This is 2011 – deodorant is everywhere, and there are more Western-friendly foods than ever before. Seoul currently has two Taco Bells, a plethora of McD's, and more coffee shops than you'll ever have time to visit. But there are still things from home that would be wonderful to have.
- English-language tech. This fairly broad category includes most anything that plugs into a computer.
- Yongsan is usually a decent place to start – with seven floors of electronics and gadgetry, there’s plenty of selection to go around. The default is Korean in many cases, but an English version of Windows or Microsoft Office can typically be installed as well.
- Namdaemun is easily the best place for cameras. My current favorite is Hyosung Camera; Paul speaks excellent English and is very knowledgeable about cameras.
- English-language tech support. The term in Korea is the Konglish 'A/S', or 'after-service'. In other words, where you might go for a replacement part or a repair of some sort. Bear in mind that the English ability will vary from one person to another – the technical skill of the person generally outweighs their language ability.
- Canon cameras: here's a link to all the A/S centers in Korea.
- Nikon cameras: here's a link to the Nikon A/S centers. Click 'Customer Support', then the second option on the black menu.
- Apple products: the official Apple support site is only in Korean, with no way to change it to English support in Korea. Instead, try Ubase – the authorized service provider in Korea. If you got AppleCare at home, that should cover you anywhere in the world. In Seoul, one location is the basement of the Frisbee store in Gangnam (Gangnam station, line 2, exit 6, or Sinnonhyeon station, line 9, exit 6) – either way, walk straight until you see the Frisbee. Thanks to Jason Teale at jasonteale.com for the links!
- Some Western snacks. Whether your favorites are Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Combos, or something else, some snacks just can’t be found at the convenience store.
- Namdaemun Market has several shops near the entrance that sell imported snacks (Hoehyeon station, line 4, exit 5).
- High Street Market and the Foreign Food Market in Itaewon are convenient for most of the harder-to-find snacks (Itaewon station, line 6).
- If all else fails, try making friends with someone on the Yongsan Army Base – the PX carries plenty of stuff, but civilians aren't typically allowed in.
- Clothes and shoes for bigger people. ‘Nuff said.
- The Kumkang / Landrover store on Gangnam's main drag features some large shoes – Gangnam station, line 2, exit 6 (500 meter walk) or Sinnonhyeon, line 9, exit 6 (100 meter walk).
- A number of stores in Itaewon feature clothes of the XL to XXXL variety – Itaewon station, line 6.
- Bed sheets – the locals have their own version of what they put between them and the mattress, but they’re not quite the same (e.g. no elastic corners)
- A store inside the newer half of the Express Bus Terminal (line 3, 7, and 9) has some decent offerings.
- Some (but not all) E-marts have a small selection. Note that you may have to buy them piece by piece, and remember the size of your bed.
- To make things even easier, order your sheets from TheArrivalStore.com!
What is the moral of the story? Few things are impossible to find – some just require a bit more persistence and looking than the others. If you find a good place to find something, share in the comments!
Chris Backe is an ex-pat living in South Korea with a penchant for blogging and travel. Like about 20,000 other foreigners in Korea, he teachs English as a full-time job / source of income. When not teaching, however, he is out exploring the dynamic society that is Korea. Chris makes it a point to visit one new place, event, or festival every week. You can read more about what's going on in the land of the morning calm on his blog Chris Backe - AKA Chris Backe in South Korea!