When I first walked into my Korean studio apartment, I cried. Granted, it had been a long journey, but armed with GMarket and copious amounts of bleach, I finally learned to love my little part of Seoul. I even cried when I had to leave it for the last time! (all a lot of crying!)
While on of the main draws of teaching in Korea is the great pay, free apartment was a massive factor for me. A few jobs will offer housing allowance, but the majority will provide you with a furnished apartment. Something I didn’t realise until I arrived was that the size and condition of this apartment varies wildly. I had seen pictures of brand new, two floored apartments decked out with brand new shiny furniture, and naively assumed this was the norm.
In my emotional defence, I arrived at my apartment after travelling for 20 hours. I was in a new country, exhausted, and just generally feeling a bit overwhelmed! My manager showed me to my apartment which was essentially a rectangular box with a bed. There was no other furniture. He had kindly provided a few food items and cleaning products.
My school kindly replaced the bed, but I decided to spend a lot of my own money furnishing it. I am a massive believer in your space affecting your well-being, and I felt miserable living in a space I didn’t like. The one plus my apartment had was a set of large double doors. Lots of apartments lack windows so I was lucky with my abundance of sunshine.
Luckily, furniture in Korea is cheap. GMarket reigns supreme and is a great way to get IKEA-style furniture with free delivery. I ordered a sofa, desk, chair, bookcase and lamp, which came to less than $300. Although it wasn’t the best quality, it made me feel more at relaxed and I would highly recommend it. The sofa also functioned as a bed so came in useful when I had guests.
While my apartment wasn’t perfect, it came to feel like home. If you find yourself in a sorry-looking apartment, there are things you can do to turn it around! It’s amazing what some scented candles and fairy lights can do! It is also possible to sell everything when you leave (although I was too lazy.) I do think there needs to be more realistic information about Korean apartments, so less people arrive with ridiculously high expectations.