CONTRIBUTED BY AMY HICKERSON
In my first “What to Expect” post, I described how to get over the initial shock of finding out you are in fact moving to Korea. The next step? Making it your home.
The choice to live on or off post may not be an option for your family, but either way there are pros and cons. My family has done both. We lived in a Korean apartment our first tour here (2007-2010 in Area 1), and we currently live in post housing (2012-2015 on Yongsan).
We had no choice our first tour, as I had come over non-command sponsored, to a base with no family housing (Area 1). However, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that (most) Korean apartments are quite modern, spacious and comfortable. This tour we are in Area 2, with several neighborhoods on post for families, and we were able to move into one of the homes.
Some of the pros we found to living off post were:
- More space
- More of a “full immersion” Korean living experience
- Easier access to off post activities & travel (easy to get to a subway station or bus stop fast!).
Living off post can also give you really cool moving experiences like this…
Yes, this is how your household goods will be moved in and out of your apartment! There is a flat platform that the movers load, and send up to one of your big windows. Super cool, and it makes SO much more sense than carrying load after load upstairs!
The cons we experienced off post included:
- Often feeling isolated
- Getting on post quickly was sometimes difficult (especially if you are sharing one car in your family)
- Using transformer boxes for all of our American electronics.
I asked my husband his opinion from our time off post, and all of his matched mine, except I forgot one big thing that actually is a pro AND a con: climate control. The pro is that Korean apartments have heated floors. It is, simply put: AWESOME. I miss our heated floors so much in our on post house this time! The con is that Air Conditioning is SUPER expensive here. It cost so much that we didn’t use it. It makes for a pretty miserable summer, so plan to get fans and spend a lot of time at the pool!
Off post you will find lots of little splash parks like this (free!) when the weather is nice and warm! It is a great way to cool down!
Our son was not school-aged at the time we lived off post, so it was really the perfect time for us to live like that and experience a more “real” Korean life experience. We had a lot of parks within walking distance, and my son and I spent lots of time walking to and exploring the parks. We also lived close to the Han, which provides endless walking and cycling paths and workout/play areas.
Here is the view we had from our apartment. I sure do miss this!
Pro Tip For Living Off Post: It’s ok to shop around for different realtors. Different realtors can show you different apartments (which can vary greatly!) until you find one that fits your family’s needs.
Now that we live on post, we are finding that the pros include:
- A large network of (literally!) close friends
- Ease of being within walking distance to most everything we need on a daily basis (including the school my son attends on post)
- Neighborhood playgrounds for the kids
- American outlets for our appliances and electronics
- Air conditioning
I really love that my son has a great network of friends and can come and go easily in the neighborhood!
The cons include:
- VERY small living space (bringing ALL of your furniture, like we did, is not a good idea. Also, I have several friends who were put in small units and told their children had to share rooms.)
- Living in a “fishbowl” (this is a pro too—-we are safe inside the wire, but it can also feel claustrophobic!)
- It takes some effort to get off post (driving to a gate, then getting to a subway or bus stop)
- Not getting the full “living in Korea” experience
Pro Tip For Living On Post: Know what you are entitled to have based on the military regulations. The housing office can be a bit difficult to navigate, and it helps if you have done research. Visit the neighborhoods or ask around and try to find out for yourself which units are available.
Overall, either way, once you get settled, you’ll figure out your routines and make it work. Best advice? Don’t bring a lot of stuff from home. Less is definitely more here, especially if you get stuck in a small home.