As you are preparing to teach English in Korea, it might be helpful to know exactly what types of clothes to pack and what you should leave at home. I know in my case it would have been helpful if I had some guidelines on what to bring. Even if you do forget an item, rest assured that you will have no problem finding most any style or size of clothing in Korea, but you will save yourself a lot of time, money, and energy if you are aware of what to pack before you travel to Korea.
First off, let me start out by saying that the fashion in Korea is constantly changing and follows a lot of Western trends and brands. To keep up with the latest trends, check out http://www.koreanfashiononline.com/ However, being fashionable is not something to take lightly, especially in big cities; many people go to great lengths to look their best. In a culture that values beauty and appearance so much, failure to take into account your look could leave you feeling like an outsider. What does this mean for English teachers in Korea? Well, try to dress sharp and professional as best you can. For men that means a smart, button-down shirt with a tie or sports coat. For women that means dressing conservatively i.e. nothing low-cut or midriff-baring outfits. Dressing appropriately can not only help you fit into the culture, but also go a long way in helping you gain respect in the classroom as well.
Another thing to note is that Korea has four seasons and a wide variety of clothes is needed to accommodate the temperature changes. The summer can be hot and sticky so be sure to bring plenty of shorts and light shirts. For summer teaching apparel, I would try to bring some light, breathable polo shirts or short-sleeve dress shirts. Failure to do so could cause some embarrassing sweating in front of the students (speaking from experience.) And do not forget to pack a coat for the frigid winters or else you will surely be buying one December rolls around. A nice pea coat is my recommendation for teachers who are looking to stay warm while teaching.
In such a fashion forward country, one must look good even while working out or going to the gym. After my first trip to the gym, I quickly realized that I needed to buy some new athletic apparel after seeing so many Koreans adorned in the latest brand-name shoes and exercise gear. A good pair of running shoes and a few Dri-Fit shirts are a packing must for those who like to hit up the gym.
Dressing casually is fine for outings to the store or when running errands, but for work or nights out on the town, dressing-up is the norm. Remembering this, along with some of my other fashion tips, will only benefit you as a teacher and will make your integration into Korean society much easier. Good luck with the packing!
Fashion is a big deal in Korea
Adam Montgomery is a 25-year old teacher at the Chungdahm Branch on Jeju. He has been teaching in Korea for six months. When he is not teaching, he enjoys exploring the wonders of Jeju and Korea.