Living in Daegu, Korea as Expat: Things to Know

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in Korea as an expat?

In this Expat Interview, Rocio will share her expat life while teaching in Daegu – the fourth largest city in Korea. 

She discusses her moving procedure, good and bad things about living in Daegu, places to visit in Daegu, the cost of living in Daegu, and more!

1. About Daegu

Daegu is located in the center of the South Korean peninsula.

Although the city doesn’t get as much attention as Seoul, it is the third-largest city in South Korea.

Daegu is known for its sweltering summers, delicious apples, and beautiful women. Seriously, Koreans believe gorgeous women hail from this region!

Living in Daegu is a wonderful experience because of its perfect size – it’s big enough to have plenty of activities to do yet small enough not to cause overwhelm the way Seoul does – and its tight-knit expat community.

On top of that, its location is perfect as several day trips can be done, and the convenient KTX (Korea’s fast rail trains) easily connects it to Seoul, Busan, and everywhere else.

Teaching English in Korea
The Arc in Daegu, Korea

2. Moving to Daegu

I moved to Daegu for two years to work as an English teacher.

My reasons were to focus on my writing – I was working on a book that I published last year – and saving up money for backpacking Southeast Asia.

My time is almost coming to a close, and I’m so excited to finally travel as I’ve dreamed of doing for so long!

3. Why did you choose to live in Daegu?

I was initially attracted to the hustle and bustle of Seoul, but I needed a smaller place to focus.

My problem in Chicago was that I didn’t know how to say no to fun [laughs] and instead worked on my writing.

In Daegu, I found the perfect sized city – not too big to distract me but also not too tiny to bore me.

The fact that Daegu is also more affordable than bigger cities was a huge factor. I also had a couple of friends that lived in Daegu, and they recommended it.

Living in Daegu
View from Daegu’s Apsan Mountain at night

4. How to prepare to move to Daegu?

I came through Korea’s government English program, and they set everything up for their teachers.

From our apartments to our bank accounts to our cell phone contracts, they make sure to help us settle in.

But I did a lot of research beforehand as well.

I read tons of articles online and connected to friends of friends who had taught before. They were gracious enough to answer my million questions.

5. Cost of living in Korea

Korea is a very affordable country to live in, but costs vary depending on the city.

In Daegu, studio apartments cost between $300-450, depending on the area.

Utility bills are very cheap, but the summer and winter months are high due to the air conditioner and heater.

Groceries are the one thing that I find expensive – I struggle to stay within my monthly budget of $100.

Lastly, transportation is also very affordable. My public transportation card usually lasts a whole month if I put $35 in it.

6. Did you experience any difficulties while living in Daegu?

Teaching in Korea
With some of my 5th-grade students

Oh absolutely.

I’ve always prided myself on being a strong and independent woman, but moving to Korea left me feeling dependent on my coworker and somewhat clueless due to the language barrier.

I found it demoralizing that I couldn’t do something as simple as open a bank account on my own or order food at a restaurant.

I struggled with this initially, but it was all a blessing in disguise as slowly, I started getting more and more comfortable with asking for help.

For a long time, I wanted to improve in this area, be okay with being vulnerable, and move to Korea proved to be a crash course in teaching me this.

7. Discrimination from the locals in Daegu? Yes or No?

Not directly per se. But I happen to appear more Caucasians than other people of color, so I’ve been spared the staring and sometimes uninvited touching that some of them have endured.

8. How’s about culture shock?

I wouldn’t necessarily call it culture shock. It was more a phase of adjusting and feeling quite homesick, but at no point was I shocked the way I felt when I first moved to the US.

9. What do you like about Daegu, Korea?

How manageable it is to navigate it. The average time to travel anywhere via public transportation is about 30 minutes, which is great because I meet up with friends a few times a week.

I also love the thriving expat community here – it’s easier to stay in touch and hang out with people in Daegu than in Busan or Seoul. When the average commute time is more than 40 minutes, it can become a hassle.

The third thing I love the most about my city is the neighborhood I live in – Suseong gu. There’s this nearby lake that I go to all the time for a stroll or picnics.

Living in Korea as an expat
Two girls donning ornate hanbok – the traditional Korean dress – at Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul

10. Is there anything that you don’t like about Daegu?

Daegu is the hottest area of Korea, and summers are hellish humid. I suffered a lot during my first year, but I fared much better the second time around.

11. What are your favorite things to do in Daegu?

I love going to Suseong Lake for walks and picnics.

I also often meet up with friends in cafes. Korea has a fantastic coffee shop culture, and it’s great fun trying out all the different ones they have.

There are even dog and animal cafes! I also love eating out because Korean food is delicious and super affordable.

Living in Korea Suseong Lake
Suseong Lake

12. How to make new friends in Daegu, Korea?

Oh, yes, there are many expat Facebook groups to join. And the city organizes frequent events to connect expats. Going out downtown at night is also a great way to make friends.

13. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

Mostly foreigners. I’ve found that Koreans are shy and take a long time to warm up and get comfortable, but they’ll probably be longtime friends once they do.

14. Where to hang out with friends in Daegu?

Suseong Lake, cafes, restaurants, at dinner parties in my apartment. I also enjoy having domestic weekend getaways with them.

15. A memorable experience in Daegu

I went to Daegu’s famous lantern festival in the springtime.

The celebration is to honor Buddha’s birthday and WOW. Seeing so many glowing lanterns slowly ascending in the sky was an extraordinary moment. I’ll always carry this memory in my heart.

Living in Korea Daegu Lantern Festival
Lantern Festival held in May to celebrate Buddha’s birthday

16. Did you change your perspective about Daegu living here?

I guess in the first few months I was hesitant about my city. I kept wondering what it would have been like to live in Seoul.

But over time, Daegu has really charmed me, and I’m happy I’ve spent two years here.

Living in Korea
Hiking Palgong Mountain near Daegu

17. What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Daegu?

Mentally prepare yourself for the summers [laughs]! Other than that, have fun. You’re going to love your time here.

18. Would you recommend others to live in Daegu?

Absolutely! While I do think recommendations should be based on each person, I would recommend Daegu to most.

19. What have you learned from living abroad?

To always be flexible and adaptable.

Once, one good friend said that being flexible is the only way to be because those that are don’t break. They simply bend, and living abroad has really taught me what this means.

While challenges and difficulties will arise, try to embrace these instead of resisting them because they are often beautiful life lessons.

So, get out there and travel! Be awed and expand your horizons :)

More About Rocio

teaching in Korea


Rocio Cadena is a Mexican-American writer and editor by way of Chicago. She was born and raised in Mexico and moved to the cold US Midwest when she was 11 years old. Growing up in Mexico, she always dreamed of traveling and living a full life. She’s realized that a rich existence entails exposing myself to different countries, cultures, and people from diverse backgrounds while pursuing my creative aspirations.

Her career ambition is to become a freelance writer/journalist. After two years of living and writing in South Korea, she will embark on a 6-month long backpacking trip through Southeast Asia in March. Follow her adventures on her Facebook.

The opinions expressed here by Expatolife columnists are their own, not those of Expatolife.

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  1. Katelyn Ryan says:

    We may be moving to Korea soon and I found this very helpful, thank you for sharing!

    1. Ha Truong says:

      Thank you, Katelyn, for stopping by. I’m glad that you found it useful.

  2. ShanDreaha Redd says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I will moving there in a few months. I am nervous but excited at the same time!!

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