Monday, April 23, 2012

What to Bring to South Korea

The question I most get asked from people moving to South Korea is, "What should I bring?!?"

For many, the thought of putting your entire life for a year in two suitcases is daunting and extremely difficult. It was for me, too.

I have to be honest, I paid the overweight fee from the airline for at least one of my bags. I just couldn't cut any more things out! I had already sold or donated almost everything I owned and made lots of cuts as the time got closer and closer to leaving. I hit a point where I simply could not take another thing out of my bags.  

First of all, a great resource for you will be someone who is currently working at your school, preferably the person you are replacing. You will probably be living where they are living and taking over their classes so they will know the most about what to expect in your specific situation. You can usually get their email address from your recruiter or school, just ask.

1. sheets - Find out what size bed you'll have from a future coworker/your director/your recruiter and bring them. I know they are heavy in your luggage, but trust me. Good, western style sheets are practically non-existent here. We brought some really nice sheets and, no joke, EVERY night I am so happy we have them.

2. pants - Even if I found a pair of pants that fit me, I probably wouldn't like the style. Of course, if you're living in Seoul, you'll have better access to western clothing stores, which is nice. However, clothes are really expensive here. I heard they are taxed pretty heavily, which brings the price up. I seriously wish I brought more jeans.

3. toothpaste - Most Korean toothpastes don't include fluoride and you won't be able to know which ones have fluoride unless you can read Korean. They do have Arm and Hammer which has fluoride so if you like that one, then you're golden. Or just bring some from home. We brought 4 tubes and alternate Arm and Hammer and some from home. I can't take too much Arm and Hammer.

4. any specific beauty products - I brought face lotion, spray leave in conditioner, and some specific make up products. If you have a darker complexion, you'll need to bring any face make up you'll want to wear. Koreans are white and want to stay that way. There isn't even bronzer here.

5. tampons - They are super pricey here! It sucks. I bought two big boxes at Costco and brought them with me.

5. good bras/underwear - It's hard to shop for something so intimate in a foreign language. Also, most Koreans have small boobs. It's better just to bring nice bras you know fit you and won't fall apart. As for Korean underwear, I guarantee you won't want to wear them, bring some from home (guys, too!).

6. pictures - Bring pictures of your home and your family. The kids will like to see where you live and learn more about you. It's a cultural exchange type-thing and it's fun. Plus, your apartment will probably be bare when you first get there and it will be nice to add a touch of home to your new home.

7. seasonings - Bring any special seasonings you like to cook with. You can buy basil, oregano, and some other general spices at home plus but not spice mixes. I brought taco seasoning, fajita seasoning, chili seasoning, Lawry's season salt, and garlic salt.

8. A kindle or other electronic reading device, if you like to read, that is. It's hard to find good, modern books in English. I absolutely ADORE my kindle and since it has 3G, it can save me in a pinch if I need to use the internet on the go.

9. A bag for weekend or week long trips. We have a friend who only brought two huge suitcases with him and had to buy smaller luggage for all the weekend travel he was doing. Of course, you can buy something here, but if you already have something at home that you love, it might be worth it to bring it as your carry on.

10. deodorant - Deodorant is different here and more expensive. It's possible to find it but it'll mostly be spray.

11. Chapstick - It's more than double the price here.

12. plug adapters - You're going to want to plug in your electronics so this is a must. Think about what you are bringing that has a plug. Account for one possibly dieing on you (one of ours did). I would bring at least three.

13. shoes - If you've got big feet, bring enough shoes to last you a year. Of course, if you need something specific, you can always travel to Seoul to get it but it will probably be expensive. Spencer left his tennis shoes on a bus and had to buy new ones in our city, Suncheon (a medium sized city). He was able to find one pair that wasn't outrageously expensive (they were about $70). He couldn't fit into any of the cheapest Home Plus brand shoes (around $30). 

Things you think you might need but really don't:

1. towel - You can buy "normal" sized towels at Home Plus in a variety of colors.
2. shampoo/conditioner - There's plenty here so don't waste your precious packing space (or weight) on it.
3. razors/shaving cream - It's mostly all the same brands and about the same price.
4. peanut better - It's expensive but available.

Questions?? Comments?? I would love to hear from you! 

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