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Within a standard contract, housing is provided rent-free for teachers, a relief from what generally accounts for a large portion of one’s monthly expenses. You will find it a great bonus, allowing you to keep most of what you earn.
Teachers may be placed with a roommate, or alone in a single apartment. Usually, you can be accommodated with a single apartment upon request, but some people enjoy the idea of having someone to live with, and it can be helpful for someone coming for the first time. Either way, you’re already in for an adventure.
Apartments in Korea are different in a variety of ways from what you might get at home, but you will find that it doesn’t take long to get comfortable, and in some ways, you may enjoy the novelties.
To begin, Korea is a small country containing a great number of people, so space is scarce and valuable. Apartment complexes appear everywhere you look, and it is rare that even one of your students will live in a house. In fact, one of the unique features about Korea is its lack of distinct zones. Commercial and residential buildings are situated amongst each other, as you’ll commonly see an apartment complex play sidekick to a skyscraper or office building. Big cities like Seoul are big, but they don’t feel as awesome as a New York City, for example, where clusters of enormous skyscrapers mark the center of the universe, and residential zones are pushed to the outskirts. Rather, Korean cities consist of a giant, solid, mixed-breed of residential and commercial buildings growing outward across a massive area.
As you may have inferred, apartments themselves are not overly spacious. Generally, you should expect a small kitchen and bathroom, and if you’re living in a two-bedroom, even the “big” room will not likely be what you might enjoy at home. In a shared apartment, you’ll be fortunate to get a common living area, although it is not unheard by any means. In a solo situation, you’ll likely get a studio-style, one open room deal, with a small kitchen and bathroom, of course. Regularly, you will find apartments with some kind of veranda or patio that may be where you’ll find your washing machine.
Yes, most apartments are equipped with a washing machine, as well as an air conditioner, television set, and gas stove, among other things. Your contract should name all the items that will be included in your apartment, like the ones formerly mentioned, to specifics like kitchen utensils and the like. Although a pretty standard item, check to see that an air conditioner is included, or you may have an uncomfortable go at it during the muggy summer months.
In addition to being smaller, you’ll find that although many have been worked on to look more up-to-date, Korean apartments feel and look older than many at home. We come from a giant country, which is generally kept clean, and while your apartment will have been cleaned before you arrive, you won’t be walking into a fresh brand-spanker. As we’ve said though, it doesn’t take long before you feel comfortable with your new home.
Kitchens will include a refrigerator, sink, and as previously mentioned, a gas stove. Do not expect to see an oven, so sharpen your pots and pans skills, because there won’t be any baking happening in your home. A table and chairs will be provided, although in a single apartment, they probably won’t fit right in your kitchen. Also, it is not advisable to drink the tap water. You can buy bottled water cheaply at any neighborhood shop, or you could arrange to have giant bottles delivered to your home regularly. Your school will be glad to help you set up operations like that.
Bathrooms in Korea are particularly interesting, as they are generally “one-stop shops” where the shower is not separate from the sink or toilet. It is rare that you will see a tub, and what you’ll likely get is a tile floor with a drain, and a mobile shower head that exchanges water flow with the sink, much like a tub faucet and shower head do at home. It is neat to shower while standing over your toilet, and it does have its advantages, as you can hose the whole place down each time you shower. Fortunately, showering conditions are quite comfortable and efficient, something of great concern to most people.
Now to mention a few items you should be aware of apart from the general. Electrical outlets require different plugs than we use at home, but don’t let that discourage you from bringing electrical appliances. You can buy an adaptor from one of several places in your area that will allow you to use them.
Garbage removal requires that you purchase specific bags marked for your neighborhood, and they can be bought inexpensively at any of your local shops.
A boiler powers the heating system, and heat comes up through the floor, which will be some kind of hard, smooth surface. You will not likely see carpeted flooring in Korean homes. With that, cleaning is generally done via broom and dustpan, but if you can get a hold of a vacuum cleaner, it can be effective in collecting dust as well.
As an interesting note, and to help you avoid offending people, it is customary to remove your shoes upon entering someone’s home, including your own, and in some restaurants. Usually, people will assume some sort of a slipper to wear while at home, and you might find it comfortable to get used to that, too.
Naturally, there will be other things you’ll discover about your new home that will strike you as odd that haven’t been discussed here, but we want to make sure that you are informed about significant differences. We think it would be doing you a disservice to let you head into Korea thinking you would be living in a spacious modern apartment, as you may have assumed considering your high financial status by Korean standards. We can only stress that you will become very comfortable in your new home, and like any change, it won’t be long before the differences seem so natural, you’ll forget about them until your own home is there to remind you again.
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