Moving is always an incredibly stressful and confusing time, but it can be even worse in a foreign country. Add in a language barrier and unspoken cultural rules, and suddenly there are dozens of potential issues that you may not know how to avoid. Some of the most common differences here are with the utilities, leave notices, and moving companies.
Utilities are the biggest hassle when moving, and knowing how to handle them can be extremely stressful in Korea. Typically, the employees there can speak little to no English, so imploring a Korean friend to help you is almost unavoidable. The most important thing is knowing whether the service should be turned off or not. This solely depends on whose name the service is in. The three most likely circumstances would be for the service to be in the tenant’s name, the landlord’s, or the tenant’s employer’s name. If the utilities are in the tenant’s name, the service must be canceled for that domicile. If the tenant is moving to a new place in Korea and utilities will again be in their name, a new account must be opened with the new domicile information. If they are in the landlord's name or the employer’s name, you must notify the utility company on the last day of residency and pay all fees up until that day. Notify the company that you are moving, and open a new account if necessary. If the new domicile’s utilities will not be in the tenant’s name, notify the company of the new address and just pay the bills as they come in. Ask the company to document everything so there is no confusion at a later date. This will be extremely helpful when a new tenant arrives at your previous domicile. Pro tip: If it’s in the middle of winter, leave the water heater on slightly, even if you’re never coming back. You do NOT want to be responsible if the pipes freeze and burst.
Internet and cable are most often provided by the landlord as an extra commodity in Korea but sometimes provided through one’s employer. Either way, if you didn’t open this account yourself, no action is required when moving in or out. Just leave it! If the internet/cable is not provided at the new domicile, opening a personal plan is possible. Contact the landlord/employer and let them know, just in case they offer these services on a ‘by-request’ basis only.
A change of residency must be reported to immigration. To do so, there is a 14 business day window to legally change one’s address and notify immigration of the new address. The documents needed can vary slightly depending on one’s visa type, but typically the Alien Registration Card/Passport, a fee, proof of residency (housing contract or confirmation of residency form) is required. Additional or different forms may vary between visa-types, so be sure to check with immigration for specific details regarding each personal situation. One form that will be necessary for everyone renewing/changing a visa, though, is the Application Form, as it covers any kind of major residency change.
Some housing contracts will state the tenant must provide a certain amount of money for cleaning services after they move out. If this is the case, just move all your belongings out and do not worry about cleaning. If this is not stated, you should still move all your belongings out and leave the place presentable, but let the landlord deal with the deep-cleaning. Regardless of how the cleaning is handled, it is advisable to take pictures of the entire domicile directly before leaving. This will protect you in the event that the landlord may charge you for damages that you did not inflict. If photographic evidence is possessed to the contrary, then any new damage is less likely to become an issue.
There are different options for moving items from one place to another, depending on the size of said items and how far away each domicile is. A moving truck would be required regardless of the distance if moving a bed, dresser, refrigerator, or other such large items. There are many, many moving companies in Korea, but again, most do not speak English. Each company has different pricing, and it is mainly based on distance. As it is illegal to rent a regular truck from a rental car company and do everything yourself because those vehicles are not cleared to move such large items, it is extremely inadvisable to move such items without hiring a moving truck. If money is an issue, be aware that it is cheaper if the movers do not have to load any items. Also, the higher the floors are, the more they will charge if they’re loading the items. For smaller items, renting a car or hiring a taxi can be a lifesaver. Renting a car is a great idea if you have many boxes/suitcases, or if you are moving a very far distance. However, if you’re only moving a short distance and have a relatively small amount of luggage to move, a taxi will be much cheaper. Keep in mind that taxi drivers can get impatient quite quickly, and are under no obligation to help you load or unload things. If using a taxi, it is best to bring all items to the front and then call a taxi so they aren’t waiting for you. For detailed info on movers and pricing click here.
There are some things that are not necessary but culturally expected. For instance, you should let the landlord know of an impending move even if your name is not on the contract. If housing is provided by the tenant's place of employment, it is not required by law that a 30-day notice or any such thing must be given by the tenant. All formal notices are handled by the person who signed the legal contract. However, it is generally expected that when moving, a courtesy call or text should be sent with a polite notice that they should contact the school in regards to a new tenant. It never hurts to thank them for their hospitality either, even if contact was minimal!
While donating old or used items is still considered a highly western thing, it is possible to do so in most places. In a similar vein, for those who DON’T have that option, there are often stores and thrift shops that accept donations, such as Goodwill. Some of them will even pick up the items free of charge. Many foreigners will often be succeeded by another English teacher, and won’t find it as strange to leave some items behind. For example, some English teachers within programs such as Epik or TaLK often provide certain furniture to help the schools, so used items are a norm. When moving schools/homes, make sure that the things provided by the employer are left behind with an itemized list. If there are additional items that are not needed or could be left for the next tenant, it is best to let the school know as well.