Seoul - Post Report Question and Answers

How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can get by without speaking Korean, but knowing some basic courtesies will make your experience richer. The Embassy has a Post Language Program, or you can take lessons through one of Seoul's Global Village Centers. Lessons are free, and it is a great way to meet other expats. - Mar 2022

Having no Korean here is very limiting. It's not a language easily picked up and for a developed country there's surprisingly little English on signs, menus, etc. - Nov 2021

You don't need it, but it helps a lot. Korean websites are not always foreigner friendly. Sometimes English pages are out of date or incomplete. There is a post language program, but there are also a lot of cheap alternatives outside of the government. - Feb 2020

You don't 'need' Korean but your life will be way easier if you can at least read it and know how to ask for simple directions. - Feb 2016

Zero. Many signs are in English, the subway has English announcements, there are taxis specifically for foreigners, there's a free translation service available by phone. While knowing some Korean can make life richer, you can get by for sure. - Feb 2016

It's helpful, but some Koreans do speak English. They will try to assist you more if you show genuine effort in conversing with them in Korean. - Jul 2015

I know just enough to get a taxi home and can function fine. Of course the more you know, the better off you are. - Feb 2015

We got by with just the basics (hello, goodbye, please, thank you, and a few other things). Lots of Koreans speak English, the signs are all in Hangul and English, and everything on post is English. I wish we would have learned more Korean, but it was really easy to get by without it, so we did. - Jan 2014

None to just get by, but being able to read the language will open quite a few doors for you. Koreans love it when you try to speak the language, will doubly respect you for knowing how to read it, and it might be the ticket to open some doors you never would've imagined. - Sep 2013

The more Korean that you know and use, the better your experience will be. Koreans seem to genuinely appreciate when people learn their language. Knowing Korean phrases and making an honest effort to communicate in Korean pays dividends toward making friends and learning about the culture. In Seoul, you can make it around without any Korean -- but you would really be missing out on a lot. If you plan to be in Korea for a month or more, invest time in at least learning the alphabet (Hangul) and basic greetings. It would feel isolating after awhile to not be able to read the signs or to communicatewith the basics. Outside of Seoul, communication can be almost impossible without some Korean. - Jan 2011

None if you keep to the international areas and the base. Other times, you would be very lost. The US Embassy switchboard is open 24 hours a day, and I have used them for translating. - Dec 2010

Koreans have come a long way with English, but without some basic Korean you will have a very frustrating experience. To know the language is to know the culture. Take at least an introductory course in order to learn the very user friendly and logical Korean alphabet. - Sep 2009

Not much although would be very helpful when traveling outside of Seoul. - Jul 2008

You don't really need to know any Korean but it is, of course, nice if you do. - May 2008

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