Packing for Korea

I’m throwing this post up super quick. I really wanted to get this up fast because I know a lot of you have started preparing to pack!!

Winter camp is kicking my butt and I’m a lot busier than I thought I would be. Therefore, I don’t have time to read though this really carefully. I’m sure there are a million spelling/grammar errors, possibly some sentences unfinished or out of place because I wrote this post maybe two weeks ago and just added a few things.Don’t judge me for this mess of a post hahaha! I’m sure I also forgot a bunch of important things. Please comment and I will add them!

Suitcases

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I brought a 3-piece luggage set that was a gift from my aunt and uncle. On the plane I brought the smallest suitcase (for anything valuable and my computer) plus a backpack (for anything I would be needing on the plane). The two larger suitcases were checked in. Inside my largest case, the Vera Bradly weekender bag was packed with all my bath/medicine related items, that way the bag wasn’t taking up wasted space. This bag is also lined, so if anything spilled it wouldn’t ruin the bag or leak out onto any clothes.

Something not pictured was the Lewis N. Clark luggage strap. I strapped together my two smallest bags so going through the airport, hotel, orientation dorm building was super easy. I now use the luggage strap to tie the Vera Bradly bag to whatever luggage I’m using when I travel with less baggage. It’s really useful.

Now when I travel on the weekends, I have various bag types and sizes depending on where I am going and for how long. For trips to Seoul I have been bringing the smallest suitcase. For my upcoming trip to Japan I will probably bring the mid-sized suitcase and my backpack.

In my previous apartment I didn’t have a lot of storage space. The suitcases fit inside each other to take up less space and I kept my off season clothes inside the smallest suitcase.

Tip: Pack everything you’ll need for orientation into one bag and all the things you don’t need in another. This makes finding things easier and less messy when you get to the orientation dorm.

Clothes

Korea is ridiculously humid in the summer and terribly cold in the winter, so you really need a wide variety of clothes. That makes packing for a year (or more) in Korea a little difficult.

Tip: Whatever season it is your arriving in, bring enough weather appropriate clothes to get you through maybe 2 weeks by mix and matching. Bring only 1 week worth of clothes for the opposite season.

So if you arrive in February, bring more winter clothes than summer clothes. If you arrive in August, bring more summer clothes than winter clothes.

I suggest this because when you first arrive you won’t have a lot of time to go shopping. At orientation you’ll be really busy. After orientation you may go straight into teaching the next day (like me!) and it might take you a few days (or weeks!) to brave the bus or figure out where the nearest shopping center is. So by the time you figure all that out, the current season will be on its way out. You’ll have a few items for the next season to help you transition into the cooler/warmer  weather as you start to buy some new clothes.

Secondly, you’ll be seeing some amazing fashion that you might want to copy yourself. Buying clothes in Korea is really fun and can even be really cheap. I didn’t buy many clothes when I was in Korea 5 years ago, but I do have a couple shirts that I bought for less than 10,000 each and they are all still in amazing condition.

If you wear larger sizes you will need to bring enough clothes for both winter and summer (this includes bras).  A lot of Korean fashion is “one size”or “free size”, and these can be quite small.

Teaching clothes vary by school. I brought 2 pairs of dress pants, 4 dresses, 2 skirts, and a bunch of nice tops that could be dressed up or down. I also brought 2 blazers. At orientation you are expected to dress up for the opening ceremony on day one,the lesson demonstration, closing ceremony, and meeting with POE/MOE on the last day, and on the bus to your drop off location to meet your coteacher.

Dress Code:

Elementary schools are typically very casual. As long as you look like you are wearing clothes and not pajamas it’s fine. Middle school can be a step up from casual. For both types of schools it really depends on your school’s principal. Definitely dress up the first 2/3 weeks to give a good first impression, regardless of what other teachers are wearing.

A few general rules:
No cleavage (just not chest at all)
No shoulders
No tattoos
Wear socks/tights at all times, even with indoor school shoes

Shoes

Bring only your absolute faves. You will want to do a lot of exploring right when you arrive, so a comfy pair of walking shoes are a must!

If you are easily grossed out about showers (like me) bring shower shoes so you have them for orientation. Since Korean bathrooms are wet rooms, I actually have two pairs of shower shoes now >.< One to wear while showering. And a second that are dry and I can wear into the wet bathroom and keep my feet dry. (I really hate stepping into wet sandals.)

Sneakers are really big with a lot of Koreans. Adidas, Nike, and Vans are very popular. Buy them in the US before coming because they are slightly more expensive here. (I just bought a pair of plain black Vans and they weren’t bad though. 47,000won.) I know many of my Korean friends that studied in America and bought ridiculous amounts of shoes before returning to Korea.

Again, if you wear a larger size shoe you will need to bring more with you. It’s difficult to find large shoes in Korea. I think up to US 10.5 for men, US 10 for women.

Bath and Beauty

Don’t pack full sized products! Liquids are heavy and can take up a lot of your weight allowance. Try to only bring what you need to get you through orientation plus a few extra days. I brought all my my products in little travel sized bottles. I still use and refill the bottles for overnight trips, so make sure to bring good bottles (the Target Up&Up ones are terrible).
-contact solution
-body wash
-shampoo
-conditioner
-toothpaste

I did pack full size of a few things.
1) “Holy grail” items: I’m really particular about my face wash. I found what really works for my skin and since then I haven’t deviated from that. I brought full sizes of my two face washes so that I have plenty of time to either find them, or find good replacements.
2) Products about to expire: A longgg time ago I bought a 2-pack of contact solution at Costco. I had just started the 2nd bottle before coming to Korea. Because it is due to expire while I would still be away, I decided to bring it with me.

Bath products can be bought at your local Home Plus, Lotte Mart, E-rt, Olive Young, or Watsons.

Shampoo/Conditioner: Korea has all the major brands, plus some of their own. Conditioner is called “rinse” in Korea (린스). Buy these when they are 1+1 (buy one, get one free).

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Kerasys Perfume Sampoo/Rinse ₩5,900 ₩6,500 ₩13,500.

 

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Dove.

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Head and Shoulders (usually priced at 13,000, on sale for 6,950)

Deodorant:  You can find it. But it’s more expensive (7,000-12,000won), usually the spray or roller kind, and usually Nivea. If you are going to a province, you might have a really hard time finding it. I brought 4 or 5 sticks from home. I’m sure Costco here has it.

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Men’s Nivea down in the corner.

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Tampons: Korea does have tampons, but generally only the smaller sizes. It took me a long time to find the small selection of tampons in the corner of the feminine products isle.3 choices. A box of 16 is 7,350-8,500. At my Home Plus there were supers, don’t know how common they are in the more rural areas. No Tampax brand at this Home Plus (though I’ve seen it at Watsons in Seoul years ago), only Korean.

Pads: They are everywhere in Korea, so only bring if you need them quickly.  😉

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Sooooooo many!

Makeup: I pretty much don’t wear makeup besides some concealer and mascara, so I’m no genius in the category. Korea has amazing makeup (and skincare)!! So, don’t bring a lot. The exceptions would be your higher-end brands like Mac which will be even more expensive here. I heard that Korea is lacking in great eye shadow. Apparently the colors aren’t as pigmented and long-lasting so definitely bring your favorite Urban Decay pallets.

Hair Tools: Personally I think it’s not wise to bring these from home. The voltage is different and if your tool isn’t dual voltage and you plug it in here, it’ll short out. I recommend to wait until you arrive. .

At orientation site (the KT one in Daejeon), the rooms all had those hotel-type blow driers. I bought the cheapest hair dryer from my local HiMart when my coteacher took me shopping on my first day.

If you’re like me and cannot leave the house without running a a hair straighter through your hair and the thought of going through orientation without one freaks you out, then I really recommend the Salona Worldwide, Dual Voltage Hair Straightener. It is one of my most absolutely favorite things that I brought. The straightener is dual voltage and comes with three different plug adapters (the regular plug is American). All you do is attach the correct plug adapter, that is all!  I can use this straightener in Korea, when I go back to America, when visiting Japan, and when visiting almost any country in the world. And, it’s a great hair straightener! I absolutely love it.

Heat protectant: The Treseme brand is here but it’s ridiculously expensive and difficult to find. I haven’t found any Korean heat protectant. 😦 Bring heat protectant if you use it.

Dry Shampoo: You can find this at Watson’s or Olive Young. There isn’t much to choose from. Batiste and Psssst! are the only one’s I’ve seen. At  home I used the dark brown Batiste. You would think that in Korea where almost everyone has darker colored hair they would have it! Nope!

Apartment

You have nooo idea how big or small your apartment will be, or where it will be until your coteacher drops you off at it (The rare lucky person will know more if the teacher at their school before them is lovely and contacts them ahead of time). Most likely it is small. It may already have many of the things you need left by the previous teacher.

Pretty much anything you will need for your apartment can be purchased at Daiso. If you don’t know, Daiso is similar to a dollar store but sooo much better. Daiso has a little bit of everything: cleaning, kitchen supplies, snacks,. Daiso is my favorite for seasonal decorations. They are super cheap and of decent quality.

Candles: Candles are a little expensive in Korea, and they don’t have all the seasonal scents that you can get back in America. You can find all the flowery and fresh scents, but fall and Christmasy ones are rare. I found some at Yankee Candle here, which is ridiculously expensive.

Decorations: As I said, seasonal decorations are best bought at Daiso (I bought a tree and all the decorations for 13,000). Definitely bring some photos of friends and family from home to display in your apartment but also on your desk in the teacher’s office and in your classroom (if you have one).

Comfort: If you have a beloved stuffed animal, blanket, pillow, etc… definitely bring it. It will help your new home feel like your home quicker.

School

Stationary: No. Korea has amazing, frigging cute and CHEAP stationary, cards, post its, planners, calendars . You will cry when you return home because anything cute is expensive. ArtBox, Morning Glory, and JiSung Plaza in Busan near PNU are great places.

Maybe bring a small notebook and a couple pens/pencils for notes (or doodles!) during orientation. However, I’m pretty sure we were all given an EPIK pen and there’s also room for writing in the orientation manual.

Games: I definitely recommend bringing any games from your home country that will fit in your luggage. They love learning new games. I brought Uno and my middle school kids love it! I’ve found it here but it’s almost 20,000won. Uno is great for elementary or low level students to learn numbers and colors. There are many fun versions of Uno. I brought Harry Potter Uno, but I have seen Frozen and Avengers too. The game doesn’t change at all, but it adds a little bit of another fun element.

Technology

Adapters: Check your electronics. Nowadays most are dual voltage and you will only need an adapter. Korea uses the same type as France and Germany. Definitely buy the ones that are rounded (white below) instead of flat (black below). I had black ones left over from my previous trip and I honestly don’t know how I used them. They are terrible. They don’t fit snugly in the plug so they move around causing sparks or fall out.

 

 

Misc.

Chocolate: Chocolate is an important part of my diet. Korea has chocolate, but GOOD chocolate  is hard to find and expensive! (I miss the Whole Foods Chocolate selection.)  You can find Twix, Kit Kat, Hersheys, ect. However they taste very different from the American versions. M&M bags feel half full. You CANNOT find Reece’s anywhere except Costco. Chocolate is always a request for my care packages from home.

Mac and Cheese: I miss it. I haven’t found any here.

Herbs/Spices: I don’t have an oven so I can’t bake, but from what I’ve heard hearbs and spices used in a lot of Western dishes can both difficult to find and expensive. There is a website called iHerb which ships for free to Korea if you spend over $40. I haven’t used this service yet, but I plan on using it soon. iHerb also sells vitamins, protein, and healthy cereals/snacks that aren’t available in Korea.

Did I miss anything you’re wondering about packing? Comment below!

❤ Natasha

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8 thoughts on “Packing for Korea

  1. Tessa Franklin says:

    Whoa, I am surprised about the Lady Speed Stick. When I came back in 2009, deodorant was impossible. A year later, spray on and roll on became a thing (still expensive, not very helpful for the sweaty). Now you can find a brand or two, but it’s probably not going to be your go-to at home. I gave up even considering them an option domestically and still ask for deodorant in my semi-annual care packages. (Oh… and there’s always black market deodorant in Itaewon. But you know… time and money.)

  2. Annemone says:

    Sorry I’m so late on leaving a comment here! Thanks so much for delving into school dress codes a bit – I’m glad to see that what you packed is along the same lines of what I was planning. I’m definitely going to pick up a couple of neutral colored blazers that I can pair with different tops though. And thanks for the reminder about necklines (not showing your chest)! Got to remember that when picking which dresses to bring…

    Thanks again!! 🙂

  3. Vanessa says:

    Thank you so much for all your useful information about packing and about Epik orientation! You gave me a little peace of mind now that I know what to expect! 🙂

  4. jennyandjohntraveldiary says:

    Thank you so much! I’m hoping to head to Korea in Feb 2017! Could you make a post of the type of winter clothes that we should pack that would be appropriate and enough to keep warm? I live in South Africa and I have never experienced temperatures below 7 degrees celsius …!!

  5. remee says:

    Thank you so much for this helpful post .One question, is there a way to iron clothes during orientation ? And I have heard there are no dryers in Korea, is that true? I am so used to throwing clothes in the dryer after washing and having then come out all snug!

    • Natasha in South Korea says:

      Hello! At our orientation venue in Daejeon there was an iron in the common area. The orientations are done differently now; there’s I think three different venues in different cities depending on where in Korea you are going. So I can’t say for sure…but I would think that there should be. You’re correct about the dryers. A few people I know have washers that double as a dryer. But the chances of that…not high. Extra spin cycle is my best friend! Usually my laundry is completely dry by the next day. The only time I really miss having a dryer is when washing my comforters and blankets….T.T

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