Teacher Apartments in Korea
If you are getting ready to teach English in Korea, you are likely already aware that part of the teaching benefits for all teaching jobs come with a rent-free apartment. For the majority of positions, you will have your own single unit, which will likely be in the same building as your other co-teachers.
So let’s learn more about teacher apartments in Korea and what you can expect.
In this post, we will cover the following:
- Single Apartments in Korea for English Teachers
- Shared Apartments in Korea for Couples
- Will My Apartment be Furnished?
- How a Korean Bathroom Compares to a Western Bathroom
- Will I be Able to do Laundry in my Apartment?
- What to Expect from your Kitchen
- The Joy of Having Heated Floors
- Will My Apartment in Korea Have Air Conditioning?
- How Much Will The Bills Be Each Month?
- Take Off Your Shoes!!!
- Can I Find My Own Apartment in Korea and Receive a Housing Allowance?
- Can A Friend From Home Live With Me In My Apartment?
Single Apartments in Korea for English Teachers
About 15-20 years ago, many schools would provide shared teacher apartments in Korea which would house 2-3 English teachers. These days, if you are going to Korea on your own, you will have your own single unit.
In comparison to apartments or your standard condo unit in western countries, teacher apartments in Korea are quite small. They are usually bachelor style (one room) that include a small kitchen, bathroom and a balcony where you will hang your clothes (see laundry below).
While on the small side, they are cozy and will be a place that you can call your own.
For most, this is the first time that they have had their own place, so the size is not really all that important.
Korean apartments are measured in ‘pyeong’ (convert pyeong to square feet here); most single units are around 9-11 pyeong in size, but that differs with larger metropolises like Seoul compared to smaller cities where the units will be more spacious.
Shared Apartments in Korea for Couples
If you are planning on teaching in Korea as a couple with your significant other – or even a close friend – you might want to teach at the same school and be housed in the same apartment.
While finding jobs as a couple is a bit more tricky, these jobs do exist.
Why Schools Are Sometimes Hesitant to Hire Couples
There are two main reasons why couple positions are not as common as single positions:
The first is that schools are somewhat hesitant to hire two people simply because if one teacher needs to leave, it is likely both will go. Whether this is because the teacher is not happy in Korea or because they need to go home due to a family issue, the school will be without two teachers in the classroom.
While this situation is a rare occurrence, being short two teachers is a really big issue for schools as they will have difficulty covering classes.
The second reason is due to the apartment itself. In Korea, one needs to put down what is called ‘key money’ in order to hold an apartment. It is essentially a contract whereas the renter needs to reserve the apartment for a year or more.
If a school has single units, they will need to give up two of those apartments and find a shared apartment to house the couple; at the end of the contract term for the couple, the school will then need to either find another couple to replace them or find two available single apartment units and switch again.
Will The Apartment Be Large Enough For Both Of Us?
The short answer is ‘yes’. But your idea of ‘big enough’ should not be in comparison to a standard apartment in the U.S. or in Canada.
However, these units are generally home to a Korean family consisting or two adults and one to two children. This set up is possible in Korea as parents and young children are known to all sleep in the same bedroom and bed or ‘Korean yo’. It’s a tight fit for sure but is very common.
Schools will generally provide a couple with an apartment that has one separate bedroom, as opposed to the single bachelor style unit.
There will also be a bit more space as they layout will include a small living room. The furnishings and amenities will all be the same as the single apartments.
Will My Apartment be Furnished?
Yes! A lot of teachers ask what they need to bring to Korea for their apartment when they are packing up for their journey. The short answer is nothing! Here is a list of what you can expect in your apartment:
- A single bed with bed sheets and a comforter
- A table and chair for dining
- A small kitchen area that includes dishes and cutlery
- A small refrigerator
- A television
- A laundry machine
- A clothing rack
And remember: If you find yourself in need of something that your teacher’s apartment in Korea doesn’t have, you will be able to find it in Korea at stores in your neighborhood.
How a Korean Bathroom Compares to a Western Bathroom
The largest complaint about Korean bathrooms by English teachers in Korea, is that they are constantly wet.
The reason for this is because there is no designated shower area; instead, the shower head itself is on the wall with no shower curtain or separated washing area, which results in wet floors.
So how do you keep your feet dry?
Simple! Wear Korean bathroom slippers! That’s right, in every Korean bathroom, you will find shower slippers that you will put on your feet if you, say, just want to brush your teeth!
Will I be Able to do Laundry in my Apartment?
Yes! All teacher apartments in Korea have a laundry machine in the bathroom or maybe in your kitchen, under the counter.
However, you will not find a dryer in your apartment as Koreans generally do not use these; instead, you will have a clothing rack that you can hang your clothing on.
In the summer, you can dry your clothes in the warm air on the balcony. In the winter, you can erect the clothing rack in your apartment where your clothes will be dried by the heat from the floor.
What to Expect from your Kitchen
The kitchen will be small, but manageable to cook in. Korean kitchens tend to have a cooking range but do not come with ovens as Korean cuisine does not require ovens.
Plates, bowls, glasses and cutlery will be included in kitchens, often with random pieces that have been collected by English teachers that occupied your apartment previously.
Anything that you may be missing, you will be able to find at a local store in your area.
The Joy of Having Heated Floors
Did you know that most Koreans sleep on the floor? They usually sleep on what is known as a ‘yo’.
But why on the floor?
Because the flooring in Korea is heated, which makes for a very cozy, warm sleep on a yo.
Not to worry though! Your apartment will be furnished with a bed, just in case you can’t find the inner Korean in you!
Will My Apartment in Korea Have Air Conditioning?
Yes. Summers in Korea can be very hot and humid. Korean apartments are therefore equipped with air conditioning units.
These are not normally the window units that you would see in western apartments, but instead are tall and often tend to take up an entire corner of your apartment. Trust us when we say that you will be happy to replace the space with the cold air after a day of teaching English!
How Much Will My Bills Be Each Month?
The short answer is ‘not too much’. As the apartment will be paid for by the school, you only need to cover your usage of the following:
- Gas: Approx 10,000 Won/month. This is usually a very small bill, as your gas usage will mainly be from your cooking range. Most teachers in Korea tend to eat out or order take out, while not cooking at home that often.
- Water: Approx 10,000 Won/month : You won’t be drinking out of the tap, so your water bill will consist mainly of your shower usage.
- Electrical: Approx 50,000 – 100,000 Won/month. This is a bill that you have full control over and can keep small each month if you pay attention to your usage. Keeping your heat high in the winter or your air-conditioner on all day in the summer while you are at school will result in a higher bill. Your apartment won’t take long to heat/cool, so turn down the dial until you get home.
- Internet: Approx 30-40,000 Won/month. This bill will depend on the city in Korea you are teaching and living in as well as the internet provider the school uses. Internet is optional, but is generally something teachers opt for.
Take Off Your Shoes!!!
If you ever want to see a Korean lose their mind, just walk into their apartment with your shoes on! This is a BIG no no! It is not advisable to do this unless you don’t ever want to be invited back.
Unlike in some western countries, where it is not assumed whether you should remove your shoes or not, in Korea, leaving your shoes on in someone’s apartment is a cardinal sin.
It gets back to the sleeping on the floor thing – would you want someone to walk on your bed with their dirty outdoor shoes on?
Of course not!
So make sure to not forget ‘the rules’ on this and don’t even bother asking if you should take your shoes off, as the answer will always be ‘yes’.
Can I Find My Own Apartment in Korea and Receive a Housing Allowance?
Most schools will be hesitant to welcome such a relationship. The main reason is due to giving up the existing apartment that they have as they will need to find another apartment once the teacher’s contract is over.
Other reasons for schools not being in favor of such an arrangement include:
- Greater Distance from the apartment to the school: Most schools will find apartments in relatively close proximity to the school itself. This takes care of any worry of teachers showing up late for class. If your apartment requires travel via transit, tardiness could be a concern for the school.
- The school is legally responsible for you and your actions: As your visa sponsor, any trouble you may get into will be the school’s responsibility. Should you have any legal issues with your landlord for example, this would be something the school would need to rectify.
- Breaking up the teacher community: All schools strive to create a great working environment in the school, which usually transitions to the teachers hanging out outside of school. While this is not mandatory, it does often help create an overall sense of camaraderie among the teachers, which benefits the teachers themselves as well as the students. Should you live too far from the school, it is unlikely this sense of community will be established.
Can A Friend From Home Live With Me In My Apartment?
Yes and no.
For the most part, schools do not want you to have people living with you, namely those that are in Korea on a tourist visa. Some possible scenarios include:
Your guest causing damage to your apartment: While not on purpose, if your friend starts a fire accidentally, creates water damage, etc. the costs will be on the school to pay.
Your guest doing private tutoring in Korea during their stay: Some people not qualified to teach in Korea will come for short visits and teach privately on the side. This practice is illegal in Korea. Should your friend get caught, the school will be responsible as the apartment is under their name.
Your guest distracting you from your teaching: If a friend comes to Korea, they want to explore and have a good time. Staying out late on weeknights, drinking or partying too much will result in less efforts put toward teaching.
This is not to say that you cannot ever have someone visit you in Korea. Our advice is to give it at least a couple of months for yourself to get settled into your new life in Korea before inviting someone to visit.
Best practice would be to first ask the school if this is alright and then to have your friend visit during one of your holidays.
Now that you know more about teacher apartments in Korea, you can feel comfortable knowing that you will be, well, comfortable there!