apartment would be warm. Many teachers like to dry their clothes on the floor (assuming that it is clean) during the winter months. However, it can be tricky to use. My ondol system is attached to my water boiler so I needed to use both in order to survive wintertime. Here are key functions that you would need for your ondol/water heater:
전원/재가동 – Power/Re-start
목욕 – Bath/Shower
취침 – Sleep Mode
실내 – Inside the Room
수온설정 – Temperature Settings
Although water and electricity are normally inexpensive and added onto your apartment maintenance bill, gas is not. I have had teachers whose bill may end up over 100,000 won. I strongly suggest if you want to save some money, invest in a space heater (between 20,000-40,000 won). This will save you a bunch of money if you want to keep your apartment warm. Lastly, don’t forget to turn off the gas when you are away. I left my heater on while I was at work and my room 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) when I got home! Always double check before you step out the door.
In Korea, by law, you must recycle. I really enjoy this, however at times it can be an inconvenience. Whenever throwing out trash, you must use the colored plastic bags that are assigned to your region. You can buy these specific shopping bags at E-Mart and Homeplus for 400 won and use them for throwing out garbage. Also, somewhere outside or in the garage of your building, you will see different recyclable bins. They are designated into plastics bottles, aluminum cans, glass bottles etc. Do your best to not throw these away with your trash. If you are caught doing so, you may get fined by your apartment complex. CCTV (closed circuit television) is everywhere and I have had teachers not recycle correctly who ultimately ended up getting fined. Recycling is super easy in Korea, so please try your best to do so.
If you are looking for new appliances, the first place that you should look at is E-Mart, Homeplus, or the GMarket website. However, I don’t mind purchasing second hand items. Many of these items are from previous English teachers around the Seoul area. The best ones I found are through two Facebook groups: Bundang buy and sell and the HBC/Itaewon information board. You can get many things for cheap using this site. Also, you may be able to haggle in price with the owner thus saving you more money.
Hopefully your transition into your new apartment will go well. If you want to see what some of the apartment looks like, please click here.
After working for five years in banking, Marc decided that it was time for a change before he got too old. He left the stress from his 9-5 job to do something new and different. After coming to Korea with a group of buddies, he landed in the Gangdong Branch in Eastern Seoul. When he's not teaching and doing head instructor duties, he is out about traveling Korea, looking for the new, old, and undiscovered places to visit. Follow him on Twitter @geonmakku and on Instagram @geonmakku for the latest happenings in South Korea.