- Download our Moving to Seoul Guide (PDF)
A vibrant, bustling atmosphere pervades every aspect of the lifestyle in Seoul. Whether an experienced employee in one of the city's embassies or a young teacher seeking new experiences, expats are sure to find something to their taste in the Korean capital.
Shopping in Seoul
Seoul is a shopping hotspot with plenty of options for any budget. Areas such as Myeong-dong and Dongdaemun house large assortments of international brands and reasonably priced boutiques. The more upmarket Gangnam District and Apgujeong have huge department stores and several restaurants.
Another area with notable shopping options is Itaewon. The area boasts a variety of shops, restaurants, tailors and designer products largely aimed at a Western market. Itaewon is also home to other stores that provide Western favourites, as well as some English bookshops.
Technophiles will be in their element in Seoul, as it has some of the largest electronics markets in Asia. For general grocery shopping, there are a few stores such as Costco which provide Western goods and offer bulk discounts.
Nightlife and entertainment in Seoul
Itaewon is a popular area for restaurants, bars and nightclubs and the areas around Hongik University in Sinchon, as well as the Gangnam District, are other fun locales to spend an evening in.
Korean restaurants are found on every city block, but those looking for a traditional Korean dining experience should head to Insadong. For a bit of entertainment, street performers and independent theatres can be found in the areas around Hyehwa and Hansung University. There are also numerous annual festivals happening in Seoul, as well as international film festivals held in both Busan and Jeonju.
Outdoor activities and sports in Seoul
Expats will find a fair amount of outdoor activities in Seoul. Many residents choose to get their fresh air along the Han River, which cuts through the middle of the city. At various spots along the river, expats can find picnic spots, basketball courts and bicycle hire stations, which also offer tandem bikes for couples.
The Seoul Grand Park and Zoo are easily accessed by subway and make for a great day out for the family, offering a combination of exotic animals, plants, an amusement park and cable car.
The Seoul Forest is also a major attraction, occupying a massive tract of land in the middle of the city. The area has developed from being royal hunting grounds, a military inspection facility and golf course, to housing several naturally themed parks in one area. Visitors have an opportunity to see local fauna and flora, go bird watching or enjoy themselves at the Hangang River Waterside Park.
The mountains that surround Seoul are some of the most beautiful in the country, and hiking is a popular Korean pastime. The Gwanaksan, Achasan and Bukhansan Mountains are all a convenient subway ride away and offer spectacular views of the city.
Meeting people and making friends in Seoul
Meeting people in a new city can be one of the most intimidating parts of choosing to base yourself in a new country. Below are a few suggestions for expats looking to make friends and integrate into their new communities.
The American Women's Club Korea is an oasis for expat women from all over the world looking to engage in enriching charitable, cultural and educational activities while building lifelong friendships.
Expat parents looking to meet new people in Seoul should look no further than the Seoul International Playgroup. This group hosts weekly play sessions for babies and toddlers up to five years old and is a great way for parents to build support structures in their new city.
Active expats can also enjoy a variety of social clubs and facilities all over the city. Prominent among these is Seoul Expats Handball Club, which hosts weekly training for expats from all over the world and participates in friendly matches, tournaments and handball events.
Established in 2006, Seoul International Hiker's Club is open to locals and foreigners alike. Nature-loving expats will get the opportunity to take in Seoul's picturesque mountain- and cityscapes while making connections with like-minded individuals.
►Weekend Breaks in Seoul gives an overview of weekend destinations outside the city
►Culture Shock in South Korea gives information on adjustments expats may need to make when moving to the city
"This country is so amazing, with so many incredible places to visit. I think we probably visited more places in South Korea than the average Koreans would in their life. Every weekend we were exploring new parts of the country." Check out Hammer and Guillaume's interview for more on the lifestyle in Seoul.
"Public transportation, food, activities, and incredible public places are a few things that Seoul offers and does exceptionally well. I'm from a small town in South Africa, so Seoul offers a bit more to do and see than what I was used to." Read more about Malcolm's experience of expat life in Seoul.
Are you an expat living in Seoul?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Seoul. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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