Apartments in Korea are not too different from apartments in the USA but there are a few things that can throw you for a loop. The apartment that I live in is a classic studio apartment with a separate bathroom and entry way.
The Entry Way
The entry way to my apartment like most Korean apartments have an area where you can take off your shoes. Apartments aren’t the only places that have this area in the entry way, many traditional Korean restaurants, schools and hotels have this as well. Most apartments will also have a cupboard where you can store your shoes in this entry way too. It is very common to wear indoor shoes or slippers while at school for teachers and students.
Everyone in the USA knows that a typical bathroom is a sink, toilet and shower all separate and with their own space. However in many small Korean Apartments the shower is a shower head attached to you sink and a drain on the floor. For me its held up in between my sink and toilet so whenever I take a shower my entire bathroom gets wet. In some apartments you can hand up a shower curtain to block out some of the water from getting everything wet, but not in mine. This took some adjusting to when I first arrived in Korea. Many people will also wear shower shoe in their bathroom even when the floor isn’t wet from the last shower you took. I have grown to like my little bathroom regardless of the incredibly we floors after a shower, but if I could change anything at all it would be how cold this room gets in the winter.
The Main Room
(*Quick note: I didn’t have a bed my first week in Korea as the school had just ordered it and it hadn’t arrived yet.)
This is the room that is just like any studio apartment you will see anywhere. I actually lucked out a lot by having the corner apartment because it means that I have an extra window. I get a lot of fresh air coming in which makes for a great spring, summer and fall. Most Korean Apartment will have a wall air conditioner that I try to avoid using as much as I can because I prefer to keep my windows open. The heating unit in South Korea is a big change from the central heating most people back home are used to. In South Korea the main heating is the Ondol, or floor heating. It can take nearly an hour to heat your apartment on cold winter nights and I know many of my friends prefer to get heat lamps or lizard lamps. The lamps are cheaper to run than the Ondol and they do keep you quite warm. Many people will also get heated blankets or mats to keep them warm instead of turning on the Ondol.
The thing I miss the most about having in my kitchen is an oven and dish washer. A lot of the food I know how to cook needs to be done in an oven and while I have a small toaster oven, it’s not exactly big enough for a casserole. I also do miss the convenience of a dish washer but I manage well enough without having one. My kitchen is tiny compared to most kitchens you would see back home, unless you live in a tiny New York apartment.
My kitchen is also my laundry room. The washing machine is across from the sink next to the refrigerator and I usually have my freshly washed clothes hanging up on the pole.