Surviving the first month in Ulsan, Korea

I have been in Korea exactly 1 month. This seems very strange, in many ways I am very settled, the kids are doing well at school etc… but I still feel like I have just arrived and the ground is still wobbly. There was a steep learning curve when you arrive anywhere and soon that is all forgotten and it becomes commonplace and routine. So before I forget what it is like first moving to Ulsan, here is my guide for getting though the first month.

Ulsan is made up of different districts called gu’s (wikipedia has a good map) . The three main expat areas are

Nam-gu, new downtown, is south of the river and has the Lotte hotel and wheel, shops and is where I live in Skyrex (big tall ugly building – hard to miss).
Jung-gu, old downtown, is north of the river, this has more shops and restaurants and Exordium apartments.
Dong-gu is the peninsular with the shipyards – Hyundai Heavy Industries, the Hyundai Foreigners Compound, the Hyundai Foreigners School and all other things Hyundai.

Food Shopping. This is way easier than I was worried it would be. There are a few big supermarkets, Emart  (photos here) and Homeplus are the ones I have been to but I think that Lotte Mart is another one. Then there are small corner shops, like family mart, mini mart – these have a good selection of the basics and often have cash machines. Homeplus is Tescos, so good news for Brits like me as you can get a lot of home products there. There is a good Homeplus in Dong-gu, where you can get large bags of pasta and breakfast cereals, they also have some of the Tesco finest range. My nearest supermarket is Emart, which has pretty much everything. It is a large shop over three floors. The ground floor is all food, the second floor (which you can only get to from the inside escalators) has cleaning products, household stuff, pets supplies and electrical goods, the third floor is clothes and sports stuff. You need a 100won coin for the trolley.

There are also plenty of markets, but I haven’t been brave enough to go to them yet. There is also newly opened a Costco, out near the airport.

Waste disposal. They are big into recycling here, even McDonald’s has separate bins. There doesn’t seem to be rubbish chutes and the bins are in the basement. There is a special bin in most apartments for food waste, which heats and dries it out to try and prevent smells . The usual – paper, plastic, cans, glass – get recycled and the rest goes into general waste. These needs to go into special bags. They are blue in Nam-gu and pink in Dong-gu and I have no idea what colour they are in Jung-gu – maybe someone can add this? They come in 4 sizes 10L, 20L, 50L and 100L. You can get these bags in the supermarkets, they are at the checkout in Homeplus and double up as carrier bags, however, they hide them at Emart at the customer service desk. I have a card with Korean writing on it,

20120901-205525.jpg don’t know how to pronounce it I just hand it over and get my bags.

Driving. Is more chaotic that I am used to and they beep you a lot. It was stressful at first (I survived  and Driving course) but I am getting more used to it. You just have to concentrate more and be that little bit more assertive claiming your road space. We have had to order an English speaking GPS, which will make life a lot easier.

Korean. I tried to learn some Korean before I came here, but with all the stress of the move it has all completely vanished. I am going to start lessons again soon but I have been amazed at how many people know basic English and even when they don’t it is incredible how far you can get with smiling, pointing and holding up the required number of fingers. The only two phrases that I know and use are:
An-youg-har-sae-yo – which is the polite form of hello
Gamza-hab-ne-dar – which is thank you.

Schools. There are two options of schools for expats the Hyundai Foreigners School in Dong-gu, or the Busan International Foreign School which is over in Busan (neighbouring city).

Recreational stuff. There is a surprising amount of stuff to do in Ulsan. There are a few cinemas and most of the adult films are in the original English with Korean subtitles, children’s films are normally dubbed. Hyundai produces a montly magazine called FLiK, who also have a Facebook page giving useful information about what is going on. There is also a Foreigners club, in the Foreigner compound, which has classes and other activities, like the Ulsan Hash Harriers – a walking/running group that meets alternate Sundays. I have found a useful book called Ulsan, The Face of Ulsan, which has places to go and see and importantly has a map in English.

20120901-205653.jpg There are Twelve Scenic Areas of Ulsan, ranging from the mountains to the beaches to overlooking the shipyards at night!

Hotels. There is the, wait for it, Hyundai Hotel in Dong-gu and the Lotte Hotel in Nam-gu. There are lots of motels, but I am not sure they are for sleeping in! I am sure there are more but these are the only 2 that I know so far.

That is all I can think of at the moment. I hope that if you are looking at Ulsan and considering moving here this is of some use (say hi and I’ll say hi back) and if you are already here – is there anything I have missed out?

39 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dapr
    Oct 28, 2012 @ 21:17:41


    My wife and I will most likely be moving out in January. I’ve been here for and week, heading back to the UK on Wednesday and then we are back for our reccy in November.

    Would be good to pick your brains while we are here in November if that would be possible.

    One quick question for now; how long did it take for your satnav to arrive? And was there any choice of model or just the one you got?

    Stay safe.



    • Esther Haydock
      Oct 29, 2012 @ 08:42:44


      Our satnav took about a month to get to us, but it was delayed in my husband’s office for some of that time. We didn’t have a choice of model and I haven’t seen anyone else with a different one either so I think there might only be one. We got ours though Coens which is a support company for the oil and gas companies.

      We are away for a bit in November around the 11th but if we are in Ulsan I will happily meet up and help if I can.


      • dapr
        Oct 29, 2012 @ 14:39:13

        Okay – thanks. It will be most prob the last week of November. I’ll let you know when it is finalised. Can I be cheaky and ask how much it was?

      • Esther Haydock
        Nov 01, 2012 @ 09:58:14

        Sorry for the delay I was finding out for you. It was about $400, give or take the exchange rate.

    • Emma
      Feb 03, 2015 @ 05:12:49

      We are looking for a day spa for facials pedicures do you have any idea where to go here in Ulsan.


  2. dapr
    Oct 28, 2012 @ 21:18:32



  3. Kunal Mittal
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 20:18:38

    Hello Esther. I am Kunal from India. First of all i want to say You Thanks for this beautiful Information. I am moving to Ulsan in April as i got Job in Hyundai Heavy Industries as Engineer. I am a Bachelor, 28 years old. I dont know anyone in Korea. So I am very afraid & confused. I am worried about if i vll be able to survive there…


  4. Sheree
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 14:18:20

    Hello Esther.
    This was the best written most informative concise bit of information I have come across. I have been in Ulsan for about 5 weeks and am finding it reasonably difficult as is understandably. Omg you just gave me answers to alot of things I was quite confused about. Thank you


    • Esther Haydock
      Apr 17, 2013 @ 14:26:30

      No problem, I wrote that at the end of my first month, when all the confusing things were still fresh in my mind. After nine months here I can’t even remember what most of them were – you just get used to stuff. Glad it was useful.


      • teffi
        Sep 18, 2013 @ 10:13:04

        Hi there.. do you have any prefences for living there? I mean apartment that is cheap for rental,, its okay if one room and there’s an private bathroom? Do you have any contacts in ulsan, dong gu or namgu.. I needed it badly… for 3mos.stay..

      • Esther Haydock
        Sep 18, 2013 @ 10:41:55

        Sorry I can’t help with apartments as ours was provided by the company. But someone on the Ulsan Online Facebook page might be able to help.

  5. Dene
    May 06, 2013 @ 15:36:04

    Hi! we are looking at the possibility of transferring there in late June-ish. Your tips are great!.


    Aug 15, 2013 @ 22:41:45

    Hi. I just moved to skyrex two days ago and found your blog a great help. I noticed that you were attending yoga classes within the building can you please tell me where you got the info on the classes and if there are any more classes or activities in the building, it would be a great help
    Thanx Donna


    • Esther Haydock
      Aug 16, 2013 @ 00:38:37


      Karen Marchant, lovely lady, runs the yoga classes, her website is

      There is also a weekly coffee morning, held alternatively near Skyrex and Exordium. If you contact Karen she will tell you where the next one is and give you directions. Also in the building there is a group that meet up to do Mahjong but I don’t know when this is.

      Most other exercise classes are in the foreigner’s compound – have you found this yet? There is bootcamp three time a week, Zumba, belly dancing and some crafty groups as well.

      All the best and I hope you settle in quickly,


  7. Colin
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 00:14:30

    Hello thanks for your blog, my family and I are moving to Ulsan next week!


  8. Diane Freeman
    Sep 04, 2013 @ 04:47:24

    Hi Esther,
    Great info here! We are moving to Ulsan in around 8-12 weeks so it’s good to have an insight on what to expect.
    Thanks for making the effort to share your experience.


  9. Sara
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 09:11:06

    Hy Esther, I’m Sara and i’m an italian girl, I’ll come in Ulsan in November because my boyfriend have a work in hundai for one year. Really tanks for your blog. Do you know if in Ulsan there’s English courses? Ther’s possibility to finding work?
    Sorry for my english


    • Esther Haydock
      Sep 10, 2013 @ 10:23:33


      Thanks for your kind comments about my blog. I don’t think it is easy for accompanying partners to get work but not impossible.

      Fr English lessons there are lots of English teachers in Ulsan and one of them might be able to help you, maybe as a language exchange. The best place to ask is the Ulsan online Facebook group ( and they should be able to help. It is a great group for asking all sorts of Ulsan questions.

      Good luck with your move.



  10. Farah
    Sep 17, 2013 @ 12:59:26

    Hi Esther, I am Farah (ori. from Malaysia), currently living in Norway. Your post gave me some ideas about how it is like to live in Ulsan. My Norwegian husband and I are doing some research about Ulsan. Can you help me with this-

    Is Hyundai foreign school only for kids whos parents working with Hyundai? If not, what is the youngest age? I have 3 1/2 yo son.
    How is the medical system in Ulsan? I am 16 weeks pregnant and i am nervous about giving birth in different country. Not knowing what to expect.



    • Esther Haydock
      Sep 17, 2013 @ 13:12:16

      I think that the Hyundai school is open to all foreign children, regardless of if they work for Hyundai or not, but it is best to contact the school directly to check, . They do have early years and I’m fairly sure they have classes for 3 year olds.

      The medical system is very good, I know a few people who have had babies in Korean and some who are pregnant. They are all happy with the care they received. If you are on facebook then the Ulsan Parents Group is a really good place to start.

      Good luck with your move and your pregnancy.



  11. dapr
    Sep 17, 2013 @ 13:17:32

    Hi. My wife is due in four days. She’s more than happy to chat to you. What’s your email address?


  12. Biba
    Oct 01, 2013 @ 16:16:16

    Hi, please tell me is there in Ulsan any PET WHOLESALE manifacture? i just need a website if possible, name etc.. many thanks!


  13. Maria
    Nov 15, 2013 @ 17:08:50

    We may be moving here in a couple of months. Trying to learn a bit about the area.



  14. dapr
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 03:31:43

    Do you know what area you will be living in? Do you know what work you’ll be doing when you get here?


  15. Wyatt
    Dec 03, 2013 @ 18:21:06


    My wife and I are a young couple (no children yet) moving to Ulsan in Jan from Texas. We are trying to decide what part of town to live in. We like Down town better, the apartments and the things to do. but the only foreigners club that we could find was the one associated with FLiK. Are there groups or Foreigners clubs in the down town area? ( a way for my wife to meet people/ do thing with)


    • Esther Haydock
      Dec 03, 2013 @ 19:04:04

      The only foreigners club is the one in the old compound in Dong-gu. However, there are lots of expats in the downtown areas and plenty to do. There are weekly coffee mornings where you can get to know others and find hobbies that interest you. That I know of there are painting and drawing groups, Majong, yoga, bootcamp, book groups so I sure your wife will find something to do and people to do it with.

      What company are you with? If they have other families in Ulsan that is a good starting point. Good luck with you move and I hope you enjoy Ulsan.


  16. Sarah Walker
    Nov 04, 2014 @ 21:06:31

    Hi, we are moving out on 1st Dec with my fiance’ work. All of this is very useful, thank you. I was just wondering where you go that book? I’ve checked Amazin and can’t find it, did you get it out there?


    • Esther Haydock
      Nov 04, 2014 @ 21:54:43

      I found the book from Coens I don’t think you will be able to find a copy outside of Ulsan. We left over a year ago now so I don’t know if it is still available.

      Good luck with your move, I hope everything goes well.


  17. Tony
    Aug 04, 2015 @ 21:10:31

    Interesting post.
    I’m seriously considering moving out to Ulsan from the uk.
    I’m a plumber and carpenter by trade (although I can turn my hand to pretty much anything)
    Is there any jobs out there that a Brit could get?
    I know that’s a tricky one, but maybe you know of a website or something that could help.


  18. sally
    Aug 14, 2015 @ 18:04:51

    hello, we just moved to Ulsan, we are looking for a english kindergarten for our 4years old son, is Hyunday foreigh school a good choice? someone told us that this scholl is better for the primary student, not for kindergarten, do you have any information about this?


    • Esther Haydock
      Aug 14, 2015 @ 18:11:13

      The school has a good kindergarten but it is best to check it out for yourself, there are quite a few other options as well, we aren’t in Ulsan anymore so I can’t give you more details.


    • hildelindseth
      Aug 17, 2015 @ 11:51:45

      Hi, my son went to the EYC (Hyundai foreign school’s kindergarden) and we loved it! There is two other english kindergardens as far as I know. That is Norian and Jack & Bean, they are both located in Bangeojin. Hope you enjoy your stay in Ulsan – we just moved back home after spending two years in Ulsan 🙂


  19. Reuven
    Nov 25, 2015 @ 16:02:18

    Hello, Esther! Thank you for the excellent blog. I was offered a position at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology. I would like to consider this offer. I have a one-year-old baby. I would like to know about the life in Ulsan: health care, kindergarten, the cost of living (apartment, etc.). thank you very much!


    • Esther Haydock
      Nov 30, 2015 @ 10:10:45

      Thank you for looking at my blog. I have been out of Korea for 2 years now, so can’t give you any information. Ulsan online is a great place to start. It is a very friendly place and I really liked living there.


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