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Seoul - Gyeongbokgung Palace

Seoul Like an Expat

Go beyond the tourist checklist and discover a city that you’ll never want to leave

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Seoul, South Korea, you’ll definitely want to see all the famous attractions there. Honestly, there’s so many that even on a two-week visit, I still had much left to see. But I managed to check out the Gyeonbokgung Palace, the War Memorial and Museum, Insadong, and even Lotte World among other things.

I loved Seoul so much that once I returned to America, I immediately packed my things again and moved there for good. I was no longer a tourist. I was an expat living and loving my new life in a country that energized me completely.

Most guides will tell you about all the typical things you should see and do in Seoul. I agree completely. You’ve got to try them out. But make room in your itinerary to try out some of these other things that expats like me would find ourselves doing on a daily or weekly basis.

Grab Your Friends and go to Norebang

Norebang is the Korean word for karaoke. And in Korea, it’s the best thing ever. There are so many norebang places that you’ll never be stuck without one. What makes it so exciting here? Simple. Norebang literally translates to “singing room.” For a nominal fee, you and your friends get a room decked out with an amazing sound system that will delight your audio and visual senses. You can order drinks and snacks too which only adds to the fun.

view

Enjoy the view

So this was a little incidental since I often had to take the subway across the Han River, but there were definitely times when I decided to take a longer ride just so I could enjoy the spectacular view of the National Assembly. You can find it by taking Line 2 between Dangsan and Hapjeong. While riding the subway is a fun way to get around in Seoul, during peak hours it can get a little crowded. If you miss your chance to peek out the window, you can just get off at Dangsan and go out of exit 3. There, you’ll find a great walkway that gives you another opportunity to check out the splendid skyline. Side bar bonus: perfect for a date!

Seoul Children’s Park

This park is a good attraction for new visitors, but expats also love it. There are so many things to do here from the roller coasters and rides in the amusement park to the zoo full of animals. There’s also a beautiful botanical garden. Admission to the park, zoo and garden is free too which can make for a really budget-friendly way to spend the day. Rides at the amusement park are a small fee, but totally worth it.

Korean Food

Eating and drinking around the city

Seoul night life is some of the best around. Gather your expat and Korean friends and eat and drink from place to place. It’s a very Korean-style thing to do. The perfect night in Seoul begins at one restaurant, perhaps a little Korean bbq. You’ll cook your samgyeopsal (pork belly) over the coal fire bit in the center of your table and drink makgeoli (Korean rice wine) or soju (Korea’s answer to vodka) or even beer along with it. And after some time in this place, you’ll pay your tab and effortlessly move on to another establishment with a different type of food. One common and wonderfully delicious choice would be a chicken place. Because nothing is better than fried chicken and pitchers of ice-cold Hite or Cass beer on tap. And the evening continues on in this fashion. Perhaps you get wild and take the subway to another part of the city, like foreigner-friendly Itaewon or Hongdae, both known for bars and clubs. In Seoul, the night is always alive.

nightlife

Shop ‘til you drop

One of my all-time favorite activities in Korea was to go shopping. That makes me a bit of a girly-girl, but I don’t care. I still have in my possession some of the most awesome handbags you’ll ever see because Seoul is a fashion Mecca. The best part is that there is shopping literally everywhere you turn, what you might not know is that some of the best shopping is underground. Subway stations like Goto Mall in the Gangnam Terminal, the Yeungdeungpo Underground Mall, and the Jamsil Underground Shopping Center are where you will find some of the coolest clothes, shoes handbags, earrings and more for such low prices you’ll be able to shop every day. I actually went through a phase where I bought a new handbag every other day, couldn’t resist!

There you have it, 5 incredible things to do that are different than the typical touristy coolness that tour guides and hotels alike will suggest to you when you’re looking for something to do in Seoul. Mix in a healthy dose of all of them and you’re in for the best trip of your life!