When people decide to move to Korea, a lot of them look at Seoul. A few more adventurous ones might side to Busan. Mostly everybody wants to live life in the big city, despite the fact that the countryside is arguably the best place to be.
I have spent years now trying to talk to people out of this big-city-or-bust mindset. There’s so much more to Korea than Seoul, and anyone who limits their experience to there is seriously missing out. I spent two years living in the Korean countryside, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. There are a lot of benefits to living out in the sticks. Without further ado, here’s a few reasons why you should consider living in the Korean countryside.
Korea’s topography is comprised of over seventy percent mountains. This means the landscape is gorgeous – when it isn’t covered up by the concrete blocks that dominate major Korean cities.
Hiking is a huge activity in Korea, with Koreans and foreigners alike lacing up their boots to get out into the mountains every season. There are, of course, some hiking routes around Seoul but the majority of them – and the best ones – are out in the countryside. When I lived in Namwon, I was essentially at the foot of Korea’s largest national park (Jirisan National Park), which made me fall in love with the country way more than any Hello Kitty themed coffee shop could ever do.
Even if you don’t hike, wouldn’t you rather see these mountains on your way to work than being crammed into a crowded subway?
2. The food is great
The countryside has better food than the city, hands down. I was in for a massive shock when I moved from Namwon up to Suwon. The banchan (which you can read about more here) was lacking. (I was used to at least eight and in the city, I would only get two or three.) Korean food was more expensive in the city, and the quality was way lower. The love and passion I saw from so many restaurants in the countryside was simply gone, possibly ground down by years of working the corporate grind.
If you walk around Seoul much, you’ll notice that a lot of restaurants have the word “Jeonju-style” in the name. (Jeonju is a city in Jeollabuk-do that’s renown for its food – for more information, click here.) If restaurants in bustling Seoul are advertising food styled after a city three hours away, you know it has to be good.
3. You’ll save more money
If you work with a program like EPIK, you’ll even earn more money than if you’re working through SMOE or GEPIK. Furthermore, if you’re really in the sticks, you’ll earn a special rural bonus!
Also, living in the countryside generally has a much lower cost of living than in the city. When I lived in Namwon, I could go to the local market and get enough fresh, locally-grown vegetables to last me the entire week for twenty dollars or less.
As I mentioned above, the restaurant food was also a lot better in the countryside than in the city. That picture of food above? It cost around six dollars. You really can’t beat it.
4. You’ll travel more
Living in the Korean countryside forced me to leave my small town on the weekends and explore the rest of the country. Quite literally, my town was small enough that there was nothing to do but travel. The year I lived in Suwon – aka, the year I started having a lot of other options – I stopped traveling nearly as much.
There are a lot of people who come to Korea and spend every weekend sitting in an expat bar, drinking Jagerbombs and speaking in English the same they could do anywhere in the world. Make the most of your time in Korea and explore!
5. Friends are easier to make
Seriously, making friends in the Korean countryside was the easiest time I’ve ever had making pals. It goes something like this:
“Hey, do you speak English.”
“Great. Barbecue later?”
“You betcha, new best friend.”
What do you think about living in the Korean countryside? Would you want to live there, or a big city?