How is working in Korea? Perhaps one of the most prominent questions that any foreign student asks themselves before coming. It can be a daunting thought; working in a completely unfamiliar environment while still integrating into the culture has many new challenges associated with it. However, do not let this dissuade you. In this article, I will shed light on what working here might look like for those seeking employment in Korea. Beginning with a typical morning and ending with fun-filled dinner plans, let’s unpack a typical workday in Korea!
Similar to other countries, most people here start their workday around 9:00 and finish around 18:00. with an hour lunch break at noon. In the morning, most people take public transportation to get to work. While the subway system in Korea is highly efficient, this large influx of people will still cause considerable crowding. Each car is completely filled, with people pushing their way into any available space. Initially, this experience can be very intimating, but after a few times through, it becomes normal.
Even with this overcrowding, a high level of respect is maintained, with people getting out of the way for people to get on and off and keeping shoving to a minimum. A normal commute time on the subway is about 20 to 40 minutes, depending on travel distance and proximity to subway stations, with an average cost of about 1,250₩ (~ 0.96 USD) one way.
Getting off the subway, it is time to start working. At the office, a pretty normal work experience can be expected. The dress code will vary by company, but it is safe to assume that a business casual outfit will suffice for most situations. It is also very common for companies to strive for high cohesion amongst their employees, so it is best to acquaint yourself with your coworkers and supervisor.
After working for about 3 to 4 hours, it is time to get lunch. In many Korean companies, it is common that all employees will go out to lunch together, including their supervisors. Conversations over lunch are usually very casual and friendly, providing a mental break from the strenuous working hours. It is during this time that you would have the opportunity to really get to know your coworkers and become close friends.
Once finished eating, everyone returns to work until around 18:00. It should be noted that in South Korea, there may be an expectation to stay at the office until your supervisor leaves. However, in my experience, I have been told to clock out at 18:00 every day with no expectation to complete work outside of work hours.
Finally, it’s dinner time. Like lunch, many employees often go out together, sharing food over joyful chat. Don’t be surprised if alcohol is consumed, as it is very common for coworkers to share drinks with their supervisors from time to time. Once done, most people will take the subway home (there is much less crowding than in the morning). And there you have it, a typical workday in Korea! For those seeking to work in Korea, I hope this has been enlightening, and I encourage you to pursue your professional experience here!