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Preparing for and Settling in Korea
Updated on December 21, 2011 CALNY moreContact Author What to Bring/Pack
When preparing yourself for moving to South Korea, there are specific things that it’s best to pack. First, Korea uses 220V-240V on all appliances. In case you are coming from the U.S., understand that U.S. appliances are built for working with 120V. Because of this your appliances will not work in South Korea and even if they do, they might be damaged or burn out if you do not use a voltage converter. You can go to any electronics store, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, etc. and pick up a voltage converter. Additionally, you will need an adapter. An adapter is just a little piece that you simply attach to the ends of your plugs that change what the plug looks like. Within the U.S., all of our plugs have two prongs and they’re flat. In Korea, their plugs have two prongs as well but they are round. If you attach an adapter piece to a plug, on one side the flat prongs go in and on the other side it has two round prongs to be used within the outlets. Using an adapter alone won’t change the voltage going into your appliance. You have to use a voltage converter for most electronics.
Laptops have a rectangular black box attached to their charging wire. This box works as a converter to your laptop alone. In this case, you will only need the adapter to place at the tip of your plug. You will not need a voltage converter on your laptop.
Other things, corresponding to battery chargers, phone chargers, hair dryers, etc., you will need a converter to charge these things or get them to work. The primary day I moved to Korea, I plugged in my alarm clock with an adapter alone and within an hour it was broken. It had burned out.
As for hair dryers and straighteners, I HIGHLY recommend waiting until you come here to buy them. I brought them with me and it was such a waste because using the converter with the blow dryer barely had my blow dryer working and using it with the straightener barely had my straightener heat up. It definitely did not heat up enough to straighten my hair. So, I like to recommend waiting until you’re here and the following day go to the shop and buy them. For some locations of stores and where to buy certain items, see below “Where to buy”.
To this point, meaning you need to pack no less than 2 adapters and a converter.
Moving on to personal items. I’m sure a lot of you might have read that you cannot find deodorant in South Korea. That could be true in remote locations but if you’re in a big city corresponding to Seoul or Busan, most stores carry deodorant. The most typical deodorant that I’ve come across is made by Nivea. It says 24h protection on it. I have not purchased it so I cannot tell you the way it works. Before coming here, I took a visit to Costco and bought around 7 Degree deodorants so that I would have enough for the year (I hoped). If you are a stickler for a certain brand or you’re going to an area of Korea that may be a distance away from any big city, then I’d recommend packing as much deodorant as you’ll be able to.
Toothpaste might be found in all of the stores, but I’ve tried Korean toothpaste and I don’t really like it. That is another thing that in case you are partial to a certain brand, then pack away. I brought over two of the really long Crest toothpaste tubes and one smaller one. I am 9 months in and all of them are gone. To offer you an idea of how long it lasts, I brush my teeth every morning and sometimes at night (not every night – I know, I am supposed to). I feel 3 large tubes of toothpaste and maybe 1 smaller one should last the year just fine.
Shampoo and conditioner are also readily available. If you go to the most important shopping stores, you’ll find several brands there. Most are Korean but I have seen quite a little bit of Pantene Pro-V in the stores. I had brought over a Nexus shampoo and conditioner and a Herbal Essence shampoo and conditioner, and people just finished a few month ago (October and i came here in February). So, if you can, bring around 3 bottles of shampoo and conditioner and I believe you’ll be just fine. Again, that’s only if you want to bring a specific brand over. Otherwise, you possibly can purchase a Korean brand.
Really, so far as any western brand goes, if there’s a certain brand of something you’re hooked on and don’t desire to change, bring as lots of that as you’ll be able to. Any western brands that are here are over-priced as a result of importation costs. I for one am hooked on MAC make-up and everything here is DOUBLE the value that it’s back home. GUESS clothes are ridiculously over-priced as well (a T-shirt is around $100). Western food is also higher in price (especially at western restaurants). So, anything at home that you want to, whether it is cosmetics or not, you must bring some with you.
A couple of other things that are overpriced here in Korea are honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, and garlic powder. I don’t know why, but they are definitely dearer here. If you employ any of these frequently, you should definitely bring some over here with you.
I would DEFINITELY recommend bringing sheets over. The downside is that you will not know what size your bed is until you get here, so if in case you have friends or family that can send you over sheets after you arrive in Korea then do it that way, but if not, choose a certain size and convey it with you. I have a twin bed in my apartment but the twin-sized sheets didn’t fit my bed. The sheets actually ripped in the corner because they were not long enough. If you can find them, I think you should purchase “extra long and extra deep” twin-sized sheets. Or bring queen-sized sheets to be safe. I’ve yet to discover a store that sells fitted sheets (even the large department shops). Koreans seem to mostly use a mattress cover in place of sheets.
So far as towels go, you must probably bring 1 or 2 with you just to get started. Unless you plan on going shopping the very next day you arrive, I feel it’s a good suggestion to have a minimum of 1 towel handy.
Now, I know a giant question on everyone’s mind is what clothes to bring. South Korea has all 4 seasons. It is rare for there to be snow here however it gets extremely cold. Right now it is freezing and windy (not a nice combination). You should purchase clothes in street markets or malls but their style here is different than western styles. Girls like very girly things and more professional looking outfits for everyday wear. Additionally they like really big shirts. Guys wear skinny jeans, plaid shirts, neon sneakers, and just tighter clothing overall. Within the 9 months of being here, I have only purchased around 4 or 5 shirts and a couple of skirts. I’ve yet to try to go jean shopping here. Unless you might be in a department store, you are not allowed to try on clothes – not even over what you’re already wearing.
With all of that being said, you need to pack not less than 1 good winter jacket, sneakers, sandals, some summer clothes, and some winter clothes. I might pack just a few professional looking outfits (more along the lines of business casual). Don’t worry about packing work shoes since you are taking your shoes off as soon as you get to highschool and placed on the school slippers. Pack maybe one or two pairs of work shoes and that is it, only for going to and from work and for any work outings you may attend. I’ve heard of some schools requiring teachers to wear business suits but I’ve only heard about that on the web. I have not seen it or heard of it since being here. Every English teacher I do know has been allowed to wear jeans to school. I change it up throughout the week wearing jeans someday and business casual the next. I, for one, don’t want my students to not respect me based on what I wear to school. GIRLS – you also needs to be sure to pack as many bras as you possibly can (in case you are slightly chesty). There are many lingerie shops but since Koreans have very similar body types to each other, there will not be a huge variety of sizes.
It gets very cold in the course of the winter. I definitely recommend bringing a pair of boots and gloves.
Where to purchase Once You’re Here
Once you get to Korea, there will be things that you want to buy. The foremost stores are Home Plus, E-Mart, Mega Mart, and Lotte Department Store. Home Plus, E-Mart, and Mega Mart remind me a lot of Wal-Mart or Target. They carry everything from shoes to food. Lotte Department Store is just like Macy’s. You’ll find rather a lot there but it’ll be dearer than going to one in all the opposite major stores.
You can too visit www.koreabridge.net to go looking around your city for people selling things that you need. I wish I had learned about that website once i first arrived as it will’ve saved me a lot of money. There’s also www.gmarket.co.kr and www.11st.co.kr. G-Market’s website has a button within the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says “English”. For those who click on that a few of the website turns to English but loads of the items being sold are still in Korean. Either way, you’ll be able to register on G-Market to buy things from the web site. 11th is a distinct story. I only use 11th if I find something cheaper on there or if I can’t find what I need on G-Market. There isn’t a “English” button and if you try to sign up on their website, everything is in Korean. Anytime I’ve purchased off of 11th, I have asked my co-teacher to do it for me and then I gave her the cash for it.
Busan also has a Costco in town. It is advisable to have a Costco membership to enter but the good news is that if you don’t, you’ll be able to register in Korea for $30 for the year. The Costco in Busan is located in Suyeong (Brown line). For those who walk out of exit 5 at the Suyeong stop, hail a taxi, you’ll be able to ask them to take you to Costco. When you have a Costco card, I find it rather more helpful to say Costco and show them the card. It isn’t very far from the subway stop but I’ve had a couple of taxi drivers who didn’t know what I used to be saying.
Everyone seems to be worried about getting a cellphone once they first arrive in Korea. When you meet your co-teacher he/she will take you to a cellphone shop that can assist you pick a phone. This cannot be done until you receive your ARC (Alien Registration Card). Within the first few days of moving into your apartment, your co-teacher will take you to the Immigration Office to apply on your ARC. The very first day I met my co-teacher (February 25th), we went to the Immigration Office and that i didn’t get my ARC until March 18th. So, it wasn’t until March 20th that I was able to go to the phone shop and pick a cellphone. For the phones here, for those who join a 2-year contract, they may provde the phone free of charge (including iPhones). There will probably be a penalty when you cancel after one year, though. Weigh out the pros and cons of a one-year contract and a two-year contract and then decide. The phone company I went with told me my two-year contract would be free but I had to pay a 200,000 won deposit on the phone, which I’d get back when the contract was up. Well, once they discovered I held an E-2 Visa, that 200,000 won deposit dropped to 20,000 won. They said that if I cancelled the contract, I might basically should pay for each month that I now not had the phone. I-Phones run about 55,000 won a month in billing. My phone (not a smartphone) costs me 38,000 won a month but that is because I chose the choice with more texting, since I text rather a lot.
Koreabridge.net – Korea\’s New Media Channel for blogs, photos, videos, podcast, classifieds, and di
A multimedia resource for visiting and living in Korea – Koreabridge.net
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sendingAuthorCALNY 4 years ago from Busan, South Korea
Ah, iherb.com is wonderful! I wrote this hub before finding out about it and didn’t even think to post it on here! Thanks so much for sharing that! I’ve ordered from there a few times and managed to get free shipping or only needed to pay $7! It’s definitely an ideal website. 🙂
Sarah 4 years ago from USA
What an excellent hub! I wish I had this when I used to be moving overseas! I also recommend iherb.com if it’s essential to order things that are normally expensive in South Korea. I think you need a minimum of 40USD if you would like free shipping, but not sure if that is changed since I’ve used it. I used to get a number of friends together and make an order that way.
Thanks again in your help!
Oh, how exciting! Just be prepared for the winter here! I am unable to stand it and it just started getting really cold! Good luck with everything! Hope you enjoy it 🙂
Actually, come to think about it, I do not think I’ve ever noticed any of the female teachers in just everyday socks. I believe all of them wear dressier socks/stockings. Maybe it’s just me who doesn’t care, haha. But then again, they never have said anything about it. I believe it’s best to bring dressier socks too, to be safe. I don’t work alongside the male teachers, so I haven’t ever taken notice to what type of sock they have on.
Thanks! I’m actually coming in few weeks, depending on my visa documents. I’ll work as a backup teacher for just a few months, after which my full time contract for 1 year will kick in.
No problem! Yes, you need to definitely wear socks! Some schools have been known to make comments if you go without socks on. Mine doesn’t seem to care, but it’s best to plan on wearing them. Any type of sock is ok. I alternate between dressy socks and regular ones. No one seems to care, lol. Are you coming here in February?
Thanks for the assistance. Are socks supposed to be worn with these sandals? And if so, do you think black Nike socks could be fine or should I go together with a professional business-type sock?
AuthorCALNY 4 years ago from Busan, South Korea
The men in my school all wear sports-like sandals, such as the black and white Adidas ones. I feel many of the men wear all black ones though. I wear the same style sandals and mine are white, gray and black. It really doesn’t matter what sort of “slippers” you wear. They should just be easy to put on and take off and needs to be something other than the shoes you wear to walk to school. Another guy friend of mine here wears the Adidas-like ones in the summer and Birkenstock-like covered ones within the winter. You possibly can just about get away with wearing anything, as long as it would not look like a sneaker/shoe; it must be a sandal. Hope this helps!
Rob 4 years ago
Can you suggest a men’s slipper for teaching in Korea? I wear a size USA 15, so I doubt the college may have any my size. I’ve never wore slippers, so I do not really know what to buy or what’s appropriate or not.
AuthorCALNY 5 years ago from Busan, South Korea
Thanks! As for the blow dryer, I definitely know what sound you might be talking about! I’ve heard my blow dryer do the identical thing. Luckily it did not blow out and I was able to unplug it. I’ve definitely learned what not to bother bringing when going to a foreign country. 🙂
iamholm 5 years ago from Florida
Excellent advice for moving to Korea that works well in many other countries of the world. I remember well being in England and initially using my hair dryer in their plugs. If used on low, the hair dryer would act as if it was on high, but one particularly sleepy morning I forgot to only turn it on low, hit the high setting, and was immediately awake because the appliance sounded like it was going to take flight before (thankfully) burning out. It was a spectacular noise!