lluggage

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 harder!
Clothing
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 stuff here.

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.

Cosmetics
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.

Over the counter Medicines
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 teas.

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.
Presents
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.
Books 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 selection.

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.
Cooking
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.
Shoes
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!
Water Filter
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.

Stationery and Stickers
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 cost.)

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.

Bikes
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 of.

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.

Maps 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.
Prescriptions and Glasses
This isn't the boonies as far as medicine goes but if you take some prescription drug get a supply before you come.

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.


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