What do I need to pack when I come to Korea?
Korea is a developed country.
You can get lots of stuff here. In Seoul you can get some imported goods
but outside it's harder. That means that you have to use Korean versions.
It works fine for most things if you're not attached to specific brands. If you
are in Seoul then its easier to get some things, if you are in Wonju then its
If you are a woman size 12 or
less you will have no trouble finding clothing. Korea is a great fashion
centre. If you are tall or larger,
then you will be able to find some things in the men's section.
Some Koreans are quite stocky
so there is a good range of sizes. Seoul also caters to American GI's so
there is some larger sizes there.
Bring wool socks if you like
wool, I haven't been able to find any in Wonju except for one pair of Norwegian
hiking socks in a sports shop. Korea makes wonderful cheap, wool and leather
gloves and mitts, why they can't figure out how to make wool socks is beyond
me! Gr..........! I have not seen much cotton either but it's winter and
things are more seasonal here.
I had a really hard time finding long sleeved cotton jerseys (long sleeved
T's). I found one store in Wonju that had 3 at a price! This was in October
and maybe its a more seasonal thing.
There are lots of coat, vests
padded pants, sweat pants, hats and scarves, leather jackets, all at reasonable
prices, if you have them, bring them, but don't worry, you can get that
If you are tall bring long
underwear. I can get some to fit around the middle but woman's sizes are
a good 6 inches too short for my liking.
There is great underwear
here. If you prefer all cotton bring your own.
Its OK to wear pants here but make sure they are resonable, Jeans are not OK. I
have trouble finding women's pants that are long enough.
This is a world centre for cosmetics.
Unless you have specific preferences you can get Korean cosmetics of every
kind. People here don't wear a lot of perfume.
Bring deodorant, Koreans
don't sweat much and there is none in regular stores. I heard that there
is sometimes some in big hotels in Seoul.
Everyone seems to dye their
hair but it's hard to find lighter shades. Light brown or blond is rare.
Black, dark brown, and reddish brown is common and comparable to western
prices. Loreal, wella etc., are all readily available.
You will probably get a cold
when you're here so bring over the counter remedies if you use them. They
didn't have any Neo citran and it would have felt nice to drug myself and
go to bed. Pharmacists will have all kinds of things and they work but
it's hard to explain and when you're not feeling up to snuff it's even
harder to make the effort. They don't have cough syrup. They have cough
capsules. I bought honey to take with my caught pill and it satisfied the
urge but Honey is really expensive.
There are vitamins and tonics
of every kind. Ginseng is a local specialty, as well as any number of tonic
Sunscreen is hard to come
by. I haven't seen it yet.
Music in Korea
Bring your favorite music, there is some here
but nothing much out of the beaten path. There is lots of old Jazz. You can
pickup a Korean re-issue of Billie Holiday or Louis Armstrong for next to
nothing. There is lots of Classical Music available but nothing very esotheric.
Bring little presents, trinkets
like nice key chains, maple sugar, pins; things you can give when you are
invited out for lunch or dinner. Smoked salmon is a good Canadian gift.
I brought some nice calendars and people liked them.
and Reading Stuff
If you're addicted to a magazine,
get a subscription sent over. It's hard to get magazines other than Newsweek
,Times or National Geographic, in Korea, Kyobo has a few more but not much of a
Books are also hard to get.
Kyobo bookstore has a reasonable selection but nothing out of the ordinary.
One thing you don't really
need to bring is teaching manuals. There are lots here. Learning English
is a popular activity and there is lots of material.
Towels in Korea
For some reason its almost impossible to find towels that are larger than a
hand towel . People dont dry themselves the same way here. If you like big
towels bring your own. Remember though that there are not many dryers and big
towels take an eternity to dry.
There are no ovens here and
cooking is mostly done on little gas burners. If you like to cook bring
spices and herbs, in sealed containers not looking like drugs. You can
get garlic and hot peppers, as well as sesame, but I've not found things
like oregano or sage, yet. I'm still looking for curry powder.
Bring shoes, I've found styles
to be different from what I like. Right now the "in" crowd in Wonju is wearing
shoes with long toes, sometimes up to 2 inches longer than regular shoes. It
looks like medieval poulaines. It makes people sort of walk with big steps,
like they are wearing swimming flippers. Runners are abundant and a good deal
here however. You can also get great value in hiking boots.
Appliances and Electronic goods in Korea
You can get cd players and cassette
players. Prices are not great but they are not terrible either. Appliances
in general seem to be a bit more expensive than in Canada but things work
on 220 mostly so buy here if you need to buy. My apartment has both 220
and 110 outlets. Go figure!
If you have one, bring a water
filter, the kind that has a ceramic bacteria filter not the carbon filter
kind. You can't consistently drink the water safely. When it rains a lot
there is seepage from the farms into the water supply and its not very
safe. Last month the water was shut down for 3 days because a pig farmer
let some manure go into the drains. He ended up in prison but it didn't
do any good to the water supply.
There is lots of water for
sale. It costs about 1000 wons for 2 liters, depending on where you buy.
You can get lots of paper products,
envelopes, pads, pencils, pens, markers and all that stuff. Paper is more
expensive but its not worth hauling in your precious weight allowance.
There is lots of bribing
kids with stickers, so it's worth bringing a few with you if you can find
some that are fairly cheap. You can get Sandylion brand here but it costs
1500 wons for a small card. There are many local stickers for a fraction of
that cost though.
Computers in Korea
If you have a laptop bring it,
You will need a local modem to connect to the net though. Computers are
made locally and comparable in price and quality. Most of the bits in western
computers are made in this end of the world anyway. I bought a machine
for about 1,500,000 wons. It has lots of bells and whistles. A basic system
will be 1,000,000 wons. There is an enormous counterfeit computer parts
industry. As usual you get what you pay for. Its possible to buy very
inexpensive machines in Seoul but try to buy from the proverbial reliable
dealer. Its helpful to have someone you can go back for help when you need
some advice. That's worth a bit more I think.
There are electronic cafes
and Korea Telecom and the library offers free or cheap access to the net
so its not necessary to have your own, I like having easy access (my connection
costs 15,000 wons per month plus 500 wons per hour telephone connection
Get a hotmail or similar
email account, it doesn't cost anything and it's easy to access from any
computer. Tell all your friends and get everyone's address. It's really
nice to get lots of emails.
If you're a bike freak, Seoul
will stress you out beyond any reason. There are some people who ride,
and some bike paths. These are usually on sidewalks. Its feasible but not
much fun. There is at least one bike club. I saw them out riding but I
cant imagine its easy.
Wonju is great for riding.
The streets are wide enough for a bike and a car, people are used to seeing
bikes and there is not too much traffic. Its also only about a 15 minute
ride to get out of town. There are lots of great little country roads.
I love to ride and its a great way to explore rural Korea. I bought a local
mountain bike. It was considered top of the line. It's really sturdy and
weight a ton. Otherwise its nice to ride. It set me back about 220,000
wons. It has good brakes, alloy wheels and shimano derailleur, and lots
of nice little gears, to handle all the mountains Koreans are so proud
There are bikes for as little
as 150,000 wons, sturdy 1 speed things with carriers and a good solid look
but here are a zillion mountains here so you will want some gears I think.
There are lots of used bikes
in shops around town, so I imagine you could get a bike for under 50,000.
If you are tall and need
a long seat post bring your own, people are shorter here. If you are a
bike snob, then bring your own, there is nothing fancy that I've seen around.
Bring a patch kit but don't bring your pump, the tubes here have a different
valve so I had to buy a local pump (that weighs a good 10 pounds! and will
last a lifetime). Bring your helmet, gloves, and cycling shorts.
and Guide Books
Bring a map of Korea and of
Seoul in your language. Its hard to get here. You can get Lonely Planet
books at Kyobo bookstore in Seoul, but it's nice to have some guide book
for background info before you come.
This isn't the boonies as far
as medicine goes but if you take some prescription drug get a supply before
There are lots of opticians,
as long as you like little oval frames, you're all set. Styles seem a bit
limited but not tragically so. You can get contact lens supplies readily.
me, I love to get mail