Things to do… On arrival to Korea

13 05 2010

If you are coming from India then the first thing you need to do is that convert your Indian money to dollars. You cannot direct convert Rupee to Korean Won while in India. If you are carrying huge amount then you can carry travelers check which can be en-cashed in any of the banks out here.

The day you land in Korea you need to do the following things:

  1. Convert your dollars to Korean Won at the airport.
  2. Keep some coins with you to make calls from a public phone.
  3. Make sure someone is coming to receive you from your office.
  4. If no one is coming then  you can go to the bus terminal and take the bus to your destination. The executives at the bus terminal are very helpful. You get limousine and city buses to Seoul and other places in Korea. Avoid taking cab / taxi on all costs. They are very expensive.
  5. On reaching you can buy a T-Money card.  Go to any 7-11 store and say “Yogiyo, T-Money Cardu Chuseyo”. It will cost you around 3000 won ($3) and you then need to recharge it by 10,000 won so you can use it for your day to day transit through Subway lines and Buses. T Money card can also be used for paying Taxi Fares, making calls from a public phone and buying things from 7-11 shops. You can recharge you T-Money card at any Subway Line station or in a 7-11 shop.
  6. Make sure you apply for your Alien Card in the first week of your arriving to Korea. You will be able to open your bank account and procure a cell phone only if you have a registration card. For Alien Card Registration you’d require your office registration document – Mandatory and 2 passport size photographs.
  7. Next you can purchase an International Calling Card to help you make calls back home. International Calling cards are available in 7-11 shops. For India you need to ask that you need calling cards for Indo (India is referred to as Indo in Korea).
  8. Get a subway map from the tourist information center. It will be extremely helpful to you in the first few weeks in Korea.
  9. Make sure you get a copy of Lonely Planet Phrasebook or any other phrasebook with basic phrases to help you communicate in Korea. People don’t speak English here. So it would be wise to invest in one of these phrasebooks available easily in various bookshops in India. You can order it online from Landmark.
  10. If you are bringing your laptop from India then your 3-pin charger might not work. You’d need a 3-pin to 2-pin adapter for charging your laptop which is easily available in any electronic shop in Korea. If you visit a mall then it is available in the electronic section.
  11. Another thing which you could possibly look at investing in is a rice cooker. If you are planning to cook at home then it is a must. I am not talking about the pressure cooker from India, for cooking rice you would need an electronic rice cooker. And if you are a bachelor then you have to purchase one at all cost in Korea.




Is Seoul, Korea Expensive…

11 05 2010

… well that depends upon where you coming from. If you are coming from US, UK, Australia or any other developed nation then you would find Korea much much cheaper. But if you are coming from a developing country like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal etc. then it is definitely expensive as compared to your home country.

For this article I’d comparing the expenses with Mumbai, India. First, we will talk about accommodation. As I come from Mumbai I feel the house rent in Seoul is equivalent to Mumbai rentals.  For Rs. 20,000 to 25,000 you might get a 1 BHK flat in Andheri, Powai area of Mumbai where as in Seoul you might get a studio apartment or a house with 2 rooms for Rs. 20,000 ($500). So rent wise I feel Seoul is not that expensive.

Food, is definitely expensive. You can easily find Indian grocery here but you would end up paying twice or thrice of the printed price (MRP). An happy meal in Mc Donalds would cost you Rs. 200/- ($5) and dinner in any Indian Restaurant for two would set you back by Rs. 1000-12000/- ($30).

Clothes are cheaper. You would find decent clothing for Rs. 200 – 400 ($5-$10) (not branded) at Dongdaemun, Namdaemun area. Seoul could be like a paradise for females interested in shopping clothes and accessories. And trust me you would get the best designs, fabric, patterns, cuts n shades over here. Branded clothes are way too expensive.

Books, are expensive, almost double the price than what you would pay at Landmark or Crossword in India. So pack your fiction collection while coming to Korea.

Medicines, and a visit to Doctor is expensive too. A visit to a general physician would be anywhere between Rs. 100-400/- ($3-$9) and medicines would starts from Rs. 50/- ($1) onwards provided your company have covered you for Health Insurance.

Public Transport is again expensive as compared to Mumbai. The minimum distance in Subway or Bus is almost Rs. 40/- ($1) whereas in Taxi it is Rs. 100/- ($3).

Mobile phone is slightly expensive. A prepaid phone (including secondhand handset) would cost you Rs. 400/- ($10) per month whereas a new postpaid phone would cost you approx. Rs. 800/- ($20) per month for their services. International calling cards are cheaper. For Rs. 800/-  ($20) you would get approx 300 minutes. And a VOIP service would cost you Rs. 800/- ($20) for 1000 minutes.

Internet is cheaper, much much cheaper than India. For Rs. 1600/- ($40) per month you get unlimited download and crazy speed.

Electricity, Gas, Heater, Water etc is equivalent or may be cheaper than Mumbai. It would come down to Rs. 1500-1600 ($40) per month depending upon the usage. But during winter the bill shoots up to almost Rs. 4000/- ($100) per month if you use the heater a lot.

Fitness is free if you get up early in the morning and go running to parks or go for hiking on weekends. Some parks have machines for workout which can be used for free. But if you have to join some Gym / Sauna then it might workout a bit expensive than Mumbai.

Haircut, would cost around Rs. 300 – Rs. 400 ($7-$10) for men and Rs. 400 – Rs. 600 ($10 – $15) for women.

Maids are appointed by hour. And they do all household cleaning, ironing etc. in that hour. For an hour of services they charge around Rs. 400 ($10) so instead of calling them everyday people call maids once a week. For detailed information on Maid Service you can check this article on KMK’s blog.

Entertainment can be expensive depending upon where you want to go. A movie ticket would cost you Rs. 350/- ($10) per head. And popcorn and all would cost you somewhere between 100-200 rs ($2-$5). Parks are mostly free but some might charge you for the entry if it is well maintained. Art galleries and museums would charge you some entry fee.

Education for kids is expensive and is a different topic of discussion altogether. But lot of kids study in Korea. So may be I am not the right person to answer this.

Well thats about it…. if there is anything else specific you want to know then just put a comment and I’ll find it out for you..  For more details you can also check my previous article on Cost of Living in Seoul, Korea.





Indian Music (FM Radio), Movies, TV, Newspaper and Books (Fiction)

28 04 2010

Since I am an avid reader let me start first with books. Most of the bookshops I have visited in Korea have a section on Foreign books. The foreign book section would have English, French, Japanese and books in other languages.  So in a bigger bookstore like Kyobo 70-80% of the bookstore would be dedicated to just Books in Korean Language and the rest to books in foreign language. So that way one would have a very limited choice when it comes to English Language books in Korea. The only Indian (NRI) writer books I saw in Korea were – Jhumpa Lahiri, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, V. S. Naipaul. Surprisingly the booker winners like Kiran Desai and Aravind Adiga were not to be seen. Most of the popular firang writers are available. And sorry no pirated copies of books are available like the way they are available back home. So all you Chetan Bhagat, Shobha De, Karan Bajaj, Manju Kapoor and other Indian writer fans out there please get your copies of favorite writers when you are moving to Korea.

Hindi Movies DVD’s are available (sorry not in a bookstore) but in the Foreign Mart at Itaewon. Otherwise you can also watch your share of hindi movies here.

You can watch popular Hindi TV channels like zee, sony, star, zoom, sab n others here.

And for online FM radios you can listen to them here and here. Just coz of some legal issues you will not be able to hear any Indian FM channels online. The one that are available are international Hindi FM radio channels which plays latest hindi music.

And for reading Times of India, Economic Times, Mirror, Crest (ditto) click here.





Indian Restaurants in Seoul

28 04 2010

It has been more than 8 months now ever since I moved to Seoul. And as every foodie would do I started exploring the Indian Restaurants in Seoul. Koreans and people from other countries are extremely fond of Indian food and to serve them and us you will find many a Indian Restaurants in Seoul. There are many Indian restaurants in Seoul and most of them serve good food and some also have vegetarian dishes on their menu.

Most of the Indian restaurants are run either by a Nepali or a Pakistani capitalizing on the brand name India. Some are run by Indians. Some serve buffet on weekends whereas others are à la carte where you can order by the menu.  Below is the rundown of restaurants I have visited personally.

Foreign Restaurant at Itaewon – serves buffet on weekends for lunch and dinner and thali set on weekdays. On weekdays the price for a thali would be around 6000 KRW but  on weekend (Fri / Sat / Sun) the price of buffet per plate goes up to 16000 KRW approx. But still it is value for money as after having an elaborate lunch you can easily skip all your other meals.

Chakra at Itaewon – serves buffet (approx 15000 KRW) on weekends and you also have the option to order food by menu. Chakra (at Hannam) is famous amongst South Indian community as they serve South Indian delicacies on many a occasion. Chakra has branches in Seoul, Suwon and many other places. http://www.chakraa.co.kr/kor/index.html

Durga – has many a branches in Seoul. The one I had been to was in the Jongno area, where we had to order our food by the menu. We found it reasonably priced and the food was good. I liked the biryani they served here as compared to Shanti. http://www.durga.co.kr/

Potala – serves Tibetan, Nepalese and Indian food. Very courteous staff and frequently visited by Vegetarians, Vegans and Monks. The hotel serves both veg and non-veg cuisines but they would attend to your vegetarian needs personally and will cook without onion, garlic etc. to suit your palate. The food is yummy and we kept on ordering more and more. The one I visited is located in Myeongdong. http://cafe.naver.com/potala

Shanti – has branches in Sinchon and Hongdae. It has a good decor but the prices are in line with other restaurants. I did not like the biryani they served me, but the nepali staff here is very helpful. http://www.shantifood.com/

Namaste – has many branches across Seoul. We visited the Sinsa branch and found the decor to be awesome. But it is priced slightly towards the higher side. One set meal would cost you around 19000 KRW. The food is good but what I did not like is that for rice they serve korean sticky rice with Indian gravy. For the price they charge they better serve Basmati or Jasmine rice. http://namasterestaurant.co.kr/

Utsav – at Hongdae (close to Sangsu Station) has an awesome decor. The moment you enter this restaurant it seems you have entered some kinda fort in India.. What I like best is that they serve Sizzlers here. Not as good as Yokos, Kobes or Pop Tates but still its good. The Buffet is okay and I feel it is bit highly priced for the items in the menu they serve. But it could be a good place to visit for a romantic dinner and mostly in the evenings. http://www.utsav.co.kr/

Om – is in Samcheon Dong. I have not tried this yet. But my friends who have tried it find this place ok. ttp://www.omfood.kr/

Everest – in Dongdaemun is so famous that if you go there on a weekend you will have to stand in a queue amongst Koreans to order your food. The food is delicious and is well priced. Everest is also one of the oldest restaurant and is managed by a Nepali Family. There are two Everest in Dongdaemun. The one on the main road and the one inside. This one which I am talking about is inside. You can find the details to get there by visiting their website – http://www.everestfood.com/

Yamuna – again in Dongdaemun serves food just like ghar ka khaana. A nepali restaurant which serves awesome momos and nepali thali. They also cook vegetarian food on demand using separate utensils catering both to Jain as well the ones who dont eat onion and garlic. http://indofood.cyworld.com/

Persian Palace – is in Hyewa. I visited this place with my Korean office colleagues and I must say I did like the food. The menu is not Indian, it is Persian. But to me it tastes all the same. If you like Indian Food then you must try this food too.  http://www.persianpalace.co.kr/

There are many other restaurants too – Raja Rani in Hoegi, Taj mahal in Hongdae, Amma in Sinchon and many others. Some are priced well and some are exorbitantly priced. Most serve North Indian or Punjabi delicacies. But nothing beats the prasadam served for free  at the Krishna Korea Temple every Sunday at Haebangchon, Noksapyeong (close to Itaewon).

Other websites:

http://www.ganga.co.kr/new/en/en_main.html
http://www.indiagate.co.kr/
http://www.pooja.co.kr/
http://www.indianfood.kr/
http://www.moghulkorea.com/

You can also read the reviews of a few restaurants at KMK’s blog.





India Temple in Korea – Krishna Korea

16 04 2010
Hare Rama Hare Krishna

Krishna Korea Temple in Haebangchon, Seoul

Located in the heart of Seoul, at Haebangchon is the only worship place for Hindus – Krishna Korea Temple.  There is one more at Ujjengbu which is in the outskirts of Seoul.

This temple was opened 2 yrs back, to spread spiritual awareness amongst people in Seoul and give knowledge about Hinduism in general. Everyday after the daily pooja (worship) the temple reads verses from Bhagavad Gita. Anyone who wants to attain liberation from this materialistic world must attend these sessions regularly.  The temple reads Chapters from Gita to helps us understand ourselves better and to offer a medium to help us connect with our God.

I came to Seoul almost a 4 months back but started attending temple regularly only a month back and that is my biggest regret. I should have followed this temple immediately. This temple for me is a home away from home. And it has really helped me to meet many a good people here from all parts of the world – Indian, Korean, Foreigners alike.

What I best like about this temple is that apart from the festivals they conduct regular workshops, games, puzzles, quizzes for kids to make them aware about Hindu Culture and Hinduism. And this according to me is the best practice to reach the tender minds of kids rather than boring them with long lectures. There are even workshops conducted for adults like yoga, korean classes, cooking classes, etc.

The temple offers prasadam on Sundays and on various festivals in the evenings. And it also accepts donations for the same.  Devotees please understand that the temple is run by donations and it is in our hands to ensure that the temple operations runs continuous and smooth. The temple has gone through a lot of hardships and tough times in the past but as per the blessings of Lord Krishna it is still standing and will continue doing so in the future. The temple is a platform for all of us to come together, make new friends, and most importantly remain attached to our roots.  The temple is a door to spread the wisdom about our Hindu culture to the world, embrace the lost souls and give them a purpose in life. So please come and take the blessings from Dear Lord.

If you are coming for the first time then you can visit this link for directions.

Alternatively you can mail on: krishnakorea@gmail.com for any of your queries / suggestions.  Or, visit the temple website. Or, join on facebook for future updates on events and festivals.

|| Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare ||

|| Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare ||





Useful Websites – Seoul n Korea

14 03 2010
Useful Blogs:
  • Marmots hole and Korean Beat are like Korea insiders.. Korean Times and the other English news paper available in Korea is pretty dry and news published is more or less filtered. If you really want to know what is happening around you check these websites with articles from Korean Newspaper translated in English.
  • Seoul City Blog – This blog is maintained by Seoul Global Centre and has very helpful information for foreigners on most of the things.
  • Kimchi Crew – This blog has interesting info on Korean Language, Kpop and youth culture in general. Kimchi Crew also offers Korean and other language exchanges classes on weekends at Meeple Cafe, Sinchon.
  • Kiss My Kimchi – This blog has info on Culture, Entertainment, Food, Shop, Teach, Travel, Clubbing and everything in general in Korea. So before you are planning to visit any part of Korea you can just do a quick search on his blog to get some useful info for the places he has visited and blogged about.
  • Brian in Jeollanam-do – Brian has been contributing articles to Korea Herald, Korea Times, Joongang Daily and has around 2500 posts on his blog about the culture, educations, news and events in South Korea. I specially enjoy reading his articles on Love Motel in Korea.
  • Recruiting in Korea – tells you the Honest truth about recruiting English Teachers in Korea.
Newspaper and Magazines:
  • 10 Magazine – Events, Movies, Workshops, Art Cafes, Music,Theatre, Parties in Korea.. one of the widely read English Magazine in print. Copies available at Kyobo Bookstore and other places frequently visited by foreginers:
  • Groove Korea – similar information as above. Available in Print. Mostly covers the music scene in Korea.
  • For the list of Korean newspaper in English available online click here.
Online Entertainment – Dramas, Movies & Kpop
  • MY SOJU – the mecca of Korean Dramas and Movies. These guys do a very good job of uploading drama episodes with English Subtitles. Most of the foreigners who watch Korean Drama owe their viewing to MySoju. Apart from Korean Drama and Movies it also has Japanese and Taiwanese Drama and Movies.
  • KoreanMusic.tv – does a very good job of uploading KPOP videos with useful info about the band and the artist.
Online Shopping
  • Gmarket – you need an Alien Card to register your self and then you are on. This is by far the cheapest place I ve come across to buy your things. They offer almost everything and had various options to chose from. And most of the goods you order they deliver if for free.

Adventure

  • Seoul Hiking – has a group on facebook. You need to just join the group and every week they will mail you details about the hiking conducted by them. With so many mountains surrounding Seoul this one is not to be missed.
  • Adventure Korea – offers very interesting packages on weekends for exploring Korea in an adventurous way. Skiing, Ice Fishing, Rafting, Mud bath, Hiking, Rock Climbing, Temple Stay, Jeju Island they have travel packages on almost everything.
Photography
  • Seoul Photo Club and Flickr in Seoul are the two most commonly used group on Flickr where people from in and around Korea submit their photos and offer constructive comments.
Other Listings
  • Craigslist in Seoul – Buy / Sell / Rental / Dating / Events etc in Seoul. These listing are very popular amongst the Foreign Community in Korea.




Cost of living in Seoul, Korea

25 02 2010

Indians who are coming to  Korea for the very first time can find the information below very helpful. I have written this article keeping Seoul in mind but if you are visiting some other city or province this information would still be helpful to you in giving you a fair idea about living in Korea.

The Cost of Living in Seoul Korea can broadly be divided into:

Accommodation

  • Deposit – Rs. 2 lacs / 5 Million Won approx ($5000)
  • Monthly Rent – Rs. 20,000 / 500,000 Won per month approx ($500)

Maintenance

  • Winter – Heater / Gas / Electricity / Water – Rs. 2,000 / 50,000 Won per month approx ($50)

Food and Grocery

  • If you cook at home – Rs. 8000 / 200,000 Won per month approx ($200)
  • If you eat outside – Rs 16000 / 400,000 Won per month approx ($400)

Travelling using public transport

  • If you travel by subway or bus – Rs. 3600 / 90,000 per month (including weekend travelling) ($90)

Communication

  • Local calls using Mobile – Rs. 900 / 23,000 Won per month ($23)
  • International Calling cards – Rs. 600 / 15,000 won per month ($15)
  • PC to Phone – Rs. 800 / 20,000 won for 3 – 4 months.
  • Internet – Rs. 500 / 13,000 Won per month

So per month you would be spending approx – Rs. 36000 / 900,000 Won per month. ($900)

Accommodation (and maintenance): The cost of accommodation depends upon many a factors – whether you are staying alone or with family, location of the house, room sharing etc.

If you are staying alone in an officetel or a studio apartment then your monthly rent can come to – 300,000 – 350,000 won per month ($300 – $350). For certain officetel you need not pay any maintenance like electricity, water, gas, heater separately. It is all inclusive (including dinner). But since it is occupied mostly by Korean students for studying you would not be allowed to invite your friends over or talk inside the room.

If you are sharing your room then your monthly rent as well as maintenance can come down to – 300,000 – 350,000 won per month. You are likely to share your room with a Korean family, Korean students or some other foreigner. Maintenance and food is separate but it will be shared between the room-mates.

If you are staying with your family then your monthly rent will be minimum 500,000 won per month ($500). Maintenance separate.

Alternatively you can post your requirements for an apt/room sharing on Craigslist and you will have people contacting you directly.

The cost of accommodation may vary as per location. Places which are 40-50 minutes distance via Subway trains in Seoul would charge you lesser rent as compared to places in the proximity of Seoul Metropolitan area. For more detailed information you can read this article at KMK’s blog here.

Deposit (Key Money) – Except for officetel, for other apartment or studio you would be required to pay Key Money or deposit before you sign the lease. The key money / deposit could range anywhere between 2 Million won to 5 Million won ($5000).

Furniture – Most of the studio or apartment are sometimes furnished, but you can check for the following things before you accept the offer

  • Bed with blankets
  • Refrigerator
  • Washing machine
  • Microwave
  • Gas stove for cooking
  • Chair and desk
  • Room heater facility

Officetel are normally furnished with a bed, chair and desk, refrigerator. They may share a common kitchen, bathroom and washing machine.

Water – Water is a bit hard in Korea so some Indians may not find it suitable for drinking. You may chose to boil it before drinking or use mineral water which is approx. 600 – 800 won (Rs. 25 – 35 per bottle in a department store) for a 2 litre bottle.

Food – Certain food items like milk, bread, butter, jam, yoghurt, corn flakes, ketchup, tea, coffee, noodles, egg, raw chicken, Korean rice, onion, potato, fruits and vegetables are easily available in Korean department store. If you need to do shopping for Indian Grocery items then you need to visit the Foreign Shop and Marhaba at Itaewon. You might not get everything but you would get many Indian spices, pulses and food items for cooking. These shops does not cater only to Indian but also Pakistanis, Bangladeshi, Nepalis, Mangolians and others. There is also a Nepal Street in Dongdaemun. Dongdaemun is considered as mini Nepal as it has many Nepali shops and restaurants.

There are many Indian Restaurants in Korea but they are a bit expensive. Other eateries like Mc Donalds, Burger King, KFC, Pizza hut, Paris Baguette, Papa Jones, TGI Friday, Subway, Quiznoss, Sunshine Kababs and many other burger, pizza, hotdog and kabab joints are commonly found in Korea. Eating in any of these eateries can set you back by approx 4000 – 5000 won per head. And sorry no vegetarian food available. Most of the food items would contain beef or pork but you will get chicken items too in any of these outlets easily.

Travelling – Public Transport is highly efficient in Korea. From Subway lines to buses you can chose anything for your daily mode of transportation. All you need is a T-Money card to travel. T-Money Card is widely accepted in buses, subway trains, taxi, Seven Eleven shops, Public telephone booths and many other places. T-Money card is available in any Seven Eleven shop for 3000 Won which you can reload with money from time to time as per your requirement.

Communication – For calling India you can get an International Calling Card from the foreign shop as mentioned above or any other roadside or subway shop which displays the following board – International Calling Cards. This card is like a scratch card. It has a Card No. which you will have to use for making International Calls from a public phone or your cell phone. The card has around 110 calling minutes and are available from various companies for various denominations. Sky and Very Good are amongst the commonly used cards. Other economical option is to use pc to phone services – for Rs. 800 or 20$ you can get 1000 minutes of talk time to India. For calling other countries you can check their website.

Doctors – You will find English speaking doctors mostly at Haebangchon and Itaewon, but you will find English Speaking doctors in other areas too. Look for International clinic when you visit Korea. And it is important to have a health insurance else a visit to a doctor could be very expensive.

E commerce – Internet is the fastest in Korea as compared to any other country in the world. And Korea is very tech or net savvy. Ecommerce is a big business in Korea and you can shop most of your items from G Market – http://www.gmarket.co.kr/index_eng.asp. But to use this website you need to have your Alien Registration Card and a cell phone.

Alien Registration Card – Every foreigner after landing in Korea is required to apply for Alien Registration Card. This card enables you to open a bank account, procure a phone and do other important activities in Korea. You need to visit the Korean Immigration office with your passport, employment agreement, passport size photo, and 10,000 won for stamping.

You can visit the site below for additional information:

http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/index.kto

Please note: 1000 won is considered equivalent to $1 for easy computing

___________________________________________________________________

If you want to meet more Indians living, working or studying in Korea then you must visit Indians in Korea website and register with their yahoo group.

To Subscribe in IIK group, mail to
indianscommunityinKorea-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Group Link:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/indianscommunityinKorea

Here in this group you will find more than 10,000 Indians working or studying in Korea. So if you are not able to find answers to your query you must register on their yahoo group and post you queries on the group to get it answered by Indians living in Korea.