South Korea Seoul expat advice

Ivan Herman / CC BY-ND 3.0

The Republic of Korea, commonly known as (South) Korea, is fast becoming a top expat destination, partly due to its captivating city life and mountainous landscape. So here’s some advice for expats on how to get the most out of your time in the ‘Land of the Morning Calm’.

When moving to Korea, you could find yourself in Seoul living a life in a cosmopolitan fusion of ancient culture and modern sophistication or the Gangwon-do Province as a skiing fanatic enjoying the abundance of snowfall the area has to offer. Wherever you decide to settle in Korea, this Asian peninsula will not fail to impress.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites are dotted all over the country so you’ll not be short of beautifully cared-for monuments to gaze upon. A wonderful chance to catch a glimpse of Korea of the past is to visit the Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul, which was built in 1394. A charming blend of musicians, scholars and dancers would perform to worship the deceased Joseon Dynasty Kings and Queens and these ceremonial rituals are still enacted today in their original form.

When in need of information or assistance, whether locating accommodation in Daegu, trying to communicate with a taxi driver or finding out what’s happening in Seoul this weekend, just call 1330. It’s a free phone service, initially set up by the Korea Tourism Board to help tourists, which has become a lifeline for expats in Korea.

In Korea, a priceless tip is not to tip! Nobody tips in Korea and the service in restaurants and bars is still good. In fact, if you tip, you may confuse or even startle the waiter as they won’t understand the concept. Better still, hierarchy plays a role when at dinner with local Korean citizens; the eldest tends to be the first to eat and the one to pay for the entire meal. Of course, a group of friends will expect to simply split the bill. Check out our hints and tips tool for further advice on living in Korea, written by other expats.

You should integrate parts of your daily routine from your home country into your new expat life. If you had Sunday brunch with friends at home, establish this as a routine in Korea. You’ll keep a sense of who you are and it’ll give you a great way to socialise. There are plenty of other ways to make friends in Korea too. Expat communities are very well established and they organise social events, trips, volunteer work—you name it, they’ve got it!

This guest blog post was written by Expat Explorer, brought to you by HSBC Expat.

Liveable cities


Australian cities have once again been named among the most liveable in the world. The annual international index of cities, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) according to liveability, ranked Melbourne the most liveable city in the world. The silver and bronze medals go to Vienna and Vancouver respectively.

The criteria

The Global Liveability Ranking assesses 140 cities around the world with respect to certain criteria within five categories – stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. If these criteria are important to you, you might want to take good account of this rating. For expats, it is an almost ideal ranking when it comes to choosing their next hometown.The only thing you want to be careful about are living costs – they are not accounted for in the index calculations.

EIU’s top 3

Melbourne – Melbourne fared very well in the ranking, reaching 97.5 points out of a possible 100. The Australian metropolis got full marks (100) for the categories of healthcare, education and infrastructure. Its rating for stability is 95, the rating for culture and environment 95.2. According to the EIU, Melbourne ranks in first place; in a study by *Mercer from 2014, however, calculating costs of living in Melbourne, the city is the 33rd least expensive.

Vienna – The Austrian capital scores similarly to Melbourne, with a total of 97.4 points on the index. It was awarded results identical to Melbourne, except for the category of culture and environment, for which the EIU awarded 94.4 points to Vienna. With respect to living costs, it ranks one notch above Melbourne, as the 32nd least expensive city to live in.

Vancouver – The seaport in British Columbia ranked number 3 in the EIU index, with a total of 97.3 points. It achieved a full score in the categories of healthcare, culture and environment, and education. Scores for stability and infrastructure amounted to 95 and 92.9 respectively. The Mercer index lists Vancouver as relatively expensive, occupying place number 96 out of 211.

liveable cities


EIU’s top 10

However, if money is no object, you have a variety of options to choose from when looking for a new city of residence. If you fancy living somewhere in Australia, you have three more cities beside Melbourne in the top ten: Adelaide (5th), Sydney (7th), and Perth (9th). Canada also performed well, offering two more top-ten expat destinations apart from Vancouver (3rd), such as Toronto (4th), and Calgary (5th). Vienna (Austria, 2nd), Helsinki (Finland, 8th) and Auckland (New Zealand, 10th) are also rated as great places to live.

Europe’s bottom 3

Whereas the top ten cities haven’t changed in the last three years, plenty of change has taken place further down the scale. Some cities have lost index points, so if you are planning on moving to a European city, you might not want to go to Athens, Lisbon, or London (55th, one place above New York). These are the three lowest-ranking European cities in the index.

*For more information on living costs there is a very comprehensive study on quality of living in expat destinations. It is conducted by Mercer and ranks 211 cities around the world, based on the cost of living.

most peaceful places expat

By Obbino CC BY 2.0

You often dream of settling abroad, but you’re not sure which country to choose? Of course, it depends on what you are looking for: business opportunities, affordable cost of living, beaches, cities, or a specific culture.

One thing all expats are probably hoping for is somewhere safe and relatively peaceful!

The Global Peace Index

For the past eight years, the Economist Intelligence Programme has been calculating the Global Peace Index (GPI) thanks to the data collected by international experts. The GPI ranks 162 countries by measuring 22 indicators such as the number of prison inmates and the military presence.

Where do expat destinations stand?

We took a look at the map to check out the current situation in five popular destinations for expats, and this is what we found:

Australia: very well ranked on the Global Peace Index (15/162). Civil liberties, education and feeling of safety are considered ‘satisfying’, and political instability and crime rates are low. Life expectancy is 81.8 years. Weapons import is a little high, as well as the use of armed force.

Spain: in the top 30 countries on the Global Peace Index (number 26 to be exact), Spain is considered to be a safe place. Unemployment is high and economical conditions are not ideal these days, but the country is a sensible destination for expats. Education and health services are excellent.

France: number 48, France is a little further down on the scale compared to Australia and Spain, but still in the top 50. Perceived criminality and violent demonstrations are high, as well as unemployment. Civil liberties are considered quite good, but the number of nuclear and military weapons is very high.

Thailand: at the bottom of the list. Currently undergoing a political crisis, the future of Thailand is uncertain and ranks it 126 out of 162 countries. Corruption is common and street safety is quite low due to a very high crime rate.

UAE: ranked 40 out of 162 countries, the UAE doesn’t have a bad score and welcomes a lot of expats. However, the weapon import rate is very high, even though the crime and violence rates are average. According to the Index, the government and the democracy are not functioning very well, and gender equality is quite low.

Verdict for 2014

The verdict is that even if we are living in the “most peaceful century in human history”, the level of peace is deteriorating. To prevent the situation from getting worse, the GPI recommends that we invest in organisations promoting peace and development in the most vulnerable countries.

According to the index, here are the top 10 most peaceful countries on the planet:

1. Iceland
2. Denmark
3. Austria
4. New Zealand
5. Switzerland
6. Finland
7. Canada
8. Japan
9. Belgium
10. Norway

The Global Peace Index shows the evolution of each country over the last few years, and allows you to see the global rankings. Used by numerous international organisations (including the UN and several NGOs), the Index is now the world’s first measure of national peacefulness.

Its official website displays a new interactive map on which you can take a closer look at each country to examine the current situation. Click on a country to see the ranking and full statistics. The map also allows you to go back in time to see the changes over the last decade, and focus on a specific factor such as terrorist activity or political instability for instance.

If you need more information, you can also download the 2014 Global Peace Index report and the 2014 Index Highlights on the website.