By Ulysses Lachinette, father of a two-year-old now living in Korea
Raising a baby in South Korea has been a great experience so far. Korean people in general, are always quite amazed and fascinated with foreign children. Since the day we arrived, we have been stopped in the street by people of all ages, male and female, to admire our son. They will call out to friends that are down the street or in a shop to see the ‘waygookin ah-gi’, foreign baby. They will come up and pat the baby on the bottom or often times kiss the baby. The ajummas (older women) are the most maternal by far. I was stopped in the street and was actually given the hat off of an ajumma’s head because she thought my son was not warm enough. These are all actions of the warm side of Korean people. These gestures of kindness and caring have really added to our wonderful experience so far.
Daycares that we have looked into and have heard about are very cheap. They can range from 200, 000 to 300,000 won per month. Finding a suitable day care is very easy as there appears to be one or more daycare located in all the large apartment clusters throughout the city. We have found the staff to be excellent with our son. They were very open to taking our son into their program. There was no wait list, which there often is in Canada. There is also a high ratio of workers to children. We have found at times, there are more staff in the day care then there are children. We feel that our son is very well cared for. As an added bonus your child will learn the language quickly. Our current day care is open 24 hours a day if needed, but you need to set regular hours and notify them of any changes. Food is also included in the monthly cost. The staff put in a tremendous effort to communicate with us in English about our son’s daily routine. One final point about day cares…they are open on Saturday!!!
The health care services are amazing. There are many doctors’ offices throughout the city and they are very easy to access. There are several doctors that do speak English. Booking an appointment is not necessary. You can visit the doctor when needed, and are able to get in and out within minutes. Wait time is minimal. Cost is cheap, and if you have a health plan through your work, the cost is even cheaper. We have found the quality of service to be outstanding. We feel very safe and secure when bringing our son to the doctor whether it be for a vaccination or for a fever.
Baby necessities are very easy to find. They have many options for diapers, wipes, shampoos and other hygiene products. There are many brands of formula that have the ingredients written in Korean, so buying them feels scary. Clothes can be expensive, but if you find the right places to shop, you can get some good deals. We have found ordering items off the Korean shopping websites to be the cheapest. You may even get some brands that you would get back home in regards to food items. Buying jarred baby food is very expensive, so we made all of our own food. Boil and mash, a great way to spend a few hours on the weekend preparing for the week.
At this time, we have chosen to remain in Korea rather than return to Canada. The main reason being that in Korea, we have been able to spend more time with our son, and work at jobs that contain no stress. It was a scary decision to bring our five month old son here, but today he is almost two years old, and we recognize how lucky we really are. We would never be able to live this type of life in Canada and still spend so much positive time with our son. We have been able to bring him to three other countries so far as well. He will love showing his friends pictures of himself on the Great Wall of China when he was just over one year old.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions. We would love to answer them for you.