Teachers Share their Experiences While Living Abroad!

Teaching in Korea - Survival Tips

Posted on Mon, Aug 06, 2012 @ 09:10 AM

Teaching English in Korea can be difficult in terms of getting certain items. There have been a few blogs on the topic and even tips on where to get items. For starters, I have constantly asked for care packages from home because there are a handful of items that I cannot find here, or the price is ridiculously overpriced for the items. This is to the point where international shipping is cheaper, unbelievable! I decided to compile a list of things that are a MUST bring if you do come to teach English Korea, and a tip as to where you can pick up certain products.

  1. Reese's. Reese's. I mean Reese's - This is a big one, there is no such thing as Reese's in Korea. You can find other chocolates like Twix, Snickers, M and Ms, as well as other candies in foreigner markets (sometimes overpriced), but at least they have it. Reese's is impossible to find here, so I always ask for a few bags of Reese's when someone comes to visit or is sending a package. 
  2. Foreign Snacks - If there is something you cannot live without, do yourself a favor and pack it with you. I actually came with a bag full of snacks before departing America for Korea, it was definitely necessary!
  3. Menthol Toothpaste - Most Asian countries do not have a menthol toothpaste, it's usually a weird fruity flavor or green tea flavor. Yes, Asians prefer fruity and tasteful over minty clean fresh.
  4. Shoes - Women, if your shoe size is 8.5 or higher, bring your own. The highest size in Korea is 250 which is equivalent to a size 8. Men, size 11 is the biggest so be prepared!
  5. Big Size Clothing - Unless you are petite or at most a size medium, you should probably bring a closet full of clothes all year around. It is impossible to find stylish clothes for those who are a medium and up at times because Korea is known for "free size," one size fits all. There are a few foreign shops where you can find clothing that will fit which includes Forever 21, H&M, Uniqlo, the regular sized clothing stores in Myeondong, Gangnam and a few other areas. Men, this is the same for you, unless you fall under the category of small, medium, and maybe large, you are better off bringing your own clothing, especially suits and slack pants.
  6. Socks - This may be a bit peculiar and brushed off by many, but the socks in Korea are made of such a thin material, you will find yourself putting holes in your socks more than wearing them. It's kind of sad when you are excited to go to Costco just to pick up new socks.
  7. Brand Name Items - Do not think about getting your shopping fix on in Korea or any Asian country on brand name items because they are a lot cheaper in America. Asians are very materialistic and that is why brand names are at least 20% higher in price than back at home. This includes luxury brands and regular brands like Nike and New Balance (yes, New Balance is popular in Korea, it's double the price and value than it is back at home)!
  8. Deodorant - Another overpriced item in Korea just because it is not a common product here. We've confirmed that Koreans just do not sweat as much as us Americans (jk). Therefore, they do not need deodorant. 
  9. Soy Protein and Supplements - Soy protein is an impossible find in Korea, there is only Whey Protein which is extremely overpriced. Yes, it is annoying to lug a four pound bottle, but sometimes it's just necessary. Luckily for me, I found iHerb.com which ships soy protein directly to me (more information below).
  10. Medication - Korea does not have American brand medications, unless you are shopping at Costco, but it is still impossibleto find certain kinds there so I do suggest to bring your own.
  11. Fitted Sheets - There's actually no thing as fitted sheets in Korea. Either that or they are extremely overpriced so do yourself a favor and bring a few with you when moving abroad.
  12. Towels - The American full body sized towels are over priced here. For something that I can pick up for just $5 back at home, I ended up paying $20 for in Korea. Definitely bring two towels to rotate when washing!
  13. Cooking Ingredients - It is almost impossible to find every sauce, powder, and flavorings in Korea. Because of that, I suggest bringing your own that you are constantly using because they are overpriced in the foreign markets of Itaewon. 
  14. Cotton Underwear - Women know that cotton is your best friend to prevent yeast infections. Unfortunately, it is a bit difficult to find cotton underwear in Korea, especially if you are looking for something that is plain in design and not so lacy or silky. It is smart to go to Victoria's Secret and stack up on a handful during their annual sale!
  15. Cosmetics - If you are someone on the darker tone, like myself, and refuse to use BB Cream (a skin whitener), be sure to bring your own makeup because you will not find your tone in Korea. Unless you are down South in areas like Busan where there is plenty of sun, the darkest shade ofmakeup just might be for fair skin tones. Yes, most stores usually carry a maximum of three shades which is less than a quarter of what you would find back at home.
  16. Pads & Tampons - Tampons are extremely overpriced in Korea. That and they are usually made of a less comfortable material. You can get lucky and find Tampax Pearl, but it is impossible to find Playtex so do yourself a favor and stack up! For those who use thong pads, they are also unavailable in Korea so do bring a box yourself.
  17. Drugstore Brands - Do not expect to find drugstore brands for a low price in Korea. You will regret relying on drugstore brands because they are double, even triple the price here in Korea. This includes a bottle of J&J baby lotion that runs for $3 on sale in America, you arepaying $8 on salein Korea.
For many of the items above, plus more, I did find a website, iHerb.com which is an American price (sometimes cheaper) website with supplements, foods, and many other products that will ship to Korea for a low price. They do not charge a ridiculous amount of $50 for shipping so I am absolutely in love with the website. The best thing for first time users is the use of a referral code FEJ438for $5 off your first purchase and extremely low or free shipping internationally! Anyone abroad in any country should check out the webiste just to get your foreign fix on! The website is also great for those back in the states too for their low prices and constant sales.
                     Teach in South Korea!
Graduating with a double major in Communication and Chinese from Rutgers University, it wasn’t long after working in the Big Apple that Cindy Ung decided to take a break from the cliché 9-5 lifestyle and move to Korea to teach English for CDI. Making the bold step to leave her comfortable, mapped out life in the States, she has fallen more in love with the Korean culture as each day passes.  With weekly mountain hikes, weekend road trips, discovering great foods and beauty products, constantly meeting new people, her life in Korea has been everything but mapped out.

Check out Cindy’s blog to get a glimpse of what Korea has to offer!

Tags: packing, teaching in Korea, living in Korea, cooking in korea, shopping in Korea, tips, things to bring, foreign products, survival, discount

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