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Living in Korea | Challenges of Moving to South Korea

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

Korea is a great place to live with some really fun things you won't find back home (Getting chicken and beer delivered to the Han River is wonderful!). It's also becoming more international each year with major concerts and shows featuring pop stars from around the world. However, living there does have its challenges.

Despite its ultramodern skyscrapers and efficient transportation system, Korea, at its heart, has a very different culture from what you may be used to. Those differences become obvious once you start doing things like opening a bank account and ordering groceries. These are more challenging when you have food allergies or dietary requirements. If you don't know Korean, you might have a hard time getting by.

When I first moved from Orange County, California to Seoul in 2006, I thought I was ahead of the curve. I learned to read and say basic greetings before setting foot in the country. When I arrived in the big city of 10 million people, all that went out the window. It was like the difference between practicing an instrument and playing it in front of a live audience. People were in such a hurry that they didn't wait for me to form a sentence. The long trip and longer hours at work didn’t help matters. It would have been nice to have someone I could call unrelated to my place of employment who had my back.

I actually did know a few Korean people outside of work when I arrived, but didn't want to bother them with borderline trivial things. It's better to keep that favor in my back pocket in case of emergencies.

One of the most difficult challenges was navigating government websites with my ARC (alien registration card) info. Korean names are usually three characters long so my first name rarely fits in the fields. Not to mention figuring out whether I should include my middle name, which becomes like a high school math quiz on permutations.

A service like Wonderful would have been great for situations like understanding my employment contract, figuring out banking digital certificates (I still struggle with this after a decade), ordering groceries online, buying KTX tickets and communicating with random people like the City Gas lady who wanted to come into my house out of the blue.

Luckily, now you can take full advantage of Wonderful for those gray area situations where you'd be more comfortable getting help from someone who has your best interests in mind.

Richard is a U.S. expat who moved to Korea for the usual reasons of travel and cultural enrichment. Visit for more info on life in Korea as an expat.

Lingua Asia Profile:

Want to get a deeper understanding of Korean culture and Koreatowns in the US and beyond? Get that and more along with shopping, business and travel tips at

Wonderful profile:


Formerly known as “Ask Ajumma”, a great tool when you’re on the go in South Korea. Think of it as an on-demand travel agent you can contact whenever you need help with things like booking KTX tickets online or getting the best seats at a concert.

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