Are you tired of seeing ‘10 reasons to live in Seoul’, ‘10 best restaurants in Seoul’, ‘10 best tourist attractions in Seoul’ articles? Following Korean Tourism government pages via social media sites really make me feel tired and bored seeing Seoul being marketed in the most repetitive and kind of misleading way. There is life outside of Seoul you know…and sometimes, the big glamorous capital is not for everyone. If you were like me who was panicked to find out I was to be positioned outside of Seoul…well don’t be, because here are 10 advantages living outside of Seoul:
1. Higher quality of Korean food
Korean food is undeniable one of the best feature of Korean culture, but did you know that there are cities and counties which specialise in certain dishes and almost none of them are located in Seoul? It is also common knowledge to Koreans that the agricultural Jeolla-province of Korea is very famous for its Korean food. I have been blessed to live in one of these cities, Gwangju for 2 years now and frankly speaking the difference in quality and taste is seriously incomparable. I remember eating a Bulgogi dish at Seoul’s famous cultural area of Insadong…and honestly it was like chewing pieces of shredded rubber. One of Korea’s top expat e-magazines (10 Mag) has listed 10 best secret but famous Korean dishes to try out, and 7 of them are located in Gwangju, and 3 of them are located about 1-2 hours away. They are so good, even locals want it to be a secret and keep it all to themselves.
It is not to say all of Seoul’s Korean restaurants are crap, but it is definitely harder and rare to find an authentic Korean restaurant of good quality and taste unlike in Jeolla-do. Oh and it is cheaper!
2. Less Crowded!
Well this is a no brainer but it is DEFINITELY less packed and crowded outside of Seoul. Are you claustrophobic or hate people bumping into you and not apologizing? Honestly it doesn’t bother me unless a drunk idiot does it on purpose in Hongdae (I’ll find you, twat). It is also one of the reasons why my father has a certain dislike for Koreans. Cultural thing or not…don’t push guys…or if you do, a little ‘mianhapnida’ will suffice. Anyways, by living outside of Seoul, you will not have to experience the hell of the rush hour or weekend when you commute somewhere or try to shop at a popular mall. Every Korean friend I met who lives in Seoul they all said “Seoul is a great city but there are just too many people”. Another friend once told me she wanted to go to Costco which is almost at the other side of the city, and due to traffic it took them 5 hours! Bleeeeuuurrrghhhh
Whether it’s food, snacks, public transport, apartments, living outside of Seoul means things are generally more affordable. Like buying and renting an apartment for example, what you pay for in Seoul you can get double the size outside of Seoul. The cost of a one room apartment might be the cost of a two bedroom apartment outside. Oh and I mentioned this before, but eating out is cheaper and usually more tasty!
4. Higher salary and benefits (foreign teachers only)
Yep, I can talk from public school experience (If you are working in a Hagwon, it really depends on your employer) that if you work in a public school outside of Seoul, you will get more pay! I cannot say exact amounts as all schools are different but I would say around $300 to $500+ difference. After my first year I really was eager to work in Seoul however I calculated that if I ditched by current position I would’ve lost around $6000 a year. Yeah…not worth it. Usually in Seoul, teachers get about one or two weeks off a year compared to those who work outside of Seoul who get around a month and two weeks off a year. I will stress, I cannot talk for everyone but this was what it was like for me and my friends around this province. Oh and as mentioned above it will be very likely you will get a bigger apartment!
5. Raw untouched culture
Whenever I go to Seoul it somehow feels like the Korean culture there has been severely damaged by pressures of becoming a ‘global city’. Usually I ponder whether a capital city is really a definitive representation of a country’s culture? Having lived in London my whole life I guess it took living abroad to have a better understanding of my home. Well, the answer is no. Sure, Seoul can be fun and there are TONNES to do and all…but remember the bustling city is full of people constantly working to live. It’s ‘Balli-balli’ culture really make the city adapt to people’s needs to be faster and faster and faster, hence the culture suffers as it evolves…and let’s not go over the food quality again…
Travelling outside of Seoul you get to experience slow cities and countryside which has been untouched by pressures of global media and tourism. If you get to travel each city and county…you get to discover their own unique stories, legends, cuisines, and traditions. Therefore you can really get an idea of the bigger picture of Korean culture. Even the people in different cities have their famous dialects and characteristics…it’s incredible.
6. Epic Nature and sceneries
Sure Seoul has really iconic landmarks such as Gyeongbukgung and Namsan Tower, however I never once seen something natural and thought, WOW what a breathtaking sight. Seoul life can be really fast and busy, so many times Koreans like to travel outside of Seoul for the weekend for some fresh air and to relieve some stress from work….oh and might I add there are no beaches in Seoul or any ‘decent’ beaches nearby Seoul. My suggestion for beaches? Travel down south like Busan and Jeju Island!
7. Learn Korean faster
It is a known fact that you are able to survive in Seoul knowing only English. However if you live in a small town or city outside of Seoul it can be a struggle to communicate with Koreans, but not impossible! The fact that you are forced to learn basic Korean to do groceries, or going to the café or restaurant, you will naturally pick up the language faster than someone living in Seoul. Everyday will be an opportunity for you to practise Korean phrases and to learn new words.
8. Cleaner/Less pollution
Believe it or not but the air is actually really different the further you are away from Seoul. Less traffic means less fumes and cleaner and fresher air. You also don’t see rubbish cans throwing up overflowing rubbish every night unlike Hongdae and Myeongdong. The rotting wastes produced since daytime can waft in the air throughout the streets and you can see them again early morning…eww
9. You will be more adventurous
Being in Seoul you might feel already too comfortable, and because you know you are living in one of the best cities in the world, it may make you think “everywhere will be a less good version of Seoul so why bother?”. Either that or because there are just too many things to do in Seoul, hence you might not feel the need to explore anywhere else. However if you live in a remote place or a small town you can get very bored after a few weeks of moving in hence you are more motivated to explore different parts of Korea in case you die of boredom. If you live far away from Seoul it will be more likely you will have travelled more and become more knowledgeable about Korea than Seoulites within a year or so.
‘Jeong’ is a special kind of Korean ‘love’ which involves being kind, sympathy, affection, sharing, and unconditionally love someone or a community. It is true that it exists everywhere in Korea including Seoul, but the level of ‘jeong’ is different in various parts of Korea. It is known that ‘jeong’ increases as you travel southwards. Having travelled around Korea a lot and meeting various people, I can definitely agree that Seoul has the least ‘jeong’ (and they’re famous for it too apparently as Koreans nickname Seoulites ‘깍쟁이들’ which means ‘cold hearted people’) since everybody is very individualistic whereas places like Jeju Island or a small city/town there is a more of a community feel. An example was when my coat ripped in the middle of the street (my only coat T_T) and so I immediately went to the clothing repair shop. With the broken Korean language at my disposal I asked how much it will cost blah blah blah. Not only did he do a perfect job stitching it up immediately but also he did it for free! Everytime I face a problem, people seem to willingly help to a great extent outside of Seoul, no matter who you are, whereas in Seoul…it seems more difficult, and they seem to not care as much. Seoul is SO big, it’s really hard to form a close community. Just sayin’
I’m not hating on a particular city, I just want to raise awareness of the epicness of Korea as a whole country rather than just Seoul, in which the social media only seem to focus on these days.
I still love the capital very very much, but I’m tired of reading about how Namsan Tower as Psy are the number 1 icons for Korea. Boring.