Pack Your Bags For Korea– What You Need?
If you do a quick Google search, you will see lots of blogs with helpful information detailing lists of things you might want to carry into Korea. Lists suggest silly items from honey (which is readily available all over Korea) to other items more universally recognized that foreigners can’t live without. Some of these items are readily available in markets for foreigners in Seoul (specifically Iteawon), but if you plan to stay outside these areas, be sure to stock up.
The Drug Store
For some reason I never really understood in my three years in Korea, there is no antiperspirant to be found in Korean markets (E-Mart, etc.). I imported several sticks of my favorite brand every time I came back to Korea, and never encountered it any time in my travels in Asia. Do you like Q-tips with the fluffy cotton tips on them? Me too! Bring some with you, the Korean versions are not soft.
While many Korean over-the counter medications for cold and flu are available, a lot of them simply jolt the system with caffeine, so the workday isn’t interrupted. I always imported both Dayquil and Nyqil (neither of which were available in Korea) for colds. Since “sick day” isn’t really in a Korean business vocabulary set, whatever comforts you for minor cold, flu, or chronic illnesses are an absolute must-have. Do NOT assume that it is available in a Korean pharmacy.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that until you are fluent with the language, and if you are not in Seoul, you may find yourself in a Korean pharmacy miming to a pharmacist what the problem is, and doing your best to understand the directions that you are given.
While you will hopefully cook lots of Korean food in your new home, you should be prepared for homesickness to kick in around 3-6 months after you have left your country. I was shocked how wonderful simple Greek seasoning, a brown gravy packet, or a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing tasted. It’s difficult to get vanilla extract, dill weed, cloves, and many other western spices.
If you happen to like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I highly recommend you bring a stash, I have yet to see them anywhere in Korea, even in Iteawon. Remember, if you can’t live without it, it’s probably a good idea to bring a bit, just in case.
I’m quite tall for a female, and therefore, wasn’t able to do any shopping for clothes in Korea (again, with the exception of Iteawon). Everything had to be either brought with me, or shipped from home. If you are “average” sized, there are a wide variety of clothing options, but if your body fits into any category other than small or average, do not plan to buy any clothes in Korea. This is true for both men and women, clothes, shoes, and outerwear.
Once you have arrived, if you live in the provinces, you will discover Iteawon. Iteawon, a neighborhood that caters to foreigners, has many foreign items including plus sized clothes and shoes, foreign toiletries (you may not get the brand that you prefer though) and all kinds of interesting western ingredients that expats get a hankering from all over the world: American cheese, English tea, South African Braii meat, etc.
My first trip to Korea, I had heavy bags laden with deodorant, Dayquil, clothes, socks, and a giant sized bath towel. As I dragged my bags up the stairs and unpacked them, I wondered if I had brought too much with me. As it turned out, every year when I returned to Korea, my bags were stuffed with the same items. Check to see how far from Iteawon you will be living, and remember you can always ask a friend to ship you something from home, if you decide you can’t live without it.