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Tuesday, 10 July 2007

The Ultimate Packing List: What to Bring to Korea

Alright, so you're just about ready to head off to Korea and you're not sure what to pack, or what to bring. I'm going to try to keep this short and sweet. I'll explain some suggestions of what items we brought that worked out well for us.

Here's the list, as promised!

Learn some Korean
- There is English in Korea but not a lot. Your best bet to be prepared is to learn some basics before you go. 90 Day Korean can help you do that easily and quickly!

- bring a WARM winter jacket (my North Face jacket was a blessing); it gets very cold here
- if your feet are over size 9 for men, I would bring a pair of shoes. I had a hard time finding size 11 here--I bought two pairs of shoes in Dubai instead. ;)
- I brought one sweater with me for winter and a light zipper sweater to wear at school.
- bring summer clothes...shorts, tshirts, etc
- bring underwear (ladies: bring your thongs as they don't sell them here; they are hard to find)
- bring a couple towels for showers (the ones here are hand towel sized--thanks anonymous)
- bring a single-sized sheet set; pillow cases too (thanks anonymous)

Personal Care:
- DEODORANT...bring a year's supply. It can be found here if you search hard enough, but you'll pay a premium. For example, the mark up on a stick of Old Spice High Endurance is double what you'll pay at home!
- bring your favorite cologne--it'll be expensive here
- bring your favorite gel;
- bring your favorite floss;
- bring a travel bottle of Purell along with a larger refill; there is a spray hand sanitizer that can be purchased at Watson's here
- bring your favorite toothpaste, unless you want to try out 2080 or Perioe
- bar soap, shampoo can be purchased here but the selection is limited...Dove, Ivory, and Pantene ProV...unless you must have your brand, bring it! I would recommend going to Watson's and Olive Young to find personal care items
- Qtips can be found here
- if you are used to your OWN brand of a certain thing, bring lots of it!
- Bring lots of bras (they don't sell big bras here...good luck finding C or D cup)
====from anonymous in the comments:
- If you are a woman bring tampons. It's not widely used in Korea.
- Good, moderately priced shampoo in Korea- Elastine/Kerasys/Mise'en scene brands are good as well as Shiseido(Aquair).Unless you absolutely need a certain brand, I think you could use that space to pack other things.
- They have many higher-priced/luxury hair product lines.
- The Body Shop has many stores in Seoul
- L'Occitane and Lush have stores in Seoul as well
- Neutrogena,Nivea, Clean and Clear products are also widely available
- You can find lots of products and foods not in dept. stores on the Namdaemun "black market" on the street behind Shinsegae (main store-near MyungDong)

- plug converters can be found here for cheap, but you might want to bring a couple with you to get started
- leave the cellphone at home; cellphones from back home won't work here; we bought a used phone for $50 at Yongsan and are paying $10/month on a pay as you go plan
- I brought my laptop from home; it's been our entertainment center thanks to the internet; you can buy a laptop here, but Windows will be in Korean
- use Skype or Windows Live Messenger/Yahoo! Messenger (thanks John) to call home from PC to landline for dirt cheap (Skype costs me 2 cents/minute to call Canada)

Food stuff:
- bring spices from back home if you want to cook lots
- bring honey (it's bloody expensive), maple syrup (bling bling), and your favorite spices if you want to cook; you can find spices and such at the Hyundai Department Store, but prices are very expensive
- bring a box of your favorite gum...you can find Dentyne Ice at Watson's, Juicy Fruit can be found at Homever, but the majority of gum here is XYLITOL (Lotte)!
- bring some of your favorite chocolate: Snickers, Twix, and M&Ms are here, along with anything cacao-based.
- bring a couple boxes of your favorite tea (thanks lao-ocean-girl)

Drugs, Drugs, and MORE DRUGS!
- you will get sick at one point or another...so it's best to be prepared
- bring some Tylenol/Advil
- bring Dimedapp cough syrup
- bring some allergy medicine if you suffer from allergies
- they have Halls candy here along with Ricola
- bring a big tub of multivitamins (go to Costco if you can)

Anyways, this is what I can think of right now. If anyone else has suggestions on what to bring, please feel free to post them in the comments and I will add them to this post. If you want a more extensive list of things to bring, check out this page from Footprints Recruiting.

It's currently raining in Seoul...get used to putting your wet umbrella in these plastic umbrella bags:


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips! I want to go to Korea to teach English but my husband thinks we need to be fluent in Korean first. Is that necessary? Also, I would probably need a regular work visa since my Mom is Korean and not my Father(doesn't it just go by paternal ancestry)? Oh and is it possible to teach even though I don't have a 2yr college degree if I get a TEFL cert? I am going to school right now but it is only a 10 month long career training school(I'll be a Medical Assistant). Sorry to ask so many questions all at once. I'll miss your daily updates on Korean life(and food). Your blog has been very entertaining and informative.

Anonymous said...

Where can I get a plug converter? I have just moved to Seoul and I have bought 2 plug converters so far. They are not working well. One of them blew out my blowdryer. I'm afraid of plugging my laptop into a converter. Any suggestions? I live on the east side of Seoul really close to Techno Mart and the Gwangaru subway stop. Thanks!

Gary said...

kyon: thanks for commenting! You do not need to be fluent in Korean to teach here, because if that was the case I'd be sent home already!

As for teaching without a degree, that a major requirement to get a work visa through immigration. So that might be a hard one to get by with...however, you could always work part time without a degree. I would try searching WorkNPlay or Dave's ESL Cafe for job postings! Good luck.

Anonymous: one reason why your hairdryer burnt out on you is because you need a voltage converter, which changes the voltage from 110v to 220v in Korea. So basically there was too much juice going to your hairdryer!

As for your laptop, read the power supply sticker, as most chargers should be autoswitching between voltages so it should be okay. One of the best places to buy just a plug converter would be at a camera shop, as they have tonnes of them there. Try Technomart, and bring of your existing ones to show them what you want!! :)

Anonymous said...

Gdog, between you and Footprints, I think pretty much everything has been covered. I'm glad I brought 2 pillows, towels, and a few books; although, I wish I had a sheet for my bed. Additionally, bingo and word searches (age appropriate) are very useful in the ESL industry.

Do to my background in television, I made sure I was connected to a slingbox (slingbox.com) and a satellite DVR back home, so I wouldn't miss anything. Also, AnyDVD and CloneDVD/CD (http://www.slysoft.com/en/)allow you to play any, and all) regions of DVDs on your computer and there is a free 21 day evaluation period.

Even the most basic of laptop/notebook computers is essential to stay in communication with friends and family back home through Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, or Skype. Direct computer to computer calls between these services are free and Windows and Yahoo! charge just .019 cents a minute (U.S.) for computer to phone calls. Skype is a little more expensive because it is based out of Europe and uses the Euro as opposed to the dollar which is weakening (good for those of us abroad, but not so good for those in the U.S. or tavelling abroad).

daeguowl said...

The best game I ever had was Guess Who although I was teaching small enough groups to make it worthwhile...I would add that if you're from the UK and used to drinking such things you might want to consider bringing a bottle of squash/cordial as they don't sell anything like that here.

lao-ocean said...

I always laugh when I think about what I packed for the first time in Korea. I actually brought shampoo with me! The shampoo in Korea isn't my favorite brand, but it does the job. Thinking about it, I wouldn't have brought the year supply of deodorant either (unless you're the kind of person that needs a specific brand).

I definitely agree with bringing the cold and flu medicine. I also like to bring favorite spices and teas, which don't add too much weight to your luggage.

Laura Palmer said...

Well I'm glad I stumbled upon your blog!
I'm moving to Korea next month (Seoul), on a year contract. I was just doing some homework for that and somehow this is where I ended up. Love what I've read so far, and I just bought a DS as well! My friend code is 159014 516645. Check out my blog. It's nice to unofficially meet you! :)

Gary said...

John: Good point about calling home with Skype on the computer...I forgot to mention that.

Daeguowl: We brought some Canadian items like stickers and decks of cards and such...but now that I think of it, bringing some booze might have been a better idea. LOL!!

Lao-ocean: I brought facewash with me from home and I was glad I did. One of my suitcases was overweight and I had to pay $50, which is not a big deal since my flight was free! But if I could do it again I'd bring tea and spices too.

Laura: I'll add your friend code to my DS for sure! By the way, what's your blog's URL? Thanks for visiting!

Unknown said...

My girlfriend and I are also moving to Korea in September. I am sad that you are leaving! Your blog has provided us both with a lot of entertainment and inspiration. Too bad you're not staying a few months later!

I was going to just send some emails home to friends and family while teaching, but I think a blog is definately the better way to go. The interaction is a lot of fun (I can't promise a blog as nice as yours, but I'll try my best:))


Anonymous said...

Bring a towel as here they use hand towels for drying and regular-sized towels are hard to find and a bit expensive. You might also bring a single-sized sheet set. Their bedding is different and it just cost me $100 to outfit my single bed with a 100% cotton pad, cover and pillow covers. I live in a small town so I don't have the selection you may find in bigger cities.

Anonymous said...

-If you are a woman ( and I don't mean to gross-out anyone) Bring tampons. It's not widely used in Korea.
-Good, moderately priced shampoo in Korea- Elastine/Kerasys/Mise'en scene brands are good as well as Shiseido(Aquair).Unless you absolutely need a certain brand, I think you could use that space to pack other things.
-They have many higher-priced/luxury hair product lines.
-The Body Shop has many stores in Seoul
-L'Occitane and Lush have stores in Seoul as well
-Neutrogena,Nivea, Clean and Clear products are also widely available
-You can find lots of products and foods not in dept. stores on the Namdaemun "black market" on the street behind Shinsegae (main store-near MyungDong)

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Gary said...

jcalfat: in the beginning I was also sending emails home with pictures...but that was too much work to add new people to my mailing list every time. So most of my stories are posted on the blog! Good luck in Sept! :)

Anonymous: Thanks for your excellent advice!! :)

Anonymous said...

What about birth control? I imagine women should bring enough packets of bc pills for the duration of their stay, can prescriptions be filled in Korea?
Are condoms readily available?

(These are serious questions btw and mahalo in advance!)

vanveghel said...

Me and my wife will be moving to Korea in August, and we have some TV equipment that we're debating whether or not to bring. Debating because it's all PAL! We're getting a furnished apartment, presumably with a TV, but is there a reasonable chance that it will be one of those models that can do both NTSC and PAL?

daeguowl said...

local made and Japanese import condoms are readily available in chemists but I reckon they are smaller than durex.....I don't know about pills. They must be available but I believe some women are sensitive to different brands and therefore I would advise possibly bringing a year's worth...

Max said...

I'd like to add/modify:

1) Shower towels. Department stores (even the cheap ones) sell full-size towels. Costco also sells full-size towels. Towels take up a lot of room when packing--leave them at home and buy some here.

2) Sheets. Many foreigners will likely sleep on a "single" size mattress, which is a Twin XL in North America. However a queen is still a queen. Sheets are more expensive here until you master the art of Internet shopping.

3)Cologne is cheap at Costco, or online.

4) Dental floss is readily available at large supermarkets. Both American-imported and domestic.

5) Clinx toothpaste is quite nice. Try it.

6) You can get ibuprofen (Advil) under the name "Burupen", but it's much more expensive. I stock up on generic ibuprofen and generic Excedrin (aspirin+tylenol+caffeine) when I go to the states. Bayer Aspirin is available at 2500won for 20 tabs--and you only need to take ONE as they're stronger.

7) Spices. Dry basil, oregano, bay leaves, rosemary, curry, cinnamon, black pepper, and red pepper (duh) are available in almost every large supermarket. Most every other spice isn't (to include tarragon, thyme, sage, and that essential: taco seasoning). Fresh garlic can be found eveywhere, but domestic powered garlic has the consistency of talc, bring a bottle.

8) Bring mexican hot sauce, most everything else (black beans, tortillas, guacamole, red onions, salsa)can be found at Costco and other stores.

9) Bring your favorite sunscreen. It's available, but the selection is limited.

8) Vanilla. Get a big bottle at Trader Joe's or Costco for cheap and bring it to Korea.

9) Bring moisurizer and other face care items. You'll never find your brand here and end up using something inferior or much more expensive.

10) Bring shaving cream unless you like paying $6 a bottle. Trader's Joe's Cream Shave is cheap and lasts a lasts a looooong time. Blades are about the same price.

11) If you want to ride a bike with a frame larger than 19" you might one to bring a frame with you. Pack a fork as well to save some bucks. All other parts are affordable.

13) Condoms and lube. Condoms here are smaller, which maybe good for some guys (lol).

You likely noticed that I mentioned Costco a few times. Membership is cheaper in Korea and is good worldwide.

Anonymous: You can get "the pill" here but I hear they're different. Bring a full supply.

Jasper: Leave the TV at home. Nothing here supports PAL, so why not just download all your TV shows?

Anonymous said...

I thought that I would set the record straight on Costco. There are only "5" stores in all of South Korea and 3 are in Seoul. There is one in Daegu and one in Daejeon. So, most of South Korea (including Jeju, Busan, and Ulsan) does not have local Costco stores. They are really few and far between here.

You can check out the locations at the top of the web page.

So, your best bet is to get as much information as you can, talk to people via e-mail in the places you are considering going, and decide what's best for you. If crowds aren't you thing, maybe Seoul isn't right for you. If you don't like the cold, try Jeju (especially if you like the beach). If you really want to connect to the land and people, try a rural area and work for the government. At least then you won't have to worry about a private English school (hagwon) going belly up and leaving the teachers in a really bad spot.

There are many jobs overseas, and many recruiters are desperate to make money. So, if it sounds too good, it's probably pretty bad.

The good, or better, places will be more forthcoming in answering questions and giving out e-mail addresses of their native teachers and pictures of the apartments and schools.

So, in closing, good luck, and if you really need something extra from home an extra suitcase flown over with you is about $100 U.S. (depending on the carrier) and medicines, toothpastes, etc. (just make sure you have someone double ziploc them for you) can be mailed here within a few days pretty reasonably.

guitard said...

from anonymous in the comments:
- If you are a woman bring tampons. It's not widely used in Korea.

What??? Every corner store/market/grocery in Korea sells tampons. And ~ gasp! ~ Korean women entered the modern era of tampon usage decades ago. Where in the world did you get the idea that they're not widely used there?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the advice!!! I'll be leaving for Seoul very soon to work for YES Youngdo in Mokdong. I've seen their name a few times around this blog and was wondering if you had any info/advice on YES that you could pass along...

Also, I hear most Korean officetels don't come with a dryer... just a washer and a drying rack. If so, are there any laundromats in the area?

Anonymous said...

I found this survival list very interesting, but now I have a question that has been bothering me for years, since I stepped into the land of the morning calm for the first time: why do all the ATM's give you only 10,000 won notes, whenever you try to withdraw any money? It nearly seems the entire Korean banking system is founded on those notes, and all the transactions are made using them.
Without joking, I tried half a dozen banks and they all returned me only 10,000 won notes.

This is another mystery of Korea, along the total lack of paper bins in subway stations. Koreans seem to have removed them in 2004, apparently for security reasons. but if so, why at least 3 years after the events of NY? Isn't it a bit too late for such a measure?

This surely is the land of the perennial amazement...

Gary said...

Anonymous: As for birth control, I have read on Dave's ESL Cafe about a brand called Mercilon that is available from your local Korean pharmacy, for the price of 6-7000w per pack. Condoms are also readily available at all stores--even condoms made by the United Colors of Benetton!

jasper: I would personally leave the TV stuff at home, and stick to the internet to locate downloads of TV shows and such. Google is your best friend!! I use uTorrent as my torrent application. ;)

Max: Thanks for the killer info dude! I am gonna edit the post and make the changes. Cheers.

Anonymous going to YES Mokdong: Send me an email and I can fill you in about YES and Mokdong. ;)

kimchi jigae: as for the 10,000w issue, apparently that is to prevent people from working from working for cash. I posted something earlier about it. Imagine taking bricks and bricks of won to the bank!

Unknown said...

If my husband and I are coming together, can we assume we would have a queen sized bed and need queen sheets?

Anonymous said...

For phone service back to the US an option that worked quite well for me was Vonage href=http://www.vonage.com. It's 25$ per month for unlimited calls and your not stuck sitting by a laptop with a headset on (it uses a regular phone).. and you get a phone number in the US for friends/family to call you :)

I got the VTech IP8100 from them and it worked great for me for the 3 months that I was there.

Gary said...

Shannon: Sorry for the late reply, but it really depends on your school. Negotiate with them via email. We got a queen sized bed, but brought our own sheets.

Anonymous said...

Just a recommendation to the Ladies.... a must have for travelling. www.Divacup.com It is a silicon menstrual cup- a reusable replacement for tampons! spend $40 Can/US once and it lasts 10 years and works awesome. Plus it is resusable so enviro friendly! There are US and brit versions. Definately recommend at least lookig at the site!

Anonymous said...

I'm coming over in a week fews so your list helped a lot! It doesn't get below minus 10 celcius right? Just wondering if I need my -40 saskatchewan parka!
Question on running shoes.. I run - a lot, and I need a new pair of shoes. How is the prices there for running shoes.. Rather not have to pack them any ways. I wear a ladies 6 so size won't be an issue. I typically pay $80-110 CAN here for mid-grade Asics or Addias.
I don't know what school I am going with yet but probably a suburb or Seoul, how about rollerblades? Can you find them there or even use them? (I am also in need of a new pair, if it is worth taking them)

Gary said...

Joanne: Bring the parka, it gets cold! Yes to -10c--the very least!

Rollerblades can be used--maybe bring the ones from home. Shoes can be expensive in Korea...so buy from home and bring them here. :)

Anonymous said...

What are your suggestions for internet shopping in Korea? Also, do you really have to bring your own floss? And I heard they have colgate in Korea, or do all the brands there suck?

Go Stoodent said...

Yeah!! thats the eaxact drink!

How did you find my page btw?

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic list. If only I had read this before I came to Korea. I still dont' quite understand why Korea doesn't have full sized towels. I also had to have my father send me the big bottle of tylenol through the mail. I'll pass this on the people that will be coming to Korea soon.

Anonymous said...

This has been helpful I am leavng to Seoul for a year assignment. My biggest worry is believe it or not packing everyhing I need. I want to be minimalist but keep thinking I'll be needing a lot of stuff! Hahaha I don't know how I'm going to pack it all. But at least this has helped me assess what I should bring for sure and what to leave behind.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! This has been a lot of help. I am headed to Busan in June.


Adam and Nicole said...

we have a blogger site now too, we are leaving in 17 days for Gwangju.
I can not figure out how to follow your blog, but I would like too.

Our site is www.theseoulsurvivors.blogspot.com

please let me know how to follow your posts

Elisa said...

Northface jacket? Was it a puffy down jacket or fleece?

Also, would a heated blanket be a good idea?

Leaving for Seoul in about a month!
Thanks for the amazing blog!

Anonymous said...

hi, I'm planning go to Seoul next year, but I need to use my monthly contraceptive injection but on the EU airport wont let me travel with a huge amonunt of this product, so i wanna know if is any brand of it in Seoul if you know any brand please tell me I would be happy :D
thank u

Anonymous said...

Bring deodorant???
You can buy them at any Homeplus, Emart or Lotte Mart.

Anonymous said...

Hello. Quick question: where can I find deodorant? Will it be in Home Plus? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to add to this list to give it a South African perspective.

If you're coming from South Africa, I would wait until getting to Korea in order to measure the bed, then have sheets sent over (the bed sizes are different sometimes).

Also, as mentioned, bring spices for food, even stuff like peri-peri as there's not much variety with Korean hot spices.

Bring medicine with codeine, you need a prescription to get anything with codeine in Korea.

Also, say goodbye to a lot of fruits that we eat in SA, they just don't have them in Korea. Prepare to be shocked at the outrageous prices of meat, fruit and vegetables too.

Clothes, clothes, clothes - it's hard to find western sizes in Korea, and the fashion is, well, if you're a guy expect to find many of the clothes "gay looking".

Most importantly, bring a laptop as you'll want English Windows (I use Linux, but a lot of Korean sites only work with IE, so you may as well have the option of dual-booting with Windows).

Bring tea as Korean black tea is incredibly weak.

Body products - anything that you feel you need, bring it. For example, I pack eye drops, deodorant, cologne, lip ice, toothpaste - I wouldn't bother with soap or shampoo though, there are a lot of options for that in Korea.

I would like to pack drinks like Creme Soda and Lucozade but that's not an option, expect to drink lots of Coke and pretty foul beer while in Korea.

Most importantly, pack money, preferably an entire suitcase of it. Oh, and change rand to American dollars in SA before you leave.

david said...

Yes. Win on my part for finding this useful list.

Agne said...

I've just read about what should I pack before going to Korea and I have a question....
How much does permanent cost there?
I'm used to dye white....
I don't wanna go brown again :D

Anak Shaleh said...

keep spirit and next, support from me

Jen said...

nice list! but you can easily find thongs in korea. at least from my experiences :)

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