Moving out of one's comfort zone is never easy, let alone moving to a new country. New culture, new language along with a new job. Been there, done it! And to tell the truth, the transition was not too bad. But the more prepared you are, the better and easier, your move is going to be.
|Buddha Bless you, Jogyesa Temple, Seoul|
- Cost of Living: Cost of living is quite high in Seoul. I would suggest that you do your home work and research well about what privileges the company would provide for you. Use Glass Door, to check if you are being paid in the right range for working in South Korea. Learn the cost of grocery, and the mundane expenses like the cellphone charges, gas/electricity/water charges. Usually, the company that hires you pays for your accommodation. They also pay for the international schools for your children. Once you are quite convinced about the money matters, the move would be more pleasant.
- Language: Once you get out of the Incheon Airport, it is Korean everywhere! People donot talk in English readily. It is quite intimidating to enter into a store and ask for help even if it is just for finding a packet of salt. But, remember, there are few thousands of Indians and many more foreigners living in Korea, who've all gone through this, got weird looks and stares and gotten over it! (or, to tell you the truth, the staring still continues for me :) After a few apprehensive moments in the first few days, we kind of adapt to the situation- ask fewer questions, act it out more if we are really desperate, or use google translate :) When there is will, there is a way you know! And for the purists, Korean language structure is quite easy and you can start reading in a few weeks. Understanding the conversations and mastering the vocabulary, well, thats a quite another story! But I can assure you that transportation and the grocery stores have English signs- after all, Seoul did host a lot of foreigners during the 1988 Olympics!
- Vegetarianism: It is not unusual to have already created a mental picture of octopus-eating, doggy-devouring populace in Korea. Though the Korean language didnt have a word for vegetarian until very recently, (i saw this on youtube, while searching for vegetarian in korea) in reality, Koreans generally eat a lot of fresh and colorful vegetables in their meals. And all the usual veggies -potatoes and tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic and many more are commonly available everywhere. I have seen street vendors bringing in fresh veggies, fish (along with octopus, if you prefer) and home-made snacks to the apartments similar to our thallu-vandis, only these people use motorized vehicles! There are a few Korean food items that are also vegetarian and you can try them if you can pronounce them and make the waiter understand it :) There are also tons restaurants of other cuisines available, including Indian, if you want to eat out. You can also order delivery of Indian grocery to your doorstep, thanks to the few Indian and foreign food marts. Anyway, there are even vegans in Seoul who thriving and doing very well! I have been able to make my usual sambhar, rasam, idli, dosai and vadai, chapathi at home! No big deal.
- Schools: Oh!Yeah, this could be a show-stopper. Education is expensive in Seoul. The language of instruction in public schools are obviously Korean. All foreigners, no doubt, enroll their kids in International schools, where their kids are given first preference. International schools are no doubt the top of the line, both in educating the kiddos and in the monthly fees. They are totally expensive. It is best if the company can cover a bit (or more) of the educational costs.
- Safety: Seoul is one of the safest places in South Korea. Foreigners, particularly Indians are treated with respect and dignity. I have been up and about around the city in the oddest of hours and have not encountered any problems. There are of course, soju-soaked people on the subway on Saturday nights, but still, no issues! People (especially the older generation) do gawk at you, without batting an eyelid, (much to my consternation) but they usually do it out of curiosity and probably because she/he has never seen a foreign face before.
- Missing out on the family and friends circle: I am adding this sixth one on hindsight because, though I have actually been able to keep up with my family and friends quite well, others might think it impossible when you are sitting alone in the land of the morning calm. The internet speed in Korea is 100mbps. Thats almost 20 times the speed you get in India and the top speed in the world. With Gtalk, Skype, Facebook, it is not too difficult to video chat with your loved ones. And in no time, you would be sitting in the living room of your family and friends more often than before!