Is Seoul a Good City for an Expat to Live?


On the television this morning was a programme about the top ten cities in Asia for expats to live in. It wasn’t a particularly well made programme and I got the impression that it was segments from a collection of programmes pulled together under the rather weak connection that they dealt with  expats in  other Asian cities. Of course, there’s plenty of problems with this kind of competition, namely that the majority of those described as expats were Caucasian and in well paid positions, and in several cases the people were merely English teachers.

Anyway, the hit list goes like this:

  1. Georgetown, Malaysia*
  2. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  3. Bangkok, Thailand*
  4. Taipei, Taiwan
  5. Macau, China
  6. Hong Kong, China*
  7. Osaka, Japan*
  8. Tokyo, Japan
  9. Kobe, Japan
  10. Singapore, Republic of Singapore

(*Just a little side note to point out that I’ve visited these cities)

It being a Korean programme I was assuming that sooner or later Seoul or Songdo would end up. Now, I’ve never lived in Taiwan but seeing as Bangkok and Taipei were so high up the list, which I don’t really know much about, but I’m pretty sure Seoul is way better (of course this is editorial bias). My doubts on the quality of the list really started to rise when Hong Kong was in fifth place, and then there were two Japanese cities, Tokyo and Osaka, in third and fourth. Of course there could only be one winner but seeing Kobe in second was a shock, not to the point of anger or anything, just an ‘oh’ kind of shock.

The programme gave plenty of reasons for Seoul to be included – many of the cities in the top ten did things such as welcoming foreigners, teaching them to speak the language, cultural lessons, great public transport, all of which Seoul does. And, you should really take into consideration that the programme didn’t really offer a rubric for rating these cities

Watching this raised the question, is Seoul a good place for expats to live?

Well, it depends on which way you look at it. Allow me to give you both sides of the argument based on my own experience.

Continue reading