Ok so you have all you necessary documents and have landed a job in South Korea! The school has sent a confirmation email after your phone interview and you are sent your flight details. You are ready to go.
As said before I have only ever worked in private language academies, also known as hagwons, so I am assuming you will be applying there too.
Anyway, here are 10 tips and important points to know on your arrival in South Korea. There’s much more so feel free to ask me, but I’ve tried to make this as concise a read as possible.
Hmmm….well, most private school are obligated to pay for your flights or round trip airfare. Sometimes, they will ask you to book the flight yourself and they will pay you the flight with your first pay check. The rules state that if you work less than 3 months they can deduct the flight fare from your final pay too. You only receive your return flight home after you have completed a full 12 months.
At YBM, even though I was not returning home after my year they still were obligated to give me a flight and so offered to pay for a flight anywhere I wanted so long as it fitted in the budget. I got a free paid flight to Thailand and took a short holiday
Now there are nightmare hagwons that cut all corners to be cheap with this one. Thing is you can never know. Some of them only offer a one way, and when it’s time to pay up they offer a “standard amount” that might not even cover your entire one way cost of flight home. Threaten to report them or not, they are just cheap and will most likely not care. It’s a reality.
2. Medical Aid
Nobody really knows how medical aid works with the E2 visas in Korea, but you will show a card whenever you go to the hospital and then get the fee reduced. Overall, medical stuff is not expensive in Korea. My last cheap hagwon didn’t even offer medical aid, so I had to pay up front. Most medical services were not pricey at all.
3. Should I bring my own money before leaving?
I suggest you do. Most times, the school can lend you some money up front and then deduct it form your first pay check. This is only of it’s a nice academy. How much should you bring? I think, about ZAR5000 will be enough for your first month, until you get paid. What we consider regular groceries such as milk can be really expensive in Korea, unless you can easily eat kimchi everyday until payday.
4. What should I pack?
If you are going into their summer, spring seasons then you should be OK, with some of the clothes you have from South Africa. However, if you going into Winter I have to warn you that you will most likely will have to get a good quality coat of jacket over there. We really don’t sell items for the sub zero freezing cold winters you will experience in Korea.
You should also, probably not pack too much. Shopping in Korea is amazing to say the least and you can find awesome clothes for each season at really reasonable prices. Make sure you leave room to take stuff home.
Read more on my experiences living in Korea
5. Need to take your medicine
This is not a bad idea, but each country has their own rules and regulations for certain dosages in medicines. I once took a strong headache tablet on my arrival, and the next day I needed to go for my medical examination for the visa. My blood test showed high levels of an ingredient used in my painkiller, and so I failed the test. The doctors said I could either show a valid prescription letter from my doc or re-take the test in 3 days’ time. I obviously re-did the test in 3 day and it was fine. If you are going to bring medicines in, just get a prescription letter just in case.
6. Your new apartment
This will depend on your school really. Usually with a hagwon, you will stay in the apartment of the teacher before you. The school should also ensure that it is cleaned out if they have any decency. Sometimes, they rent an entirely new apartment and those tend to be furnished but without anything such as blanket or pillow in it. You might be dead tired when you land, but you will have to get some basics. A good place is DAISO (my personal fave) where you can get some basics for cheap until you find better goods to your liking. If you are left having to furnish the entire place Craigslist Korea has tons of good bargains from teachers looking to sell their stuff!
7. Medical examination
You will be made to go to the nearby hospital almost immediately or within the same week to get your medical examination. You need to pass everything to get your E2 visa card. The school should pay for this one. It will take an hour or two and you will most likely have to go to the academy/school immediately to start work or training.
8. When will you start work?
Immediately. Rest and relaxation is for the weekend as you will come to learn in the Far East. If you are lucky you might arrive on one of the very few public holidays in Korea and might get some time to explore and catch up on sleep. Otherwise, you will work, work, work.
9. Getting a phone
You have two options when getting a phone in Korea. You can get a phone with a contract and pay monthly which will be deducted from your bank account. These phone contracts are usually for 2 years and if you don’t’ plan on staying for 2 years you have to pay the remainder of the next 12 months before you leave. These contracts are pricey, you’re looking at around R700-R800 a month. Or you can just buy a phone new or second hand and then get a pay as you go sim. Most of Korea has Wifi, so you looking at around R120-R200 a month of data or calls. I used pre-paid and I saved SO MUCH!
10. The E2 resident card
You cannot do anything without this card. Once you’ve had your medical examination, and all the papers gathered you will have to visit the immigration office nearby your area to apply for the card. Usually the director or a Korean co-worker will assist you. Once you have this card you can now buy a phone, open up a bank account or anything else.
Read about what documents you will need as a South African to work in Korea
Your Korean Adventure
The rest you will learn on your own, such as banking, taking public transport (which is amazing in Korea btw), opening up accounts and buying a phone. Soon, you will get to make friends too and start learning the real deal about working in Korea and living in this dynamic country. Be sure to watch out for my next post of what it’s like to work and live in South Korea.
If you want to read more on my experiences in living in Korea and more about where to go and what to do click here.
Or check out my Instagram for tips, events and cool spots to visit.