Living rent-free for a year while teaching English is definitely an awesome deal. However, what might not be so great is your apartment. Real estate in Korea – especially in Seoul – can be insanely expensive, and you might find yourself envying the wide, open spaces offered by a refrigerator box.
If you teach at a public school like I do, you should get a 300,000 “settling allowance” which should help you spruce up your space. Here are the best ways to make your apartment not suck on that tiny budget
Step 1: Optimize your space
I went full college-student on my shoebox-sized studio right outside of Seoul and bought a lofted bed from Gmarket, which is essentially the Amazon of Korea. I then made the area underneath my bed into a mini reading nook. I added a cozy floor chair (which can fully fold out, so when friends visit they have somewhere to sleep!), a mini chest that I snagged for free off of Facebook when someone was moving, and all of my books.
If you don’t feel (or aren’t able to) do this, then simply rearranging your existing furniture can make a world of difference. Play around and see what works for you!
Step 2: Get some plants
Plants are a big way to make your apartment feel more like home, and South Korea has plenty of florists. I got some plants which are hard to kill (no green thumb on this one) and put them wherever I could find a space.
Step 3: Get rid of those gross fluorescent lights
I hate fluorescent lights with a passion, (Seriously, does anyone love them? Let me know.) and so almost the first thing I did when I arrived in Korea was invest in some lamps and fairy lights. They make my apartment feel cozy instead of like the office it was originally built to be.
Step 4: Personalize it!
I was allowed to go ham on my first apartment in Korea. I went as far as to tear down the awful wallpaper (a sparkly pink disaster that would make a five year old Barbie affectionado puke) and repaint it. I also repainted a lot of my furniture, to have a place that was truly my own.
Do you have any tips about how to pimp out your tiny Korean apartment? Let me know in the comments!