Teachers Share their Experiences While Living Abroad!

'Tis the Season for Gifts from Korea!

Posted on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 @ 01:15 AM

Ahh, the holidays. While it can be hard, as an expat, to be so far from family and friends during the holiday season, it's also a grand adventure. After all, how many holidays will you be spending in a different country?! For the past two years, I've been trying to make the most of it. And one of my favorite ways to keep myself occupied and in the holiday spirit? Gift shopping! Here's a look into where I'll be headed to pick up all of my gifts this year... 

expat holiday in korea

Last year, this post gave a good look into some of the things you can send home. I'll focus instead on where you can go, within the greater Seoul area, to actually find these goodies. 

1. Underground Shopping Centers

expat holiday in koreaBupyeong Underground Shopping Center.

expat holiday in koreaExpress Bus Terminal, which is apparently ground zero for Christmas.

The underground shopping centers of Korea, while overwhelming and sometimes claustrophobic, are amazing. As long as you approach this shopping experience with a certain amount of patience and a willingness to really look into each little storefront, you'll come out with some gems. I've spent hours wandering up and down the aisles of the shopping center under Bupyeong station and it's one of my go-to shopping destinations. The wide range of strange Engrish tshirts for a mere ₩5,000 (less than $5!) is enough to keep me going back. 

Gifts you can find there:

Everything. Hats, scarves, clothing, makeup, crazy socks, bizarre Engrish shirts, shoes, accessories, cell phone cases... All you've wanted and more. 

2. Insadong

holiday shopping in koreaBusy Insadong shopping.

I love Insadong. I've been there countless times, and I'm always looking for another excuse to go back. It has an awesome range of shops, meaning any trip into the area means I'll be spending a lot more time and money than I'd initially planned. 

Gifts you can find there: 

Weird socks, ₩5,000 "I Love Korea" tshirts, any kind of tea you'd ever want, and "traditional" souvenir items seem to be their specialty. Gorgeous ceramics, paper lamps, pressed flower jewelry, wooden masks, prints of beautiful ink paintings -- Insadong is a Korean gifty paradise. You also have to wander up and through the Ssamziegil center, which is basically like Etsy got dumped into one building and not to be skipped. 

3. Myeongdong

expat holiday in koreaMyeongdong goes all out with holiday decorations.

When it comes to shopping, Myeongdong is one of the destinations. The key to finding great gifts here, though, is to really check out what the street vendors have to offer. This area is one of my favorite spots for getting scarves and hats, which always make great winter holiday gifts.

Also, don't forget all of the tiny boutiques. You'll find tons of them if you just let yourself wander down some of the brightly lit sidestreets. They're packed full of pretty much everything you'd be looking for, so I highly recommend getting a little lost and seeing what you stumble across.

Gifts you can find there:

Scarves, hats, jewelry, clothing, accessories, cell phone cases/charms. 

4. Seoul Folk Flea Market

expat holiday in koreaSo many treasures that would make great gifts!

My recent discovery of the Seoul Folk Flea Market has left me thinking about it all the time, especially as I map out Christmas gifts. I'm definitely more interested in the antique side of what the market has to offer, but depending on who you're shopping for, you can easily find something they would like. 

Gifts you can find there:

All the old things you could ever want. Masks, vases, statues of varying sizes, antique tea pots, vintage cameras, 

5. Daiso

holiday shopping in koreaEngrish bento box? So many of these were given as gifts last year.

Don't laugh at me -- this is a serious recommendation. Daiso has become one of my favorite spots to gift shop. This dollar store from Japan quickly won my heart when I first moved to Korea and needed cheap kitchen supplies and apartment decorations. As I started to explore more, I began to find some marvelous treasures, most of which have made their way into gifts for family and friends back home. When you come across a Daiso, give yourself time to wander up and down the aisles. Oh, and when you see English, make sure to read it carefully. Nine times out of ten, it's going to be weird (and amazing). 

Gifts you can find there:

Odd pens, quirky kitchen supplies (check out some of the chopstick sets), and of course, Engrish-covered stationery/pencil cases/mouse pads/dishes/everything.


So, now that I've given you some ideas of where to go, it's time to get started! Being in a foreign country for the holiday season can be a drag, but I've found that focusing my holiday spirit on finding great gifts to send home to my family and friends really helps cheer me up. Besides, who doesn't want some awesome presents from Korea?

What are your favorite places for picking up gifts to send home? Share in the comments below! 


Teach in Korea!


Between studying Japanese and Asian culture in university and setting her sights on a teaching career, it came as no surprise when Zannah Smreker announced that she was moving to South Korea to teach for Chungdahm Learning. In November 2011, Zannah accepted a position through Aclipse with the Yeonsu branch in Incheon, just southwest of Seoul. When she's not teaching, she keeps herself busy with exploring Korea, eating all the street food, and hunting down strange Engrish shirts. Check out her blog here for more of her adventures!

Tags: teaching in Korea, shopping in Korea, seoul folk flea market, bupyeong, dongdaemun, insadong, myeongdong, Holidays in South Korea, Transportation in Korea

Chat with a Teacher!

Fill out this form and one of our current teachers will get in touch with you via email for a chat about teaching English abroad!

Follow Aclipse:

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all