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Seoul vs. NYC: Cost of Living, Food, and Transport

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Last updated:
Seoul vs. NYC

Suppose you’re planning to live in Seoul or NYC and don’t know which one to choose. I’ve made a comparison of both cities here below.

In short:

  • New York City is more expensive
  • New York City has more options for food
  • New York City has more foreigners
  • Transportation is better in Seoul
  • Seoul has a better nightlife
  • Less criminal offenses in Seoul
  • You don’t feel scared if you’re alone at 4 AM outside in Seoul

There are more options, but it’s really up to you and what you have to consider. Some people like a very busy city. If you’re that type of person, then New York City might be your choice.

However, if you like very lively nightlife, then Seoul might be something you’d be interested in. I’ve been to both cities and liked Seoul more because the food was less expensive and overall had a better experience.

Is Seoul More Expensive than New York?

No, New York is more expensive, but in a different way than Seoul. Food is way more expensive in New York City than in Seoul, but that might be just a matter of opinion.

It also depends on what kind of food you’re going for. If you’re going to buy a slice of pizza, it will be cheaper in New York. However, from my experience, I spend way more money in New York than in Seoul.

I’ve stayed in Seoul and New York for about 3 months, and in total, I spend around $4500 in Seoul and $5600 in New York. I rented an Airbnb outside the city, and it was way more expensive in New York.

But if you look at the transport, then it was cheaper in New York. In New York, you can just order an uber and go anywhere you want. In Seoul, this was a bit harder since I took the metro station.

All in all, Seoul is more affordable than New York.

This comparison will be up to you, so don’t take my word for it. Just think about what kind of things you’re going to spend your money on. Me? I like traveling and eating, so Seoul was perfect since the food was less expensive and I could travel around with the metro station.

But if you really like sightseeing and visiting famous buildings, then New York. But again, this comparison is only up to you.

Density in Seoul vs. NYC


The density in Seoul is really high. In Seoul, you can go anywhere by metro station. You don’t need a car to get to your destination since there are stations almost everywhere in Seoul, so if you hate driving in traffic, then I’d recommend Seoul.

Almost everyone in Seoul wears a mask, and in New York, no one does. There are about 26,000 people per square km in Seoul and 3500 people per square km in NYC. In Seoul, everything is super compressed, and everyone wears a mask to avoid breathing the air.

So, if you don’t like wearing masks, then NYC might be a better option for you. In Seoul, it’s very important to always have a mask with you. There are certain places where you can’t enter without one.

In NYC, this isn’t the case at all. You can just walk around without a mask, and no one will say anything. Everyone is minding his/her own business and doesn’t care about you.

Food in Seoul vs. NYC

There’s one thing that New York has over Seoul, and this is the number of restaurants. There are so many food options in New York, but again it depends on what you’re into.

If you like Asian food, then Seoul is the right choice for you, and if you like more western foods or fast foods, then New York is your location.

I personally really like Asian food, and that’s one of the reasons why I prefer to live in Seoul because it has the advantage of more variety when it comes to food and housing.

If you like foods like hamburgers, fries, etc., then New York is the place to go since there are so many fast-food chains that you can choose from.

However, if you’re a person who likes healthy foods, then again, Seoul might be your option since it has more places where you can get organic or fresh veggies and fruits.

In both cities (Seoul vs. NYC), you can find almost anything that you want to eat. There are lots of restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores, so it doesn’t really matter what kind of food you’re into.

At the end of the day, if you get a good apartment in Seoul for $800 vs. New York’s $1500, then it will definitely be better off to choose Seoul.

I love Korean food, so I knew that I’d be living in Seoul. After all, It was the perfect location for me since it had more Asian foods and a cheaper cost of living compared to New York.

How About Housing in NYC vs. Seoul?

Housing in NYC vs. Seoul

In both countries, housing is really expensive. You can spend $1000 for a small room in NYC, and the same goes for Seoul.

So, if I had to choose one thing that is cheaper in Korea compared to New York, then it would be housing costs. You can find a nice flat or house for around $800 per month. Of course, they are outside the city, but you still get all the services that you need.

So If You Love Food, Then NYC or Seoul?

If you like to try new foods and you like restaurants, then it would be a good idea to choose New York if you don’t want to spend so much money on food in general. However, this is only my opinion. I went back and forth during the past years, and I’ve decided to choose Seoul since I love Asian food.

Fitness Options in NYC vs. Seoul

If you’re into fitness/gym class exercise, then New York has so many different places with tons of services like gyms, classes (Zumba, yoga, etc.), and many more options.

If you’re into that stuff and like to try out new things, then it might be a better option for you to live in New York due to the number of alternatives that are available.

There are many 24/7 gyms in NYC and in Seoul. If you want everything at your doorstep, then NYC is the best option for you. You can find anything in NYC, and it has so many options compared to Seoul.

Public Transportation in NYC vs. Seoul

Public Transportation in NYC vs. Seoul

The public transportation system in NYC is really efficient, and there are no traffic jams. It’s easy to travel through the metro system since everything is prepared for you and easy to understand.

The only problem in NYC is if you go by car or taxi since the traffic is terrible. It takes forever to drive through NYC and even more if you get stuck in traffic.

The public transportation system of Seoul isn’t as great as it could be, but it’s still good and efficient enough to get around without any problems. You might have to wait for a bit for the bus or subway, but I do like how everything is on time.

If you want to go from one side of town/city center (around Gangnam) to another side, then it can take anywhere between 15-30 minutes depending on which bus/subway line you’ll choose.

At the end of the day, it’s really up to you and where you’re going to live. Honestly, both cities have their advantages and disadvantages.   

Which City Is Better for Students?

For students who want to study abroad, NYC is the best choice. Why?

NYC has many universities that offer scholarships. For example, if you’re going to go to Columbia University, then there are financial aid options for you. It might not be much, but at least it’s something that can support you.

There are more universities that help people with lower income which might make it better to go to NYC. In Seoul, most universities don’t offer financial aid for students.

Tourists in Seoul vs. NYC

If you look at the tourists in New York City, there are way more tourists compared to Seoul. Seoul is also less crowded, which might make it more appealing to foreigners. But if you like a busy city, then NYC is for you.

If you want to go shopping, NYC has a lot of shopping options compared to Seoul, which might make it more appealing as well.

However, Seoul’s main attractions are really close to each other. Big sites are located in Gangnam (Apgujeong Rodeo St., Garosu-gil, Gangnam Station Area/Shopping area). You can go there by subway and have a nice day trip.


At the end of the day, it’s really up to you which city you’re going to visit. Make sure to sleep about it a few nights before making the decision. It’s not something you just do because it takes a lot of preparation.

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    About The Author

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    Jason Park

    Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

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