Moving abroad for the first time can be a very stressful process. Looking back now, and thinking about how I packed my luggage for the first time, I wish that someone had offered me better advice on what to take and how to pack it. Of course it doesn’t help you when you have never been to Asia before and all you have to go on is 1) Asian stereotypes and 2) What other people tell you. I will be the first one to admit I took way to many things and spent too much money on items I could’ve bought on first arrival in Korea. I remember that hilarious and embarrassing moment when my parents helped me unpack and repack my bags at the airport!
Now, obviously boys, this blog is written by a woman so this may not apply to you. Of course us girls like to pack a lot more, like those last minute pair of shoes or that favorite lipstick that cannot stay behind! But for sure the one thing I wish I had known and practiced better before I moved to Korea, was packing luggage. After traveling the world now, I have learned that carrying luggage is tiring and stressful. My bags nowadays are generally packed to a minimum and I get by just fine.
Myths about Korea:
1) There is no underarm, roll on, or spray deodorant
This is not true. There is plenty of deodorant brands here, they are just a lot more pricier than other countries. But you really do not need to bring 10 sticks over. It will save you time and energy, and you will get used to paying a little bit more.
2) The tap water is undrinkable
I have been drinking the tap water for years. It may not be the safest, but I am alive and kicking and if you really need a water-sterilizer you can find it at any Home plus or online. Also, bottled water in Korea is super cheap and you can buy a bottle for under a $1.
3) There are no foreign spices or foreign condiments
You can find plenty of foreign food condiments and spices if you live near or in any big city. If you are outside of the city you can use a handful of websites to get foreign foods delivered right to your door. Korean post is super cheap and generally delivery is free and efficient. Packages usually arrive within 2-3 days. http://highstreet.co.kr/
4) You cannot find shoes or clothes in your sizes
Clothing is in abundance here! You will shop till you drop, and after that first pay check there is no reason that you cannot begin splurging on new clothing items or necessary jackets and pants that you need. The only clothes you need to bring with you are work clothes and casual wear for your first 5 weeks in Korea. Make weekly outfits and bring clothes that you can wear as work-wear and casual-wear. Shoes on the other hand are a little bit more difficult to find. If you have a shoe size larger than 250 Korean size (US Size 8), you can purchase shoes online and get them delivered directly to your door. If you have a smaller shoe size you do not need to bring more than 4 pairs of shoes.
5) You cannot find toothpaste with fluoride in
It is a myth that all Korean toothpastes are bad. Koreans are obsessed with having perfect teeth and a healthy body. You can find good toothpaste here and keep those teeth sparkling white. And if you still do not trust the toothpaste, you can head to any foreign shop like High Street and Costco and buy a year’s supply of good Colgate toothpaste.
6) It is not easy to find adapters and plugs
My best advice is buy two multi plugs for world traveling. You can find these at any traveling store. They are small and compact and will come in handy when you travel to Europe or South East Asia. When you are here, there are plenty of shops that have the correct adapters and Korea is a techno-giant, so if you need an adapter to be changed you can head to any computer or phone store. http://www.costco.co.kr/eng/
7) Foreign Make-up is expensive and hard to find
The myth that make-up is hard to find here is just ridiculous! Korea is over-flowing with beauty stores from skin-shops to make-up stores to spa’s. You possibly might struggle to find your favorite Western make-up in the countryside, but in most cities you can find it at the plenty of duty free stores or Lotte Department stores. Also, I guarantee you, you will become a fan of Korean make-up and when you leave Korea you will not know where to pack all of it. And what most foreigners are not aware of, is that Korea and Koreans are famous for skin-care. This trend has started taking off worldwide and many famous Europeans and American superstars alike are now into Korean skin secrets. http://www.gmarket.co.kr/
8) Bring only this seasons and next seasons clothes
The biggest mistake most foreigners make is packing summer and winter clothes. A good piece of advice I can give you is if you are arriving in summer bring summer and fall clothes and if you are arriving in winter bring winter and spring clothes. You will want to shop in Korea, and shopping is endless. You will have a full closet of clothes within no time.
9) You cannot find western bedding
Don’t bring bedding with you. It is heavy and takes up a lot of space. Rather book and pay for you bedding to be delivered from the Arrival Store, after you have arrived. Maybe bring a small traveling blanket for those two nights you don’t have bedding. The Arrival Store also has a one month payment option, and they deliver within 2-3 days! http://www.thearrivalstore.com/
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information on teaching in Korea!