Every 3 months, ChungDahm has a huge surge of teachers who decide to change their lives and move to teach in Korea. Our contracts are all for one year so that means you should have enough of your personal items to last. There are some things that you cannot find here so it is best to bring what you need. Here is a list of items that you should pack just in case it’s not here.
Medicine - As long as you have insurance, medicine here in Korea is fairly inexpensive. A lot of the medicine that I have taken, I have never heard of it before I came. Luckily for me, Korean medicine has worked well for my body. However, if you need medicine like Advil PM or NyQuil, make sure to bring that along. Don’t forget your allergy medicine too! Specific types in Korea if you can find them can be pricey so it’s a much safer bet to bring those along.
Deodorant - The summer months in Korea can be hot and humid. For some reason, most Koreans do not use deodorant. I think they don’t really sweat like other nationalities. But for those who do, make sure to pack enough to last you for the year. Until recently, deodorant has been slowly gaining popularity but it can still be difficult to find. One deodorant bar or spray can cost near 10,000 won.
Shampoo - A lot of my female friends say that Korean shampoo is not as strong or effective at maintaining their hair. As a guy, I don’t know really pay attention to these things. If there is a specific brand that you use outside of Head and Shoulders (8,000-9000 won/bottle), you better bring it with you.
Facial creams/cleansers; make-up - I myself prefer Korean facial products (keeps me looking young), however there is a lot of stuff you cannot buy here. If you buy products from companies like Kiehl’s, you are going to pay at about 20,000 won more for it. For ladies who have darker skin, I have had my friends tell me that they can’t find cosmetics that suit their skin complexion. It would be a safer bet for you to pack those too.
Clothes - If you are a bigger-boned guy or girl, it is extremely hard to find clothes in Korea. Up until recently, I was able to buy clothes at companies like H&M and Uniqlo. I had to lose some serious weight. Buying larger sized clothing can be expensive but not completely impossible. It’s is better to bring your own, especially winter clothes and bathing suits! You will need those to enjoy Korea’s great outdoors!
Shoes - Buying shoes in Korea has been so difficult for me. I’m a size 13 (310cm) and it is frustrating shopping for shoes. I normally have my family bring a pair for me when they come visit. If you are a guy whose foot is size 10 or higher or a girl whose foot is size 7-8 (260-270cm), you better bring extra pairs with you!
Perfume - You can definitely buy perfume here in Korea however there is not as large of a selection as there would be in like a department store. You can purchase it here at places like Olive Young, Hyundai Department Store, or Shinsegae Department Store. But there is almost no discounts for buying it. And since it is imported, expect to pay extra than the usual price. If there is a specific brand you like, I strongly suggest to buy the biggest bottle (100ml - carry on ; 125ml - checked-in).
Snacks - Korea is a very health conscious country and there is nothing wrong with that. More foreign snack companies are entering the market but for me, it’s not fast enough. If they do come, some of the flavors are adjusted for Korean taste preferences. If you love Resse’s Pieces, Hot Cheetos, beef jerky, boxed macaroni and cheese and ethnic spices for those who love to cook, I would bring it too. If you find it here, you are going to pay a lot for it. You can also join the FaceBook group Expat Grocery Gurus Korea and check with other people to see if they have found what you are looking for too.
Cell Phones - Another thing that I really wish I had brought with me was an unlocked cell phone. You would think that since Korea is home to Samsung and LG, phone prices would be cheaper here. Unfortunately, that mostly is not the case and the only time you can get a deep discount is when you sign a contract for 2 years. Bring an unlocked phone with you, great for vacationing to other countries too, and go to any of the local phone service carriers (I use Olleh) and purchase a SIM card and set your phone plan. Easy to do once you get your Alien Resident Card.
I hope this blog helps as you pack and prepare to begin your teach abroad adventure in Korea.
Marc Gonzales has been living in Seoul working at the ChungDahm's Gangdong Branch for 4 years now. During those 4 years, he worked his way up from being a teacher and is now a faculty manager for that location. He majored in Finance and Marketing at the University of Nevada Las Vegas while working as a manager for a national bank. In his spare time, he enjoys outdoor activities like hiking the numerous mountains around Seoul and biking along the massive Han River. To know more about him and his adventures living in Korea, follow Marc on Twitter @geonmakku and on Instagram @geonmakku.