To quote my favorite show, Girls, "You tend to over-think things and that's an issue for you." I do tend to over-think things, particularly when it comes to my creative endeavors. I paused for two years post-college contemplating the perfect writing platform and waiting for the proper 'experience' to come along that would prove to be blog worthy. Teaching and living in Korea helped me to realize that I could learn to write about anything anywhere and I could no longer wait around for perfect circumstances. I needed to write as much as possible and only then would I become a better writer.
With a travel blog under my creative belt, I became curious about photography. I admit I've used my smartphone for most of my Korea photographs and I'm always a tad envious when I see a hip traveler with a casual yet bulky Nikon or Canon camera slung over their shoulder. I put off purchasing a camera because I was nervous and I did my share of over-thinking the purchase. What if I didn't have a photographer's eye? What if I dropped a good chunk of my paycheck and then clumsily dropped my newly purchased camera?
My shutter-friendly friend pushed me to buy a DSLR camera at Yongsan Electronics Market during my last few weeks in Korea. He promised that it would be a fantastic and creative investment. I have a week or so left in Korea and on my way home to the US I will stop in Bali and I am so excited to have my new camera with me. I have a lot to learn and I've been told to just keep snapping pictures wherever I go. I will learn by doing and I know for every 100 photographs I take perhaps one decent shot will surface.
I am more than satisfied with my camera purchase in Seoul and I would like to share a few tips for a successful shopping spree at the Yongsan Electronics Market. It can be a hectic and overwhelming experience, but if you follow my advice I promise it will prove to be an enjoyable shopping trip.
According to Wikipedia, Yongsan Electronics Market is a retail area in Seoul that is compromised of over 20 buildings housing 5,000 stores that sell appliances, stereos, computers, office equipment, telephones, games, software, CDs and more. You can reach the market via the Seoul Subway Line 1 at Yongsan Station. The massive shopping area is full of many small independent retailers. Many stalls sell the same products so one must be a savvy shopper in order to secure the best price. Here are five things that helped me:
1) Do your research. I made three trips to the market. The first time I walked around in awe, by my second trip I knew I wanted to buy a camera but I was still unsure of the DSLR lingo and finally for my third trip I came armed with notes and numbers in my head. I decided which camera I wanted and I found the best price online and then converted the amount to Korean won. I think my notes and firm thoughts about the price made me seem serious and confident to the shop owner.
2) Hold out for a store owner who speaks English. I spoke with two retailers before finding the one I bought my camera from. The first two were nice, but the language barrier kept us from discussing the camera's functions and its best price. The final retailer spoke some English and we were able to converse freely and come to a final deal that I was pleased with.
3) Bring an electronics expert. Or better yet, bring a Korean friend who is also an electronics expert. I brought my camera-toting friend and I watched as the store-owner eyed my friend place his own camera on the table when we all sat down to discuss the camera and its price. Although my friend is not quite a professional photographer, I think him bringing his own camera helped my serious-o-meter tremendously.
4) Don't freak out, you can find an English manual online. I freaked when I realized the manual in my camera box was written in Korean (Well duh, we're in Korea!) and I looked to my friend for answers. He assured me he could easily download the camera's official manual and get it to me asap. Now the manual is on my computer desktop and I've been reading it nightly.
5) Take a lap. Don't just stop at the first stall where you see your dream product. Walk around and feel up the competition. Talk to a few different retailers and figure out where you feel the most comfortable. The store owners are competitive and pushy but remember you're the one with the money and you don't have to do anything you don't want to. Many stores will end up giving you a great price because they know you can walk off and go to the next stall a few feet away.
So, go buy that gadget you've been ogling. Oh, and don't mind me... I will be that girl running around Seoul for the next 10 days not over-thinking things and shouting "Say Kimchi" to whoever or whatever will stop and pose.
Devan Meserve, a New Hampshire native and St. Lawrence University alum, decided that after two successful post college years living and working in Boston she was primed for exploration beyond the East Coast. With encouragement from friends and family and Aclipse’s expert advice she landed an instructor position with Chungdahm April English. Devan is loving life in Uijeongbu: she is continuously impressed and entertained by her young students and spends her free time following Anthony Bourdain’s advice, “I’m a big believer in improvising and getting lost.”
Check out her blog!