Korean Food and Drink

As I have mentioned in a previous post, you will most likely attend a 2 week Orientation. During this time, you will be served Korean food 3 times a day. For those of us who have never experienced this diet, it can be a bit of a shock.

Added to this, the food served is not fantastic-more like school cafeteria fare and therefore is not an indication of the food available at restaurants around the country. So do not be disheartened. The food in Korea is actually for the most part fantastic.

When eating at lunch at school, or dinner out your main meal is always accompanied by a variety of side-dishes or Banchan ( 반찬) and is included in the cost of your meal.

If you are not a fan of spicy food, you will find eating Korean Food quite difficult in the beginning.  However, your taste buds and heat threshold soon adapt.

Lastly, in Korea unlike in the West, tipping is not required. Generally, eating out is pretty reasonable in terms of cost. Most of these dishes range on average from 5,000 -15,000 won.

Here are some of the main dishes and beverages you can expect to eat and drink once you are here (some with photo examples):

1. 불고기 (Bulgogi)-Beef  Barbecue


2.김치 (Kimchi)- Fermented Cabbage

3.갈비  (Galbi)-Pork

4.삼겹살 (Samgyeopsal)-Grilled side of Pork

5.삼계탕 (Samgyetang) –Ginseng Chicken dish


6.냉면 (Naengmyeon)-Cold noodles in soup



7.칼국수 (kalguksu)-Handmade noodles



8.잡채 (japchae)-Mixed Vegetables with Noodles



9.비빔밥 (Bibimbap)-Mixed vegetables on rice


10. 김밥 (Gimbap) –rice wrapped in seaweed

11. 김치찌개 (kimchi-jjiggae)-Kimchi stew


12. 만두 (Mandu)-Dumpling


13. 돈까스 (donkkaseu)- Pork Cutlet

14. 자장면 (jajangmyeon)-stir-fried noodles with Chinese bean sauce
15. 탕수육 (tangsuyuk) –Sweet and Sour Chicken

16. 샤브샤브 (Shabu – Shabu)-Meat and Veg Fondue

17. 장어구이 (jangeo-gui)-broiled eel

18. 파전 (pajeon)-pancake

19. 소주 (Soju)-Distilled liquor


20. 맥주 (maekju)-Beer AND 막걸리 (makkoli) –Rice Wine





Exploring your new home-Where to shop and eat.

Once your initial few weeks have passed and you are feeling a little more settled and gained your bearings, now would be a good time to start exploring your town.

If you find yourself situated in a city, life will be easier in terms of finding a good variety of restaurants and  shopping chains that stock westernized food items (i.e Costco and  E -Mart ). If (like us) you are placed in a small town, life will be a little different.

The most common name you will come across is NongHyup which is the name of a Co -op. In small towns, this is the best place to buy food. However, the selection of food items is certainly more Korean than Western and may be somewhat expensive.

The other shopping venue, popular with the locals is the town market. You can buy most things here at  affordable prices.



Once a month or fortnightly A farmers market may occur, depending on your town, which springs up at a selected venue with quality fresh produce too.

You need to bear in mind that when shopping especially in the small town setting, English is not widely used. The sooner you get to grips with the basics of the language, the easier your life will be. However, when in doubt body language does go a long way in breaking the communication barrier.

Nowadays, more Westernized restaurant chains are readily available, even in small towns. When we arrived in Buyeo, there were very few, if any. When we left four years later, Mr Pizza, Dunkin Donuts and a massive shopping centre had been built.

If you feel like trying Korean fare, then you will certainly be spoilt for choice. If you have never tried Korean food before, I recommend you do, as you will not be disappointed.

Pay scale and Benefits.


As a Native English Teacher (NET) in Korea, you will generally be employed on one of three pay scales, depending on your qualifications and or teaching experience.

Level 3: This level, will be for NET’S that possess a degree. You will be paid in the region of KRW 2.1-2.2 million.

Level 2: This level will be for NET’S who posses a degree and an ESL qualification. You will be paid in the region of KRW 2.3 -2.4 million.

Level 1: This is your top level, which NET’S with a profession in teaching or those with previous years of experience will be eligible for around KRW 2.5-2.7 million won.

Your salary should increase upon renewal.

Please note these pay scales are very general and will vary depending on where you teach.


NET’S enjoy good benefits while teaching in Korea. If you teach in a rural area you will be paid in the region of KRW 100,000 extra.

If you teach in two – three schools, you will receive between KRW 100,000-150,000 extra respectively.

Your flights to Korea will be fully refunded and upon renewal, you will receive a KRW 2 million won bonus.

For South Africans, your salary is tax free for 2 years due (you must sort this out with your school)

You will also receive a KRW 300,000 won resettlement allowance (as mentioned in previous posts)

If you are a married, you will be allowed to live together in the same apartment. The school’s apartment you are not using should pay you that allowance, which is normally in the region of around KRW 400,000 won per month.

As Korea is a fast moving dynamic place to live, much of this may have changed. Be sure to check your contract carefully before signing.

The Flight

Depending from where in the world you are travelling from, the flight to Korea will in all likelihood be long and arduous. Long haul flights get very tedious after a short time, especially if you are not flying first class.

Our Flight was around 20-23 hours long with two stop overs, departing from Cape Town, South Africa. If you find yourself in a similar situation, then its best to be prepared. Drink plenty of fluids, wear foot massaging socks, walk frequently and try and get some sleep.

We flew with Singapore air, and were very impressed with the service on board.

When you arrive at Incheon International Airport in Seoul, depending upon your time of arrival, the process time from embarkation to luggage pick up and exit can be quite a speedy process (Korean efficiency), but could take longer, especially if you arrive during the peak time of Korean New year (Chuseok). If this happens, please practice patience.

What do I pack?

What do I pack? The most important question you can ask yourself, and probably the most daunting, especially if you are heading to a foreign country.

In general, pack clothing to suit very cold and very humid climates.  You may want to pack sheets and pillow slips (bedding) to start you off, but these are easily available to buy in every city and town. If you are lucky, pots and pans etc will be in your apartment when you arrive, so you don’t need to pack these. If they are not, you are given around $300,00 US to purchase such items. You will need to buy pillows and a duvet, as these are not supplied.

Pack your usual toiletries, but again are easily replenished in Korea. Deodorant is very expensive though, so bring as many bottles as you can.

If you feel that you don’t want to leave anything to chance, you can use a company called the arrival store who will organize bedding, cellphone and household essentials to be delivered to your apartment or school upon your arrival.

In our experience, we packed what we thought we would need, used vacuum bags to fit as much in as we could and bought the rest in Korea as and when we needed it.

We had a plan to get items that we could not fit into our suit cases sent over by courier, but in the end, upon investigation it is cheaper to buy than get boxes of stuff sent over, if you can’t manage to fit it all in your suitcase.