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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Seoul: Great Healthcare but Terrible Work Life

From readily available public transportation to long working hours, expat life in Seoul sees some real highs and lows.

Seoul ranks 40th out of 49 in the Expat City Ranking 2023. It performs worst for Working Abroad (48th), and even comes in dead last for work-life balance (49th). Close to two in five respondents (37%) are unhappy with their working hours, over twice as many as the global average (16%). In fact, expats with a full-time job there work close to two hours more in a week than the global average (44.5 h vs. 42.7 h worldwide).

The South Korean capital also ranks last for Work Culture & Satisfaction (49th): 69% say that the business culture does not promote independent work and flat hierarchies (vs. 26% globally).

The Quality of Life Index (23rd) reveals mixed results. The city ranks 1st globally in the Healthcare Subcategory, since expats are very happy with its availability (1st), quality (1st), and affordability (5th). Seoul also excels in the Travel & Transit Subcategory (4th), due to the availability (1st) and affordability (3rd) of public transportation. However, the city places second to last for the Environment & Climate (48th). The air quality (47th) and urban environment (41st) are rated especially poorly.

The Ease of Settling In Index (44th) is another low point for Seoul. Expats do not feel welcome (48th) or at home (46th) there. One in three (33%) believes that the local people are not friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 18% globally).

And even though expats appreciate how easy it is to both get high-speed internet at home (1st) and pay without cash (5th), the city still only ranks 39th in the Expat Essentials Index. This low ranking is, among other things, due to the fact that 62% of expats say it’s difficult to learn Korean (vs. 38% globally). Overall, 69% of expats are happy with their life in Seoul, compared to 72% globally.

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