Expats moving to Busan usually have many questions, often about what to expect from expat life. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about living in Busan.
How bad is the pollution in Busan?
Like many Asian cities, Busan has its fair share of pollution, but expats will find that it isn’t as bad as it is in Seoul. It's very common to see South Koreans wearing face masks to protect themselves from pollution or illnesses. The only time it's strongly advised to wear a mask in Busan is during the 'yellow dust season', which is generally their spring. Yellow dust originates in China and contains a number of industrial pollutants as well as fine soil particles.
Is public transport available 24 hours a day?
Though Busan is known for its excellent public transport, the subway and most bus routes don’t run past midnight. That said, there are late-night buses, but it's recommended for expats to research which routes the buses drive at night as they may need a taxi to get to their destination. Metered taxis are always available and many of the drivers understand some English. They are cheap for short trips but can be expensive over a longer distance. Expats can hail a taxi from the street or order one on the cellphone app Kakao Taxi.
Is it easy to get out of Busan for a weekend?
South Korea has a very well-developed railway and bus network. This makes it convenient and easy to travel to other cities. It's possible to get to Seoul in about three-and-a-half hours with the KTX high-speed train. Smaller towns are inexpensive to visit but may be harder to get to. Locals are usually willing to help foreigners who look lost.
What is Busan like for children?
With Busan being right by the beach, it’s a great city for children. There are many public parks scattered across the city with fun playground equipment. Korean culture is truly child-centred and locals often dote on Western kids. Therefore, Busan is a very child-friendly city and a safe and interesting place for children to grow up. There are also a number of international schools in the city for expat children to attend.
Where can I meet other expats?
Busan has quite a large expat community. Many foreigners hail from English-speaking countries like the UK, USA and South Africa. Most expats are very open to meeting new people and they therefore shouldn’t find it hard to make friends. The city has several expat bars where foreigners are known to get together over weekends. Many foreigner bars host other events such as weekend markets or quiz nights. There are also language-exchange groups that bring expats and locals together.
Will I be able to communicate with locals?
Unfortunately, it's true that life in South Korea goes hand-in-hand with a significant language barrier. That said, as Busan is the second-largest city in South Korea, the odds of finding locals who speak some English is higher than in rural towns. Expats will find that most locals, especially taxi drivers, do understand and speak some English, but it is still recommended to learn basic Korean, like greeting or directions, to make life easier.