The Daily Life Of An English Teacher In South Korea

If you are contemplating teaching English in South Korea, you are probably wondering what the daily life of an English teacher looks like. I lived in both Daegu and Seogwipo (Jeju Island), teaching English full time in Daegu and doing a bit of teaching whilst on Jeju (amongst other things), so here I am sharing my experiences of daily life in Korea. Everyone will have their own, unique experiences of South Korea, but these are mine.

Arriving In South Korea

A place I used to hike before work near Daegu

I was met at the airport by two of the managers from my school. They took me to the supermarket, bought me some basic supplies to last me until I could go shopping, and then took me to my apartment. The apartment was in the west of Daegu, five minutes walk from my school, and it had a living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. I was then taken out for a drink where I met a series of other English teachers, many of whom soon became my good friends. My first week at the school involved observing other teachers’ teaching methods (although some schools throw you straight into teaching) and I was also taken to the local hospital where I had to undergo a health check for drug use and serious diseases. If you fail this health test, you will not be granted a visa to teach.

Daily Life In Daegu

A weekend trip to the mountains

I started teaching at between 14h00 and 16h00 (17h30 on a Wednesday) and finished between 21h00 and 22h00, Monday to Friday. After work I would normally meet friends for dinner and sometimes stay out for drinks, and played football one or two evenings a week. As you have a lot of disposable income in Korea and eating out in Daegu isn’t expensive, it is possible to eat out on a daily basis. As I had always lived with friends or family, I found my apartment to be bigger than I needed, and it was very bare as I had just one backpack of belongings, so I didn’t like spending too much time there. When I was there, I used to spend time reading, writing, and making things in various forms. Each day I had a whole lot of time before work (unless we stayed out particularly late the night before as could often happen) so I would try to do something before work. Some days this involved climbing the local mountain, other days I would run, and other times I would simply go to a cafe or meet with friends. At the weekends, when I didn’t have football games, I tried to go on trips as much as possible, either renting a car and exploring or joining a trip. We did everything from skiing to climbing mountains at the weekends, and on my final weekend, we rented a bus for my birthday and spent the night on a small island. All in all, life was easy and very social, and I enjoyed spending a lot of time with good people from different parts of the world. The weekend nature was incredible as Korea is beautiful, but I did struggle a little with the big city life and sometimes spent more time socialising than I would have liked.

Daily Life In Jeju

A secret waterfall where we used to swim

Living in Jeju, specifically Seogwipo, was a very different experience, largely because I wasn’t teaching. My partner was teaching however, so I generally kept the same hours as her, working when she was at work. Seogwipo is a peaceful town in the south of Jeju, surrounded by nature, and it was truly beautiful. During the summer I would swim almost every day, often coupled with a morning run. We lived above a food market, so I would buy fresh fruits and vegetables each day and spend several hours outdoors and exploring. At the weekend we would often go to Jeju, the main city, and meet other teachers for food and drink, but in Seogwipo we mostly went to other people’s houses (along with our weekly soju bowling). I played football every couple of weekends and also one or two nights in the week, but there were loads of sports on Jeju and I also played volleyball and ultimate frisbee fairly regularly. Some weekends I would go out on a friend’s motorcycle to explore the beauty of the island and I cycled around the whole island twice – it can be done in a single weekend – during my time on Jeju. All in all, life was relaxed and I loved the opportunity to find so much nature so easily on a regular basis.

Living In Korea

A weekend volleyball tournament on Jeju

All in all, living and teaching English in South Korea offers a high quality of life. The hours aren’t long and you make enough money to be able to go out for dinner, go on weekend trips, and still save some money. I am grateful for my time in Korea and only chose to leave because I wanted to see more of the world and live a less comfortable life. Many good friends of mine have stayed for many, many years, and I anticipate that some of them will stay ‘forever’ due to the high quality of life. Interestingly, many more of my friends on Jeju stayed much longer than people in Daegu, probably because it’s a great place to live long term.

How To Get A Job Teaching English In South Korea

You need two things to be granted a visa in South Korea:

  • Passport from UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa
  • Bachelor Degree (or equivalent) in ANY subject

If you meet these two requirements, you can apply to teach English in South Korea here. For further information (I have written lots on the subject), please refer to my teaching English in South Korea page.

A weekend temple-stay

Motorcycle adventures on Jeju

By | 2018-02-16T11:39:58+00:00 February 16th, 2018|Thoughts and Inspiration|3 Comments


  1. Hally 01/03/2018 at 21:40 - Reply

    Hello, your blog is a great read and really interesting. I was just wondering how did you find the cost of living in Jeju? Did you find it more expensive to Daegu? Could a TEFL teacher live and save money there? I am moving as a couple (my partner does not teach) so I am planning on having to pay rent too and would love to hear what you thought about the cost of living. Thanks so much in advance! Hally

    • Jamie 13/03/2018 at 10:02 - Reply

      Hi Hally. Jeju was more expensive than Daegu, but the quality of life there made it totally worth it. As we lived in Seogwipo, we spent a lot of time outdoors and doing amazing for free, which actually saved money compared to Daegu where we mostly did paid things (food, drinks, entertainment, etc). So you can save money there or you can spend it all, whichever you desire! I am good at spending on the rare occasions I have money, but I know of two teachers in Jeju who saved more than $10k each in a year. You might also be able to make a specific request for your school to find you an apartment for two people and just pay the extra, which shouldn’t be too much – might be easier than looking for somewhere yourself.

      • Hally 14/03/2018 at 13:52 - Reply

        Hi Jamie,

        Ok amazing thats sooo helpful! Thank you so much for your time. Have fun on your travels! Hally

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