Step One: Fly to Korea
Step Two: Land in Korea
Step Three: Profit?
Okay, so ignore that last one but for real: you’ve landed in Korea, you’ve gotten to your apartment, you’ve met some of your co-workers (maybe even taken a tour of your school, and now you’re trying to mentally prepare yourself with navigating your way through this unknown and exciting world…now what? You here, you’ve made it, there can’t possibly be anything else to prepare, right? No, dear reader, that’s where you would be wrong. There is still more paperwork to be filled out and more things to prepare. Luckily, I’m here to give you a heads up!
- ARC (Alien Registration Card)
Before you even eat your first piece of gimpap or snap your first “I’m in Korea!” photo you need to start setting into motion the paperwork for your Alien Registration Card. This is basically the Korean equivalent of a “green card” saying you are allowed to be working and living in the country. “But wait,” you might be thinking, “Isn’t that what my visa is for?” Unfortunately, dear reader, the visa only allows you to work and live in the country for up to 90 days and allows you time to work on getting your ARC. If your hagwon is like mine or you’re teaching at public school, then it is most likely that they have already started to set into motion this process; but not every school is the same and though the majority of the paperwork needs to be completed by the school it may be necessary for you to take the initiative. Don’t be hesitant to talk to your school about getting your ARC because it is also very beneficial for them: obviously if they hired you for a year or more then they probably would very much would like you stay longer than 90 days.
Your ARC is not only important in the fact that it is the only thing between you and deportation but it also necessary for you to have one in order for you to do important things such as, you know, get paid. Which brings me to my next point.
Depending on where you live and what banks you have near you, you may need to wait to get your. ARC before opening up a bank account (which why, in that case, it would be better to start the paperwork ASAP); but banks today are slowly allowing foreigners, or at least ones with specific types of visas, to open up a bank account without their ARC. My bank, KB Star (Kookmin), for example, allowed me to open up a checking account which came with a Mastercard credit card with only my passport and visa, and allowed my school to pay me through direct deposit. And, boy, am I sure glad I opened it up so I could get paid because I would not have made it for another month!
Disclosure *Just be sure to ask your Korean co-worker or friend for help, and don’t be surprised if it takes longer than expected; getting a Korean bank account is much harder than in America.
- Wi-Fi and Korean Sim Card
It’s a cliché to say, but in this day and age you cannot survive without Wi-Fi and data and being in a foreign country it’s even more so. I don’t think I could have survived with not being able to speak to my family and friends for more than a few days, which is why I took the initiative in getting someone to help me get a Wi-F- box for my apartment. It cost me around 40,000 won or around $35 for a Wi-Fi box plus an extra 20,000 won ($18) to get some equipment to set it up; and, yes, it’s true what they say Korean Wi-Fi is A-ma-zing. And it has been definitely worth it to get not just because I am able to keep up with all my favorite American shows, including Game of Thrones and Project Runway, but because in order to get used to some of the culture shock you’re going to need to be able to contact your family and friends for support, and I mean also Project Runway.
In addition to a Wi-Fi box you will need to get a Korean phone or sim card, depending on whether or not your phone is unlocked. (If your phone is not unlocked then you will need to get a Korean phone on top of a sim card plan). This has been a lot more difficult for me to get considering that I am still working on getting my ARC; unlike some banks getting a Korean phone plan does require an ARC number. And what’s more a Korean phone number is pretty essential to some things in everyday life. Whether it’s needing to call one of your co-workers for help, ordering a pizza, shopping online, or even being able to watch YouTube videos only suitable for 19 years or older, you need a Korean phone number.
There are a few alternatives to just waiting for your ARC in order to get a Korean phone number. Which is to buy a prepaid Sim Card that allows you to have a temporary mobile data plan and phone number. However, the downside to this is it tends to be a lot more expensive than a regular data plan and you may not have as much data available as you like. However, if you are not interested in getting a Korean phone number (because let’s face it everyone just uses Kakao Talk to communicate anyway) and are only interested in being able to use data while you’re out and about then a lot of people have mentioned to me that getting a Wi-Fi egg is the next best thing. A Wi-Fi egg is like portable Wi-Fi router and gives you a certain amount of date per day for 30 days, and once 30 days is up you can recharge it again for another 30 days for one flat rate. This gives a bit more data than the pre-paid Sim Card and is cheaper as well. Whichever you choose to get, I still think the most important thing to get is your Wi-Fi box so that you can use this next thing.
As I mentioned before, most Koreans nowadays uses an app called Kakao Talk to communicate. It uses Wi-Fi or data to make calls, send texts, and make video calls, and best part about it is it’s free AND you can already use your American phone number to make an account (it also has a bunch of cute characters as mascots who are Everywhere in Korea). I highly suggest this app because as soon as you get to Korea I guarantee your co-workers will be asking, “Hey what is your Kakao so we can meet up?” Of course, you can’t go anywhere without a T-money card.
- Public Transportation card
In Korea I constantly use my T-money card to get around. A T-money card is a rechargeable public transportation card that you can swipe to pay fare for buses, subways, and sometimes even taxis (depending on how much you have). Many convenient stores sell these cards for a small price and then you can go to any convenient store to recharge it. T-money is the most common card you can buy but there are other brands you can buy as well. I never leave home without it and it makes riding the bus less stressful than trying around to correct change for the bus fare.
Those are a few of the things I think you need to get as soon as you get to Korea, until next time dear reader!