For many teachers who are moving to Korea, this may be the first time that you are living outside of your parents’ home. It certainly was that for me and I remember being overwhelmed with not knowing what to do. Luckily, the other teachers in my school were there to help me out to buy basic necessities like food and utensils. This is the first of two blogs that will provide you with information on where you should shop to buy furnishings and food so you can live comfortably while you are teaching in Korea.
If your contract with ChungDahm includes housing, the apartment should be equipped with a bed, refrigerator, and a washer/dryer combo. So the big purchases should already be done for you. If you are lucky, the teachers who lived in the apartment previously may leave you some plates, cups and utensils. If they didn’t, these are my recommendations on where to go shopping in Korea to buy home furnishings. Since I live in Seoul, the stores I feature in this blog are ones that can be found in Seoul, however most of these stores are large chains that can be found throughout Korea.
- Daiso - Daiso is a Japanese company that can be found all over Korea and is my mom’s favorite place to shop whenever she visits here. Everything in this store is under 5000 won so when my mom comes, she buys stuff for my house and for our house in America. At Daiso, you can get all of your plates, utensils, pots and pans at relatively low price, but it has a lot more than just kitchenware. Daiso also sells home knick-knacks like baskets, frames, and mirrors to turn your officetel into a home.
- Ikea - This world famous company opened its doors in Gwangmyeong, Seoul last year and still continues to be a favorite place for those who want to decorate their home to their own unique taste. Like other Ikea’s across the world, be prepared for crowds of people and long lines if you don’t go early in the morning.
- Butter - Located on the basement floor of Lotte World Tower in Jamsil, Seoul. Getting there is easy; you just need to take the either subway Line 8 or Line 2 to the Jamsil Station. At Butter, you can get home furnishings at a decent price. This place is great for buying decorative pillows and for improving your bathroom design. The items here are very bold and youthful if this is your style.
Eating out in Korea can be fairly inexpensive especially because there are many food stands and Korean restaurants like Kimbap Jeongkuk ‘Kimbap Heaven’. However, if you prefer to cook your own food, here are some of my favorite places to shop.
- E-mart/HomePlus - These are the two largest and discounted stores that sell everything from televisions to frozen dinners. Think of it as a Target or a Super Wal-mart. I normally go here 2-3 times a week to get my food staples of milk, eggs, and bread. But if you really want to try and save some money here, remember to go between the hours of 10PM to closing time. Stores will begin to discount their meats and seafood which will be great to eat for next couple of days.
- Neighborhood Market - Many neighborhoods in and around Seoul have an outdoor market with friendly Korean grandmas trying to sell you fruits and vegetables. I love going to outdoor markets and shopping for my produce. Make sure you know Korean or have a Korean translator uploaded into your smartphone for assistance. Also, make sure to bring cash because many of these stands don’t deal with ATM cards.
- International Markets in Itaewon - So until recently, many of the major discounted stores were not selling any foreign foods outside of Italian food. However, these companies have started to introduce more foreign food into the Korean market. However, if you can not find what you want, taking a trip to Itaewon maybe a must. Here you can find Western and Middle Eastern style necessities. Whenever I come here, I typically buy chili, American-style chips, and sour cream. If you can not make it here, try using High Street Market’s website where they can ship mostly anything around Korea. Since you are buying foreign products, you should expect to pay a little bit more.
Living in Korea has forced me to learn how to survive on my own. This has been an invaluable experience and I hope this blog will help you get settled into your living quarters here in Korea.
Marc 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.