4 January 2019

Nathan Anderson - Expat in Korea

Nathan Anderson - Expat in Korea

We’ve had the chance to talk to Nathan Anderson, 31, an American expat who has moved to Korea alone. Mr Anderson, who has been living there for about 3.5 years is an English teacher. Read more about his experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I’m from Washington State in the United States.


Q: What made you move out of your home country?

A: I was tired of my job and chosen career path and wanted to explore the world. I’d kept in touch with a TEFL recruiter I met while in university, and he was able to get me a teaching job in Korea. The rest, as they say, is history.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I’m starting a new contract this January in Yangzhou, China. I loved China when I traveled there for a couple months two years ago and decided I wanted to try working there. It’s a beautiful country with a fascinating history and some of the greatest food in the world.


Q: How long have you been living in your host country?

A: This will be my first time living in China. Previously, I lived in South Korea for 3.5 years.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live alone.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Of course! Being able to video-call home alleviates a lot of that homesickness, and I’ve been lucky enough to have a few friends and family members come to visit. Hopefully, more will be able to come to see China while I’m there!


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: I’ll answer this for South Korea since I haven’t started my time in China yet. The people of Pohang, South Korea were incredibly welcoming to me. In time, I grew to think of it as a second home. Restaurant and cafe owners still remember me when I return to visit, and I loved getting to know them and learning more about Korean culture through association.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in your host country? How did you manage to find a social circle there?

A: When I first moved to Korea, I primarily socialized with other expats. There were a few local spots that were designated expat hangouts, and it made the transition from home that much easier. But as I stayed there longer, I stopped hanging out with the expat community as a whole and spent more time with the close friends I’d made. With them, I met a lot of awesome Korean people -- coworkers, acquaintances, and random bar owners who saw us in the street and ushered us inside their establishments. Those turned out to be some of my most awesome friendships in Korea!


Q: How does the cost of living in your host country compare to your home?



Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: An Americano could run anywhere from $1 to $3 or $4, depending on the establishment. There were a few chains that offered good, cheap coffee for low prices. I preferred those to the likes of Starbucks!


Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: The small eateries have dishes for $4-6 dollars, and those are usually enough to fill you up for lunch or a light dinner.


Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: Going out for barbecue can cost between $12-25, depending on alcohol consumption and your appetite. That said, it’s much cheaper than a similar meal would be at home!


Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: The local rice wine is cheap, only a few dollars per bottle! A bottle of red or white wine imported from Australia or Chile is more expensive, generally a few dollars more than you’d spend for a similar bottle back home.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in your host country?

A: The easiest way? Have your employer do it for you. It can be quite complicated, especially if you haven’t learned Korean. Hana KEB Bank has a remittance account called an Easy One that automatically transfers money to a linked account overseas. That’s probably the most convenient for someone living and working in Korea!


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: Overall it was pretty simple! The complications came from my employer referring to outdated information when telling me which documents to gather. I’d advise having a recruiter help you gather the documentation, as they’re usually up to date with current requirements. That, or check yourself. Allow 2 months to gather all the documents and get them apostilled -- some of them can take longer than you’d expect!


Q: Would you say that healthcare in your host country is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Yes! I had great experiences when I needed health care in Korea. It’s relatively cheap, and my work contract included employer contributions to the NHS. Things not covered by insurance were generally pretty affordable. 


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in your home or host country? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: I did not. Though I do use World Nomads travel insurance when I travel outside of Korea.


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Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to your host country? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: I did everything myself, going over with a large backpack and a suitcase. The biggest challenge was in figuring out what I could do without and what was essential. Things like deodorant have now become packing essentials, while things like shampoo and soap I just leave out and buy when I arrive. 


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: It’s always the initial ‘getting used to’ a city that’s tough -- finding the best places to buy certain things. Not being able to find something like a frying pan can be a bit frustrating, but it’s all part of the adventure!


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in your host country?

A: Korean food is second to none, so the numerous cheap options available are a tantalizing prospect and something I’ll deeply miss. There’s also a nice pace to the life there. My work schedule was very balanced, and I was able to spend quality time with my friends and acquaintances. There were downsides, such as the haphazard driving habits of many people in my city (here’s looking at you, taxi drivers!) which regularly resulted in me having the daylights scared out of me while riding my motorcycle. 


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: If you’re every in Pohang, be sure to explore the coastlines north and south of the city. There are numerous fishing villages along stunning stretches of beach just waiting to be explored. Near Chilpo Beach is one of my favorite sites, the hidden Daewonsa Temple. Built in the shape of a massive dragon, it’s the most unique temple I’ve ever encountered in Asia and a little-known must-see for anyone!


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Yes! As mentioned above, I move to China next month.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: We’ll find that out once I get there!


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about your host country?

A: I’ve written quite a bit about South Korea on my blog, The Open Road Before Me. Come say hi!