What to pack for your journey to South Korea

What to pack for your journey to South Korea

With a new influx of English teachers planning to begin their journey here in August or September (or whenever you’re coming!), here are a few things that I, and others, often wish they had brought before coming! If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that you don’t have to pack super heavy to get here. South Korea is different, but it’s still an urban country with a lot of the same resources you would get back home. However, it is in fact a different country so there are a few things that you should bring with you.

1. Deodorant!

You’ll hear from a ton of expats to bring deodorant because you’re not going to find a lot of it, and if you do, it’s going to be off your rocker expensive. A friend of mine found a tiny, travel size Lady Stick in Seoul for $13 and I was just like…no.

2. Warm clothes

It is not going to be summer forever, and Korea is less ‘Frozen’ wonderland and more ‘March of the Penguins’ when it comes time for winter. I wouldn’t suggest too many clothes because more often than not you can buy ones that are more suitable for the weather here where the weather actually sucks. Still, it would be mega helpful, especially if you’re coming in the February intake, to pack enough sweaters, scarves and the like to last you a couple of weeks. This way you have something to tide you over between when you get here and you get your first paycheck to ransack the clothing stores.

3. Clothes for the summer

It will also not be cold forever, and things like shorts and pants can be fairly difficult for most of us to find . I’m a fairly average/slightly smaller person back home, but this is only helpful when it comes to buying tops. Even then, because I’m pretty chesty and the ‘no cleavage’ rule is a pretty big thing here, t-shirts are really all that I can manage in the finding a top department. Pack enough shorts or skirts or shorter bottoms of your choosing so you’re not struggling too hard when it comes to finding something suitable come May.

4. Shoes

If you have larger feet it is pretty fair to say that you will not find your size in Korea. If you do, it will be a rare find. I’m a size 7 1/2 at home but a 245 here in Korea which basically means my feet are huge here. Pack accordingly, especially tennis shoes and comfortable walking shoes because you’ll be doing a lot of that. Also, for ladies, I wouldn’t worry about bringing dressy heels because you take your shoes off when you get to school anyway, which means your feet will probably just be in pain from the walk and then you have to wear them back home. Save room in your suitcase and bring maybe one pair for when you’re going out. Trust me on this one.

5. Converters/Power sources

These are going to be incredibly important because basically everything in our world is technology which means at some point all of your electronics are going to need to be charged. You can get any converter when you get here as they’re plentiful and super easy to find. However, if you’re just landing and don’t have time to get to a store I’d suggest just having one on hand to at least charge your phone.

6. Update your E-reader (and iPod) before you head out!

One of my most emotional moments before coming to South Korea was realizing I couldn’t bring my entire bookshelf with me. In fact, in order to be under weight limit I had to leave all but one Harry Potter book behind and that nearly killed me right there! I mean, how do you choose just one?! So, as my friends suggested, I got a pretty cheap e-reader, plopped down in front of my bookshelf and got to work. Obviously I couldn’t afford to buy every book that I already owned in hardback, but I got all of my comfort reads and enough extra that I knew I could make it through both the 16 hour plane ride and any moments when I just felt like curling up with my favorite fictional characters. I suggest you update your e-reader before you leave home because you can actually physically see the books that you love and want to have with you. Once you’re so far from home it’s easy to forget the names of your favorite works.

Lots of people think of their favorite books, but hardly any of us think of our iPods. Once you’re here you will have virtually no idea of what music is popular back home so you should definitely stock up on new music before hopping the plane. Updates will come few and far between once you’ve settled into your new life, but it will be super helpful to not have the same 10 songs on repeat while you’re traveling across the country.

7. Comfy clothes you can’t live without

It’s one thing to have a good book to curl up with, but what is the point of having your favorite blankie and book with a cup of hot chocolate beside you if you don’t have your favorite sweatpants to complete the look?! This doesn’t sound like it should be all that important, but you are going to have rough days as with everyone else in the world. After those rough days you’ll probably want a bit of home comfort, and those sweatpants and old college t-shirt you stole from your best friend back in 9th grade can do wonders.

8. Fitted sheets

Ok, chances are you are not going to know your bed size before you get here, but having sheets and even a blanket with you can really help when you move into your new place. Here in Korea they don’t really do sheets. It’s more of a bed cover(?) that you just lay on top of your mattress and then a blanket. This is comfortable enough, but it’s just not the same as having fitted sheets on your bed that…well, fit! People tend to move in your sleep (unless you don’t which is both impressive and slightly creepy) which makes that bed cover slide all over  and sometimes you don’t care and sometimes you’re not down with that. I brought over sheets and a blanket in a space save bag and it came in especially helpful during winter and took up less space than my clothes.

9. Allergy pills and other meds

Medicine is really cheap here in Korea, but more often than not it’s a brand that you don’t recognize  when all you really want is 2 Tylenol and a Zyrtec to calm your raging allergies. Seriously, allergies here are not a game. Everyone at work got them pretty bad this year and the only thing that prevented me from jumping out the window when my nose just won’t stop running was the pharmacy giving me at least 3 different kinds of pills that knocked me on my butt at night. I’d say bring any and all medicine that you’re used to from home, especially allergy meds and painkillers that you know work for you. Of course stock up on any prescriptions you may have as well.


Now, for the ladies!

1. Make-up

Everyone will tell you that you can just buy makeup when you get here, because Korea is the Cosmetics Capital of the World! While it may indeed be full of cosmetics, unless you are between the colors of Ghost White and Eggshell it will be incredibly difficult for you to find something to your liking. Definitely stock up on all your favorite brands, cover-ups, foundations and other products before you get here because 9/10 you won’t be able to get it shipped to Korea, and the other 1 is going to cost you an arm and a leg to have.

2. Your favorite face washes

Same thing as makeup applies for face wash. Korea has a ton of facial products that will make your skin feel soft as a baby’s bottom. However, I wouldn’t go throwing a ton of these different products on your face when you first arrive. I did that and confused the hell out of my skin. I broke out and then simmered to nothing and then broke out again because I was simply trying too many things at once. I would say integrate into the insanity of Etude House, Skin Food and other brands here slowly. Until then, you know what works for you so stick with what’s familiar in a brand new environment. One life changing decision at a time!

3. Tampons

You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. Korea loves it’s pads and you can definitely tell when you go to any store. There are literally aisles and aisles of different kinds of pads, but hardly any tampons in sight. It’s like playing ‘Where’s Waldo?’ but with Tampax Pearl! I’d say bring a couple of packages worth just in case. To save space my friend put all of her tampons in a Ziploc bag and, to my knowledge, she hasn’t run out yet and we’ve been here since February.

4. Straightener/Curler/Hair dryer

It depends on who you talk to about being able to bring your hair appliances over, and before I came most people said not to bring things like your straightener because the voltage might be too powerful or things like that. Fortunately, I didn’t listen to any of that and brought my Chi straightener with me. It was maybe the best decision ever and I wish I had brought my blow drier too, or at least my curling iron. My straightener works perfectly fine once I plug it into the converter, and the blow drier I bought here just doesn’t do my hair justice. A friend of mine has struggled to find a straightener since she got here that works for her and wishes she’d brought hers over as well. You don’t need to pack every single hair product that you use at home ever, but it’s certainly helpful to have at least one thing that you know for sure can get you those celebrity ringlets you love.

5. Bras!!!

Ok, listen here ladies: if you bring literally NOTHING else in your suitcase, and I mean NOTHING, please pack at least 3 bras and enough underwear to last you several weeks.

“But can’t I find bras in Korea???”

If you are an A, possibly B cups, yes. A ‘C’ cup is pushing it to the limit and I wouldn’t trust I’d find even that. Anything over the smallest ‘C’ is an absolute no unless you search far and wide, over the hills,  through the woods and up the mountain to Mordor. Seriously, Korean women are known to be incredibly small and chest size is no different. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just something that you need to be prepared for if you would like to keep your ta-ta’s intact while you are here without having to order bras online.


Hopefully this has been at least a little helpful, but if not feel free to shoot me an e-mail with any other questions/comments/concerns at: daebakdayz@gmail.com!

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