You got a job offer to teach English in Korea! Wooo! And now sets in the panic of having to pack your whole life into a suitcase…
So where to begin? What kind of clothes will you need? What can be found here? What can you absolutely not live without? Is it worth it to pay for another bag? This feeling of dread is all too familiar to us and we experienced it only 5 months ago when packing for our year-long journey. Fear not, we’ve made all the packing mistakes for you so we can tell you what can/can’t be found here and what you should consider bringing with you.
Things to bring:
Adapters – These are surprisingly hard to come by so bring at 4 with you so that you can have a few around your apartment. Something to note: the voltage in Korea is much higher than in Canada so consider purchasing a voltage converter when you get here. These can be found at large department stores/electronic stores for about 20 000 won.
Unlocked phone (in good condition) – If you buy a phone in Korea, you will have a Korean power cord. Plus you’ll likely need to sign up for a 2 year contract (which you will need to pay penalties on if you leave after your 1 year contract). Save yourself the hassle and bring an unlocked phone with you to Korea that is in good enough condition to last year. We did this and do not have a phone plan as a result: we have a wi-fi egg (portable hotspot) for 16 500 won/month that has 11GB of data + a pay-as-you-go SIM card. Cheap and exactly what we need!
Tampons – Ladies, bring enough to last you the year because we haven’t seen a single one in our time here so far. Better yet, invest in a Diva Cup and you’ll never have to worry about this again.
Medication & vitamins – Bottom line is that unless you speak/read Korean, you won’t really know what you’re buying and consuming. We like having the comfort of knowing exactly what medications are for what and use brands we’ve been using for years.
Favourite foods – When you’re feeling homesick, these are the things that will get you through it! A few things to consider bringing that we’ve had a hard time finding are:
- quality chocolate
- taco seasoning
- gravy mix
- mac n’ cheese
- vanilla extract
Warm clothing – We’re from Canada but we still find the weather to be quite cold here. Bring lots and lots of sweaters and long-sleeved shirts to keep you warm on those cold winter days. Another reason to bring lots of warm clothes is that schools tend to leave the windows open during the winter to ‘air it out’. Not sure why but this means that people end up wearing their winter coats inside + 5 000 layers of clothing.
International Driver Permit – If you plan on driving at all during your time here (or during your vacation), this is a must! Get more information about it by clicking here.
Things to leave at home:
Dressy clothes – We thought it would be necessary for teaching but boy were we wrong! Bring comfortable clothing to teach in and only one dressy outfit for special occasions. We promise you won’t regret it.
Shoes – You will be wearing ‘slippers’ inside the school at all times and will be required to take off your shoes in most restaurants. Basically you will only be wearing your shoes like 30% of your time in Korea.
Low-cut tops/dresses – Anything below your collarbone is considered risqué in Korea so leave everything that shoes off your chest in any way at home. Same goes for any sleeveless shirts. They aren’t considered appropriate in Korea, even though it may be super tempting to wear them when it’s 50 degrees outside.
Things that can be found in Korea:
So many blogs told us to bring these items and we wasted so much space in our suitcases because of it! Save those precious kilos for more important things.
Power strips – These can be found everywhere for really cheap, even the dollar store!
Bed sheets – Although they are a bit more expensive than at home, sheets can be found in large department sores (i.e. Homeplus and EMart).
Large towels – Also a bit more expensive than at home, but can be found in large department sores (i.e. Homeplus and EMart).
Deodorant – A lot more expensive (think about $10 per stick) than at home but can still be found basically everywhere. We recommend bringing 3-4 sticks with you but don’t sweat it (ha get it?) if you run out while you’re here.
Toothpaste – Widely available and inexpensive. In fact, Koreans are quite serious about keeping their teeth clean (they even brush after lunch!) so don’t worry about not finding any here. You won’t be able to find Colgate or Crest but, contrary to popular belief, the flavours are quite similar.
Contacts, contact solution & glasses – Can be found everywhere here and for super cheap! You don’t even need to bring your prescription with you since an eye test is included in the price of your glasses. We both got new pairs for $35 each (including frame, lens and eye test!) in under one hour.
Spices – Unless you cook with extremely rare spices, you’ll be able to find these in all of the large department stores and even a few local stores.
Specialty health foods – Sure you won’t really find these in Korea (although some large department stores have organic health food sections!), everything you’ll ever need can be bought online at iherb.com. This website has saved us and we’ve been able to buy everything from quinoa to granola to Clif bars. All of their foods are quite reasonably priced and they even have free shipping if you spend over $60!
Makeup – Korean beauty products (AKA K-beauty) are everywhere! Even the smallest town will have about 5 different makeup stores. So unless you have a particular brand that you absolutely can’t live without, we would suggest you buy it here.
Note: If you have a darker skin tone (and by that we mean anything darker than a light tan) we would highly recommend bringing foundation, concealer, etc. since darker toned products are unfortunately harder to find.
Shampoo/Soap/Conditioner – Dove and Pantene can be found here (although a little on the pricier side), and Korea brands work and smell just as good.
Hair dryer – The voltage and plugs are different in Korea than it is in the USA/Canada so I would recommend buying one here.
Have you been to Korea?
What was on your packing list?
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