Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What to Pack for South Korea

You've probably noticed that my blog now has some additional flare from The Arrival Store on the side bar and bottom banner. I recently signed on to be a contributing blogger for the The Arrival Store (TAS), an American company that, among other services, will deliver bedroom, kitchen, household, electronic, and other items to your apartment before you arrive in Korea! They are starting a blog in order to expand their teacher resources. My first post was just published! You can see it on their site here: http://blog.thearrivalstore.com/?p=77

To my friends and family: I will be putting up my work for TAS (first week on the job advice, packing tips, etc) in addition to my personal posts, but don't worry! The majority of posts will still be about my own ridiculous adventures living and working in Korea! I am just putting the TAS posts on my blog in case anyone reading this finds out that they know someone who is moving/ thinking about moving to South Korea. If you could pass along my informational posts/ my blog along to anyone you know going to South Korea that would be super fabulous for me! 

In case you missed it.
The internet is chock full of forums with teachers panicking over what to pack for living in Korea. Many repeat the same questions: asking what to bring, how they can get a phone without an alien card, where they can find fitted sheets, if their straightener will work, etc. I'm promoting The Arrival Store because it saves me the trouble of answering all of these questions and writing a snooze-fest blog post.

Again, if you have a friend who needs these things and more, refer them to my blog and tell them to hit one of the banners for The Arrival Store! Poof!! All of their packing problems will be solvedItems can also be delivered to the airport, your school, or orientation meeting spots. You don't have to be a teacher, the service is for any foreigner moving to work in Korea.   

Having traveled abroad four times I can honestly say that this is one of the most helpful and convenient services I've ever used, especially since I'm living in a rural area and didn't have access to much transportation when I first got here. If you buy nothing else, I'd recommend these three items from TAS (trust me, they'll drastically improve your transition in Korea):

1) Cell Phone- you cannot get a cell phone in Korea without an alien card, which takes up to four weeks to receive (actually in my case it's been taking longer). You might be able to get a phone illegally, but it's not worth the trouble when you can have a working, legal phone delivered to your apartment. Not having a phone when you first get here can be super isolating, especially if you meet new people and then find you have no easy way to contact them!

2) Memory Foam Mattress Pad- I realize this is a splurge, but the rumors are true, Korean mattresses are about one step above concrete. In fact, I'd say using the term "mattress" is being polite. To be fair, I think this is because most Koreans actually sleep on floor pads instead of beds. Point is though, if you like a soft bed, you'll at least want to invest in a feather mattress pad. Otherwise, you'll definitely get some practice with Korean numbers counting sheep.

3) Sheets and Towels- alright this is two items, but whatever they basically go together. Due to the lack of beds in Korea there is also a lack of sheets, especially the fitted bottom one. They are impossible to find and very expensive, even at stores like E-Mart which are huge Target-like chain stores. Towels in Korea are also very small, if you want a nice big body towel I'd order a set or two. You can bring them from home I suppose but they take up a lot of space.

Here are also some personal packing tips I have (for things you can't get from The Arrival Store):

1) Bring your favorite toothpaste and deodorant- it's true that few Korean toothpastes contain flouride, plus in general I find them to be lacking in refreshing flavor. Deodorant is practically non-existent here and very expensive. Bring it!

2) Leave other toiletries at home - unless you're living truly out in the middle of no where, or super super picky about your cosmetics, chances are you will live near an E-Mart or similar store which will carry most popular American brands for around the same price. For girls especially you'll find that Koreans have their own great skin products. I've personally found that I like some shampoos and cosmetics better than what I get at home. I'm going to do a post on Skin Food, my new obsession, their Royal Honey skin care line is awesome.

Love. Love. Love.

3) Cover your eyes gentleman- if you're a girl and use tampons, bring them. Also hard to find and can be expensive! If you have a big chest, don't count on finding bras that fit you here either.

4) Shipping is cheaper than you'd think! If you are coming in the spring/ summer and don't want to be bogged down by bulky winter clothes, have your family/friends ship your heavier clothes later! Relatively cheap shipping, even for big boxes, takes about three weeks. I'm not sure of the exact rates, but I'm pretty sure it costs less than the baggage fees charged by airlines. Even if it costs as much as baggage fees, it will save you a lot of hassle in the airport.

5) A word on clothes/shoes- if you have small feet, I'd say American sizes 5-7, shoes here are cheap and easy to find! Don't worry about bringing tons of shoes cause I guarantee you'll buy more anyway. The one exception is sneakers! If you're a runner or hiker and want good shoes for intense physical activity, you'd probably be better off bringing a pair from home. Good sneakers here can be pricey and don't always have as good of support.

Typical Korean shoe shop in the subway.
I wouldn't stress too much about clothes unless you are very tall. While clothing here seems to run a bit small, there is no shortage of cute cheap clothes to buy in Korea! If you're a guy, perhaps you can get a suit or two made while you're at it.

6) I spent way too much money on a North Face backpacking pack for post-teaching traveling. My excuse was that I wanted something adjustable since I'm short...but it turns out that they sell adjustable packs in Korea for less than half the price. You can get cheap luggage here in general.

7) If you think you'd be into this: bring candy and little trinkets from your home country- they'll make great prizes for students! If you're a chocoholic, be warned, Korean chocolate is super mediocre. I've got a stash of Godiva in my fridge....

8) Coffee here is also mediocre unless you like really sugary lattes or bland instant coffee. If you're a big coffee drinker and want the real stuff, I'd bring your own. You can get a coffee grinder through The Arrival Store!

Korea (also) runs on Dunkin'

9) Medicine- if you're not one of those people who doses all your food with Sriracha and you're not sure how you're body is going to react to all of the new spicy food, I would bring some Tums or Pepto Bismal type medicine. Though they have pharmacies, Korean medicines usually come as a cocktail of several different pills. I'd suggest bringing along Advil, Nyquil, or whatever else you like to use for colds and the occasional aches and pains. 

Aside from these things, unless you are truly in the middle of no where, you can usually find what you need. It might be pricier, but if you really need something just buy it. If you don't want to spend the money, then you'll find a substitute or a way to live without it. There are even several Costcos scattered around the country where you can get American food products. Except limes...they don't sell limes in Korea...

Pretty much captures how I feel. 
Overall, teachers and students will be very welcoming and helpful, so if there's anything you need that you can't find, you'll have lots of help! Asking your teachers where to buy good food in your town might be a good idea. I used to go to E-Mart to get all of my food until another teacher told me about a great grocery store close to my apartment that gets all its vegetables locally. Sooooooo delicious!


  1. My fiance is in Korea and he asked me to move there and be with him. I am trying to decide what to bring and what to throw away. I thought I was going to have to leave my car behind but I found a great overseas car shipping company to ship it over. I am so happy you posted this because I didn't know what they have over there and what they don't. I am going to have to bookmark this, thanks for sharing!!

  2. I'm glad you found it helpful! I know packing was very stressful for me, always digging through forums looking for all the right information!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

The Arrival Store

Click here to visit The Arrival Store