Brian Caldwell is a Senior Software Engineer who joined X-Team a few months ago. Originally from the US, Brian now lives the remote developer life in Seoul, South Korea. In this interview, we talk about his move to South Korea, what life is like there, and whether he'd ever move someplace else.
Where did you live before South Korea? Why did you move?
I am originally from the Space Coast area of Florida in the USA. I also lived and worked in Washington State and North Carolina. I moved to South Korea as a developer to be closer to my wife’s family.
Had you traveled much before you made the big jump?
South Korea was my first international travel. Before that, I had only been to a few other states like North Carolina every year in autumn, Minnesota, Maryland, and Washington D.C. to visit family before that.
Must've been quite the adjustment.
Yeah, that was quite the first trip, twenty-hour flight, arrived Sunday evening and started at my job Monday morning. Thankfully, flying east to west doesn't give much jetlag.
But now you've settled in nicely. What are three things you love about life in South Korea?
- The food is excellent. I love spicy food and trying out new cuisines. There is plenty of both here.
- The mountains are beautiful, abundant, and very accessible.
- Socialized healthcare and public transportation. Both are high-quality and affordable.
What's Seoul like? Is it highly technological?
Seoul is incredibly technological! The homeland of Samsung, LG, and Hyundai, so there are high-tech gadgets around every corner. There is also high-speed internet in just about every corner of the country, and it is incredibly clean, safe, and friendly to live in. Another good part is that it's a ten-minute walk from downtown Gangnam to a Buddhist temple hiking a wonderful mountain trail.
What are some must-visit places in Seoul?
The obvious ones are the main palace, Gyeongbokgung, the Han River park for a nice afternoon with Korean fried chicken and beer (치맥), and Namsan Tower which you can take a bus to or hike up yourself. There is also Changdeokgung, an amazing palace with a beautiful garden that is fantastic to walk through in the fall or spring.
Sounds very appealing. What about the language? Do you speak Korean?
한국어 잘 못해요. I speak a little. I would rank myself at the level of maybe a very large dog 😀. I can get around and do some basics, like ordering food, asking for directions, and greetings. But, for the most part, I depend on my wife to handle the administrative parts of our lives.
It is hard to find the time to study a language when your main job is so mentally taxing. In addition, Korean is quite hard to learn for an English speaker. Where it would take a native English speaker about six months of full-time study to learn Spanish, it takes around two years of full-time study to achieve the same level of Korean.
However, I plan to improve my Korean significantly now that X-Team has given me the time, energy, and resources to devote to studying more!
And have you been to the DMZ?
I have! It was way back in late 2013. I went on the USO tour that took us right to the border buildings in Panmunjeom. The soldiers were incredibly stoic and intense looking. Sadly, it was a very smoggy day so we couldn’t see much, but it was a really fun tour. I bought a bunch of North Korean brandy and some old money.
Would you ever move back to the US?
Not a chance. The safety and affordability are far better in South Korea. I had a reverse culture shock when I came back to the USA the first time after living here for a couple of years. People walk around with their shoes indoors (a no-no in South Korea), wear very casual or ill-fitting clothes (fashion is huge in Seoul), and I received a very large medical bill when I was in the US, which was a big impetus to return to Korea. The only place I would consider moving to is New Zealand, since it has just absolutely fantastic natural scenery.
What about work? I assume you're working with a Western client. How do you manage the timezone difference?
Technically Western, but Southern! I am working for a company in Australia so the timezone lines up perfectly; they are just one hour ahead of me. However, I do have timezone differences when I talk with family back home, but that is a roughly twelve hour difference so I talk with my mornings their evenings. It isn’t too bad.
Do you want to join a company that allows you to live life wherever you want around the world? You can! X-Team is always looking for experienced developers. Send through your application today.