Upon arrival in Seoul, many expats notice that aside from being positively huge, Seoul is, put simply, disorganized. It’s amazing, it’s energetic, it’s hectic, it’s beautiful – it’s everything all at once, which is probably the reason it’s a bit muddled.
There are twenty five “gu” or districts in Seoul. A “gu” is similar to London’s or New York’s “boroughs”, and they each have their own district office, mayor, and legislative council. Within each “gu” there are several “dong” which translates roughly to a “neighborhood”. You may live in Youngsan-gu (the “gu” with the highest concentration of foreigners) but within that “gu” you could live in one of the fourteen “dong” such as Itaewon-dong or Ichon-dong.
Seoul proper is centered around the Han River, with the trendy business areas of Gangnam, Jamsil and Mokdong to the South. North of the river you’ll find the “foreigner” area of Itaewon (Yongsan); flashy Hongdae, a favourite for clubgoers, hippies, artists and punks; Jongno, an area which embodies the best of both modern and traditional Korea with embassies and modern art buildings standing alongside ancient palaces and national treasures; and Myeongdong. Myeongdong offers Gap, Forever 21, knock-off handbags, food stalls, neon light and the list goes on and on.
Wherever you decide to live in Seoul, you’re never far from any action. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a residential area or living in a penthouse downtown (wherever downtown actually is…). While there are certainly block after block of apartment buildings, and many tend to congregate on the outskirts of the city, in reality there are residential areas scattered all over Seoul. Wherever you want to live, as long as you have the financial means, you can find accommodation and, you can live well!