How close-knit is the expat community in this area? How do I get involved with it?
The expat community in Seoul is quite close-knit, partly due to the initial language and cultural barriers expats typically face when first relocating to Korea. However, this has changed over the past few years and will likely continue to change as Korea continues to open up and shed its "Hermit Kingdom" image of the past. Koreans' English-speaking capabilities continue to improve, and more and more Koreans are gaining international experiences through studying, working and traveling overseas.
The total number of foreigners residing in Korea make up about 2.8% of the total population, approximately 1.4 million foreigners (an 11% increase from 2011). A significant portion are ethnic Koreans from China and migrant workers. There are also a number of US military, diplomats and English teachers. In terms of expats on assignment in Seoul, the number is roughly 50,000 - 60,000. Building your professional and social network in Korea is very important and most expats do this through attending many of the networking events held by various countries' Chambers of Commerce in Seoul. Each month there are a number of breakfast, lunch and evening business and social networking functions.
Beside expat groups, what is the best way to make social connections outside of work?
There are also a few popular social & health clubs that many expats join, i.e., The Banyan Tree, Seoul Club and Olympus Club at the Hyatt to name a few. For families with school-aged children, the international schools become a social network for the entire family. The chambers of commerce and women's networking clubs are all good options as well. There are also a number of sports clubs; golf is extremely popular and there are running clubs (such as Seoul Hash House Harriers) for runners and hiking enthusiasts, etc. to all get involved in and meet new people.
Where can I meet other singles in this city?
Here is a list of popular areas around Seoul that are great for singles to get out and mingle:
- Itaewon is a city district, in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. It is served by Seoul Subway Line 6 via Itaewon, Noksapyeong and Hanganjin stations. About 22,000 people reside in the district and it is a popular area for residents of Seoul, tourists and U.S. military personnel. Many restaurants serving international dishes are found in this area including cuisine from India, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Thailand and Mexico, foods that are not widely available in Korea. The Seoul Central Mosque is also located in Itaewon. Itaewon, along with Insadong and Seoul Tower, is one of the most popular areas in Seoul for tourists. Major hotels such as the Hyatt and local landmark Hamilton Hotel can be found here as well as dozens of shops and services aimed at tourists. High-quality leather products in Korea can be found here at reasonable prices (though haggling is expected) as well as various types of traditional Korean souvenirs. Counterfeit goods and clothing are ubiquitous and of varying quality, but some genuine goods that are produced in Korea for the international market as well as some authentic imports can sometimes be found here. Itaewon is also known to have various tailors that peddle their services for making custom-made suits.
- Hongdae is home to hundreds of bars, restaurants, boutiques and nightclubs and draws revelers from a wide range of backgrounds, especially university students, English teachers and tourists. Most bars are open long into the night to allow patrons to return home by subway at 6am. There is also a large collection of independent coffee shops/cafes in the area that attract the local young adult population. The area is also known as the nation's capital of the underground rock music community, and live music is widely available in the bars and clubs in the area. The area is served by subway via Sangsu Station (line 6) and Hongik University Station (line 2), and various buses.
- Gangnam-gu is one of the most affluent areas of Seoul and is located in the southeast of the city. It is served by Seoul Subway Line 2, Seoul Subway Line 3, Seoul Subway Line 7 and the Bundang Line. Several popular shopping and entertainment areas are located in Gangnam-gu, including Apgujeong, the COEX Mall and the area around Gangnam Station. The important business district around Teheranno (Tehran Street) runs east-west from Gangnam Station to Samseong Station and the COEX-KWTC complex.
- Garosugil is a district in Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, which is south of the Han river in Seoul. In the 1980s, Gallery Yeh moved to this area, which was the first art gallery in Gangnam area. After Gallery Yeh, many cultural facilities were formed in this region and these have been the foundation of Garosugil. The name Garosugil is from the Korean word that means tree-lined streets. Garosugil in Sinsa-dong is adorned with ginkgo trees. Many Koreans claim that this area is similar to SoHo in New York or European streets. Garosugil’s has cozy restaurants, cafés and stores. Some cafés specialize in serving good desserts, and there are some famous fusion-style Korean desserts. Also, there are famous brunch restaurants, Korean food restaurants and bars in Garosugil.
Are there any unique networking opportunities for accompanying partners?
Another great opportunity in Seoul is found by attending one of the many balls put on by the various social groups. Many of them are held at the Hyatt Hotel in Itaewon and are attended by hundreds of expats and Koreans. It's a great networking opportunity as well as a fun night of dining and dancing. Some of the more popular balls: AWC Ball, ANZA Ball, BASS Queen's Birthday Ball, Dutch Orange Ball.
Social Groups & Clubs in Seoul Website
American Women's Club (AWC)
Association des Francophones de Coree (AFC)
Banyan Tree Club www.banyantree.com/en/seoul/
British Association of Seoul (BASS) www.britishseoul.com
Canadian Women's Club (CSC) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cercle Franco Coreen (CFC) www.cerclefrancocoreen.org
Indian Women's Club "Annapurna" Email: email@example.com
International Spouses of Koreans Association (ISKA)
Irish Association of Korea www.iak.co.kr
Royal Asiatic Society (RAS) www.raskb.com
Seoul Club www.seoulclub.org
Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club www.sfcc.or.kr
Seoul Players (English-speaking Theater Group)
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