As I was packing to come to South Korea to teach English I had no idea what to expect in terms of: food shopping, clothing or toiletries. So to be safe, I packed enough toothpaste, shower gel, deodorant and necessities to last me six months. Little did I realise, however, I could buy all of my favourite brands and more right here in, from Colgate toothpaste to my favourite brand of dill pickles – South Korea really does have everything. This blog will give a quick overview of the best places to shop in South Korea, from groceries to clothing.
In terms of food shopping, you can buy almost all of the fruit and vegetables you can back home in almost any of the local groceries stores you will find all over Korea. But one place you are guaranteed to get all your groceries needs met is in one of the many department store changes here in South Korea. Below is a quick rundown of the main three.
HomePlus (Tesco):Homeplus is one of the main chain stores in Korea. Owned by European giant, TESCO, you can find many TESCO brand items from pasta sauce to tissue paper. Homeplus also sell their own brand of clothing, electronics and of course groceries. Recently, Homeplus introduced an international food isle, stocking foods from America, and many European countries including Ireland and England. Pricewise, Homeplus is very cheap. They stock a wide range of fruit and vegetables and even have fresh herbs. Their international isle stocks everything from deodorant to toothpaste to dill pickles and even Campbell’s canned soup while most things in Homeplus are cheap, these imported items can be a little expensive, with deodorant costing around $12 per can. But other things like mouthwash & canned soup are quite reasonable and prices vary any where from $4 to $6. They even have Heinz ketchup & mustard. For those of you living in Ireland and England Homeplus also stock all of Tesco’s spices and herbs from black pepper to mixed Italian herbs. (This makes cooking in South Korea not only a familiar task but also an easy one). You can also get a loyalty card at Homeplus, so every time you shop you accumulate points and you can use these points to buy things. They also send you out money-off coupons each month.
COSTCO (American):If you really want to find your All-American favourites then you need to go to Costco. Luckily for us English Teachers here in Korea Costco’s are readily available. And just like in America, you need a membership card (costing $40 per year). The other teachers and I make a trip about once every two months, we shared the membership cost and we always buy great staples for your work pot-luck from sour cream to provolone cheese to giant packs of Cheetos just like in America, Costco is super cheap here in South Korea. They also sell amazing cookies freshly baked and enormous pizzas (we love going to Costco).
E-Mart:E-mart is another chain store here in Korea. Generally E-mart department stores are on a larger scale, which means they have way more variety. Before I came to South Korea to Teach English I had heard that getting bedding such as sheets, comforters a and pillows would be difficult to find and also that they would also be Expensive. However, this was not the case. At E-Mart not only can you buy groceries, but also you can get sheets, pillows and duvets at really good prices. They have everything from throws to cushions. This winter I purchased pillows, sheets and a comforter all for less than $100. E-Mart also has an extensive clothing section where you can buy many items in a verity of sizes. However, if you want to buy real western sizes, from shoes to pants and shirts then Itaewon in Seoul is the place to go.
Seoul and Busan: Foreign stores and more...In Itaewon, Seoul not only can you visit the foreign food stores (which are everywhere) you can also buy shoes with sizes going up to US14 or UK 13. Something which I am very thankful for. You can also buy pants with leg length 33inch. Again that’s something the 6ft 6” me is grateful for too. And while Going to Seoul for the weekend can be fun, and a good excuse for some nice shopping, it is not the only place to buy clothing. For the average height / average shoe size person you can shop all over South Korea. One of the most popular department stores in Korea is Lotte. This store has many brands from Chanel to Prada to Lacoste. They also stock some Korean or Asian brands, which makes shopping very interesting.
(One of Itaewons' many shopping streets)
In Itaewon, Seoul not only can you visit the foreign food stores (which are everywhere) you can also buy shoes with sizes going up to US14 or UK 13. Something which I am very thankful for. You can also buy pants with leg length 33inch. Again that’s something the 6ft 6” me is grateful for too. And while Going to Seoul for the weekend can be fun, and a good excuse for some nice shopping, it is not the only place to buy clothing. For the average height / average shoe size person you can shop all over South Korea. One of the most popular department stores in Korea is Lotte. This store has many brands from Chanel to Prada to Lacoste. They also stock some Korean or Asian brands, which makes shopping very interesting.
If you have time, Time Square in Seoul, is the second largest department store in the country and is also the third largest in Asia. It’s huge. You are sure to find some outfits to wear here, not only that, but it also hosts the world’s biggest cinema screen. Something my friends and I always take advantage of anytime we are in Seoul.
As well as finding your favourite brands here in Korea, you can also find many of the major iconic brands too, from coca-cola to pepsi to Sprite. South Korea has no shortage of KFC’s McDonalds or Burger Kings. They have many pizza huts and some amazing Mexican restaurants too, meaning it is really difficult to miss out on your favourite foods while teaching English in South Korea.
John May grew up in Dublin, Ireland where he is from & went to Trinity College – one of Irelands best known universities. He graduated from here in November 2012 with a B.A. (Mod) in Geography & Sociology. John has always had a passion for travelling and having been to most of Europe, he decided to explore Asia after Uni. He has always wanted to teach and thought what better way to travel than teaching English on the way. John is currently teaching English for CDI in Daegu, South Korea a position he found through Aclipse; John felt nervous before his departure, but now that he is in Korea he loves every minute of it. For more information follow his blog.