Welcome to Daegu: Life as an American in South Korea

Daegu, South Korea is the 3rd or 4th largest city in South Korea depending on whether you consider Incheon part of Seoul or not. With more than 2.5 million people Daegu, ideally situated between two mountain ranges, Seoul and Busan. It’s home to the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command’s Fighting Eagles, a division of the United States military and the reason why my husband’s here, which is why I’m here.

Living in Daegu South Korea

Living as an American expat in Daegu, South Korea, presents challenges since English isn’t as widely spoken as in Seoul. Despite this, we enjoy our life in Daegu. Information about military facilities and housing for foreigners in Korea is scarce online. However, once you arrive, you’ll quickly find everything you need. I’m pleasantly surprised by how living in downtown Daegu has inspired us to eat, drink, explore, and fully embrace our adopted city.

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love-1024x576 Welcome to Daegu: Life as an American in South Korea

An American in Daegu, South Korea
Military Expat Life in Daegu

Daegu, South Korea, is the 3rd or 4th largest city in South Korea, depending on whether you consider the Incheon part of Seoul or not. More than 2.5 million people live in Daegu. The town is situated between two mountain ranges:  Palgonsan and Apsan mountains. Daegu is home to the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command’s Fighting Eagles. And it’s the reason why my husband and I are here.

The 19th includes Camps Walker, George (housing), Henry, and Carroll. However, the latter is about 20 minutes from the other camps.

herb-street Welcome to Daegu: Life as an American in South Korea

Why Live in Daegu?

First of all, because the DOD said to report to Daegu, we found ourselves here. Living as an American expat in Daegu, South Korea, isn’t the worst place you could be serving in the Army. The city has its unique charm and offers plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in the local culture. As I mentioned, I enjoy living in Daegu. Despite the language barrier, we’ve discovered a vibrant community and a wealth of experiences that make our time here truly rewarding as foreigners in Korea.

Secondly, this is hubby’s third tour to South Korea, and he says Daegu is by far the best location he’s been assigned to. He didn’t get to see the country, let alone any other country, on any other tours. We’ve been to China and Thailand (3x), Japan, Bali, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Malaysia, and traveled up and down the Korean peninsula.

I also lived in Korea once before as a teenager. We lived in Itaewon, just outside of Seoul. Seoul is enormous—the second-largest city in Asia after Tokyo. Although I visit when I can, I prefer life as an American in Daegu. Daegu offers a more relaxed pace and a close-knit community, making it a great place for expats to call home.

Take a look at some of our travels around Asia here.

lanterns Welcome to Daegu: Life as an American in South Korea

Daegu is a Modern City

The city sits in the southeast part of the country and has all the modern conveniences you’d expect. It has a  modern international airport, train station, an underground Metro system, a monorail, and extensive local and countrywide bus service.

Living in Daegu probably means a high rise for most expats. However, as an American in Daegu, there are a few villas in town where you may even have some outdoor space and a yard.

Military Friendly

Military families are usually assigned housing, especially those with school-age children. However, as an American in Daegu, you might need to find housing with the help of real estate agents outside Camp Walker’s Gate 4. Since we were not assigned quarters, we had to find an apartment on the economy.

We stayed in lodging on Camp Walker for three months until we found an apartment. You can also stay in accommodation on Camp Carroll or out on the economy. Most people stay at the Eldis or Novotel Hotels in downtown Daegu. Both of them have modern Western amenities.

For more information on my apartment search, check out the extensive The Daegu Off Post Apartment Guide and My Little Apartment in Daegu to see what apartments look like in Daegu.

Gumi-Mountain Welcome to Daegu: Life as an American in South Korea

Daily Life in Daegu 

Daily life as an American in Daegu is pretty easygoing. I usually start the day with some workouts—hiking during the summer and working out in the gym downstairs in the winter.

I make daily trips to the recycling station downstairs to toss out my food trash. One of us used to check the mailbox on Camp Walker once a day. But I am so glad they figured out how to send notices when packages arrive. That has cut down on the back and forth to the post office. Now, I’d be a happy camper if they could tell us when there’s just junk mail.

I try to limit trips to the Commissary, opting to purchase vegetables at the local markets once a week.

I don’t have young kids, so my days don’t involve kids, pets, schools, school sports, playdates, shopping, feeding, or keeping them alive and all that stuff. Luckily, some friends have kids, so I can get my baby fix and send them back home when I’ve had enough.

I am an early riser, usually up south of 6 a.m., watching the light in our apartment turn from black to charcoal to blue, orange, yellow, and white. Sometimes, I check emails and flights and respond to Facebook and blog comments on my computer. Other times, I sit on the sofa and enjoy the show unfolding over downtown Daegu with a cup of coffee.

Metro-exit-downtown Welcome to Daegu: Life as an American in South Korea
The entrance to Primall Underground Mall Daegu.

1. Shopping in Daegu

I do a lot of shopping in the economy. My favorites are Home Plus, H-Mart, and the underground malls. There is an H&M, and local markets like Gwanmun Vintage Market and Seomun Market are fun to explore.

A few friends shop on market.com. It’s a Korean service that delivers to our physical address instead of post office boxes. And although I’ve looked at the site, I haven’t ordered anything. I don’t like how you are forced to shop using USD. You never get a reasonable exchange rate that way.

However, I do shop on Amazon a lot using my Prime membership. Occasionally, I shop at Western stores that will ship to an APO, but I got tired trying to keep track, so not as often as I did when I first arrived.

I also shop at the military Post Exchange (store) and Commissary (groceries) on Camp Walker for things I can’t find on the economy. But I love shopping for fruits and vegetables on the street. These things are not cheap in grocery stores, but you’ll get a high price from the local farmers.

festival-food-at-lantern-festival Welcome to Daegu: Life as an American in South Korea

 

2. Restaurants in Daegu

There is no shortage of good restaurants in Daegu. And I admit we eat out a lot because it’s cheap. Until a few months ago, I didn’t know how to use my oven. And honestly, I’m still winging it because I’m too lazy to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit.

We eat a lot of Korean food and like it. Living in downtown Daegu makes it convenient. We enter the front door to explore downtown Daegu’s local bars and restaurants. The local festivals are also an excellent opportunity to eat local treats. One of the best is the Chicken and Beer Festival.

Read more about food and restaurants in Daegu: 5 Hidden Gems, More Daegu Eats, and Best Places to Have a Beer in Daegu.

English-Class Welcome to Daegu: Life as an American in South Korea

 

3. Night-Life in Daegu

You can always find something to do on-post, from social club get-togethers, luncheons, military functions, or just having coffee with friends at Starbucks. If you like loud music, there are a lot of dance clubs, bars, and a jazz club in downtown Daegu, too.

I enjoy traveling with my husband, day trips with Korean and American girlfriends, and teaching English. I resumed playing golf. You aren’t living in Daegu if you hike the mountain trails surrounding us.

Just last night, we had dinner with the Kim family. Do you know them? Haha, yes, half the country is named Kim. My husband met him a few weeks ago at his favorite craft beer pub. They struck up a conversation and have been talking ever since.

Although talking might not adequately describe what they do, neither speaks 20 shared words in either language. Yup, policeman Kim hardly speaks English, and my hubby speaks even less Korean. So, if no translator is present, they talk together via a phone app called to translate it.

20230923_144034-519x692 Welcome to Daegu: Life as an American in South Korea
Day camping with the Kims

Why Policeman Kim?

Policeman Kim wants to learn to speak English. So two days ago, he called and put his daughter on the phone. They invited us to dinner at the Raracoast across the street from our apartment.

I call him Policeman Kim because we also have a Doctor Kim and a brewery owner, Kim. It just helps Steven and I keep them straight.

So policeman Kim’s wife and daughter met us there last night. From what I understand, they said the 20-year-old son was far too busy with his “many girlfriends.” The daughter, 18, did her best to translate, and we all enjoyed the time together, making another appointment for next week.

During dinner, we shared family pictures, talked about travels, and made fun of our lost-in-translation moments. But despite that, we were still able to communicate. They helped me with my pronunciation, and I corrected theirs. Honestly, I think Konglish to begin.

Read about everything to do in the city: 3 Hikes in Daegu, A Night at the Opera, and Nine Excellent Expat Experiences.

KTX-to-Busan Welcome to Daegu: Life as an American in South Korea

 

4. Getting Around

Driving, Monorail, and Taxis

A few days after I arrived, I took the Korean driving exam and passed with flying colors. Too bad none of these rules are followed on the mean streets of Korea. I am a New Yorker, so I can Mad Max if encouraged. However, if you ride with me, you may hear some salty language from time to time.

Getting around is far less stressful, below or above ground. A subway and a new monorail in Daegu connect you to the entire city. Taxis are abundant and cheap. And the buses cover the whole city. However, parking can be difficult. And don’t get me started about the traffic. It will try your patience. So if you can, take public transportation. Since we live in downtown Daegu, we can also walk to many places.

5. Working in Daegu

The spouses line up in three categories: those that have to work, those that don’t or can’t, and those that work for themselves.

YOu can work in South Korea. It takes a special permit to work in the economy. So I work from home, but not for lack of trying to get a federal job. I applied to 3-4 jobs when I got here. I even interviewed for a couple of them. And I used to do one of them three times because it was canceled twice. I gave up after the first year because you have to be in the job a year to be able to transfer.

My blog and Young Living Essential Oils sales bring me a little pocket change. I enjoy both, but neither is preparing me for retirement right now.

clinic Welcome to Daegu: Life as an American in South Korea

6. Getting Sick in Daegu

There is no military hospital on post. The only one is located in Yongsan, outside Seoul. So, we in Area IV (Daegu) must utilize the hospitals on the economy for services not offered by the Clinics (healthcare, dental) on Camp Walker.

Upon arrival, all spouses should take the 2-day Orientation. ACS (Army Community Services) offers a class with a hospital tour. There are 4-5 area hospitals in downtown Daegu designated for our use. I’ve been lucky enough not to need one, though. However, if you do, you should stop by the international desk. They provide a translator/ guide to stay with you during your hospital appointment.

7. Paying the Bills

Luckily, we don’t have to deal directly with electric, gas, or water companies. We pay our utilities once a month when we pay our rent. Our real estate agent makes sure it gets to the right place. And although we are paid in USD, we must pay our rent in Korean Won (KRW). So we have to visit a middleman called a money changer to convert dollars to KRW. Click here to convert dollars to KRW with a money exchanger I shared on my fan page.

Love-locks-at-Suseong-Lake Welcome to Daegu: Life as an American in South Korea

 

8. Staying in Touch

Korea is wired. It’s the most wired country in the world. You can go from one free WIFI network to another while driving in your car. It’s such a small country that they were able to build a reliable high-speed Internet backbone. Besides, there are a lot of high-speed Internet cafes in downtown Daegu.

The only thing that could improve it is if they didn’t block specific websites, like Google Maps. They have a substitute app called Waze. I wouldn’t say I liked it at first. However, after revisiting it recently, they’ve made the interface more user-friendly. And it’s not as bad as I thought.

9. My Hair

I am a natural girl. I try not to use a lot of chemical products in my hair. As my hair grew, I spent more and more time on it. Six hours to twist; my hair is too long. Time is money, even when you don’t have a job. So I went to Suicide Alley (the street outside Gate 4 to find a hair braider I liked. Luckily, I found someone who twists my hair nicely for a reasonable price, and it takes less than 90 minutes.

expat-life-in-Daegu-683x1024 Welcome to Daegu: Life as an American in South Korea



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41 thoughts on “Welcome to Daegu: Life as an American in South Korea

  1. Wow, Daegu looks very pretty. We are PCSing there in a few months and I am looking forward to it more and more since I started reading about Daegu on your blog.

    1. You are going to love it IF you stay open-minded and patient. Keep in touch, we just found out we are coming back early next year.

  2. Love your blog! I’m interested in any information on Daegu. Hubs is retired A.F. and current DoD civilian. We were stationed in Pusan 94-97. Would love to come back! Thanks.

    1. Hi Marini. I loved Daegu and I would also go back if the Army sent us. I hope you enjoy the other post I have written about Daegu too. Korea was a lot of fun and I loved the travel opportunities we had there. And thanks for your support here on my blog and on Facebook.

  3. This blog has been so helpful to me! I recently accepted a DOD teaching position in Daegu. Your apartment search post really helped me. I love your optimism, humor and easy going attitude about travel! I arrive in August, we should meet up for a glass of wine!

    1. Thank you Rebecca. We are in the process of leaving Korea on our way to Texas. I would have loved to have a glass of wine with you, but in August I’ll be sipping some lovely wine in Italy. Don’t worry I still have more than 20 unpublished articles and I hope you continue to follow our travels through North and South America and Europe.

  4. My spouse recently was offered a DOD Civilian position in Daegu. I immediately started researching info and came across your blog! Being a big foodie and one that loves to learn about different cultures, I’m excited about the new adventure! My only reservation is the current safety issue with the situation going on there. How is the safety level there now? I think Daegu would offer a wonderful experience but again I want to ensure that it is a safe environment. I know the media can “up play” things so much to make it seem worse than it actually it. Thanks for your assistance!

    1. LaShaundra, no worries. The threat level has not changed here. The country is quite used to the blunder of the North Korean leader. I don’t feel any less safe than I did when I arrived. So come and enjoy the region, you’ll love the experiences you can have here.

    1. Thanks Katrina, Daegu is a beautiful city I am glad I had the chance to live in for a few years. I am going to miss a lot of it when we leave in 3-4 months, but looking forward to a new experience.

  5. Wow it’s absolutely amazing to see a scope of what living in Daegu looks like. I definitely love the part where you mention the importance to forget how life is back home and to embrace the culture you’re in now.

    1. Its a very interesting city because they have had Americans here for a long time, but we seem so foreign to a lot of them still. I won’t miss being stared at so hard.

    1. When we learned we were traveling to Daegu I searched for information about military life and what to expect but found nothing. I hope my blog helps ease the transition anxiety of military spouses and civilians who find themselves in a similar situation.

  6. I really didn’t know much about Korea until now, so thank-you for sharing this. That is so cool that you can go from one free wifi network to the next!

    1. Yes it is. The country is very small, approximately the size of Indiana in the United States. Because of this they are able to build a very impressive national infrastructure with the Internet and transportation that much larger countries would find impossible to because the cost would be prohibitive. On the flip side you are run over by phone zombies who don’t look where they are going, drivers texting creating havoc on the city streets. And because the government does not want competition in certain areas of commerce, some sites/ services are not available on open networks.

    1. We both enjoy our time with the locals. They are mostly kind and welcoming and more likely than not, if they aren’t its because they know there is a language barrier, so they don’t put themselves out there. It is also a cheaper way to learn the language and make friends at the same time. Policeman Lee is hilarious and I know we will enjoy our talks.

  7. It seems you had an amazing experience there 🙂 I would love to go in South Korea too 🙂 I hope one day .. the country seems both modern and traditional and the people seem eager to meet and speak to people from other cultures.

  8. Daegu sounds great. Sad that you’ll miss it, but it’s great to move on to another adventure. You guys have had some great ones in 2016 and we’re looking forward to seeing what 2017 has in store for y’all.

    1. That is so true. I just hope the next place is just as exciting. But knowing us we’ll make the best of our next assignment I’m sure.

  9. Sounds like an amazing experience though. I would also be up for sth like this for a couple of years. But until then I am happy in London. Though a hot country would be amazing 🙂

    1. I studied at Oxford a few years ago and felt the chill in August. You should come visit though, I think you’d like it.

  10. Korea sounds like one interesting place!!! My grandfather was in the army and he was stationed in Korea for a few years!

    1. I love it here MOST days. I have to check my patience sometimes because there are a few things done quite differently here that drive me crazy.

    1. A lot of single soldiers get stationed up north and don’t get the chance to come down here. My husband was up there twice, but it wasn’t until we were sent south that he got see the country. I don’t have to tell you which assignment he prefers.

  11. Your blog makes me a little nostalgic for a life I never got to lead. My kids’s dad was in the army for a very short while (long story) and I had really been looking forward to all the things our family would see and be exposed to by the military. Unfortunately we never got to experience any of it – it’s silly, but sometimes I’m still a sad over that.

    1. Would it surprise you that you aren’t the first person who said that to me. For whatever reasons, two other people didn’t get to travel with the military they expected either. But you know the world isn’t going anywhere, I HOPE, and you can travel without the sacrifices and/ or commitments of military service. I really appreciate your comments.

  12. I’m going to miss you once you leave. Your blog is very inspiring and informative. It really has helped ease the transition from the states to Daegu.

  13. #campwalker, #campcarroll, #campgeorge and #camphenry in#daegu #southkorea #asia #usarmy #militaryspouse #armyspouse

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