So your papers are in, you’ve got a one way ticket in hand and all that’s left to do is pack your bag and you’ll be off to South Korea. But what will you pack? You might have heard that Koreans don’t wear deodorant, their bedding is different to ‘ours’, you can’t buy spices and you might not fit into Korean sized shoes. How can you take all this stuff? There are, after all, weight limitations on flights with often hefty prices to pay if you are over the limit.
Here are some dos and don’ts for packing up that suitcase :
DO: Bring a stock pile of deodorant, especially if you are of the sweatier variety. DON’T: bring bottle upon bottle of lotions and ointments, it’ll just take up valuable space in your suitcase.
You may have read that ‘Koreans don’t wear deodorant’ and that is correct, well partly. SOME Koreans don’t. But some do. And if you need to buy deodorant you’ll be able to find it but it will be more expensive that you are used to, and the brands will be limited.
As for other toiletries, don’t worry at all. You’ll be able to find anything that you could possibly need and more. It might be a bit daunting buying you first bottle of shampoo and conditioner if you can’t read hangul. Or you may worry that the moisturizer that you got is going to turn your face white over night, but the point is that it is that these things are available and they are good. And the chances are high that you’ll spot brands that you recognize and you’ll rejoice.
What you may have read is true- Korean bedding is not like Western style bedding. The main reason for this is that a lot of Koreans don’t sleep on beds. They floor it. So there is no need for a fitted sheet. But you can still get sheets- they are flat and padded! Also the bedding is not made out of lovely, soft fabric that you are probably used to. Is this sounding really bad and uncomfortable?
So as a compromise you could bring some pillow case so your face doesn’t rest on fake, rough fibers all night long.
So, in conclusion: DON’T bring your own bedding. DO: Ok, maybe bring a pillow case!
DO: Bring pants, shorts, skirts and underwear. Basically anything you’d wear on the bottom half of your body. And bras. DON’T: Bring lots of shoes or T-shirts.
Koreans are both very fashion forward and very tiny, bird like creatures. Clothes are available everywhere, and for relatively cheap, but sizes are a whole other issue. Pants are a struggle to find if you live anywhere outside of Seoul or Busan, even if you are not big because Koreans have next to no curves, so neither do their clothes.
T-shirts, jumpers and the like, on the other hand, are everywhere and you will be able to find something suitable. And it’ll be fun because they are so pretty and plentiful!
Speaking about clothing, if you are Korea bound you better get used to not being able to try things on. I’m still not sure if they are afraid the clothes will stretch or you’ll dirty them or rip them. But in most boutique type shops you won’t be allowed to try them on! Apparently they are ‘free size’, ‘one size’ things.
DO: Bring delicious chocolate, some of your favourite spices and, if you are South African, rusks and biltong. DON’T: Bring teas, coffee, peanut butter or anything else vaguely American!
Korea is becoming more and more Westernised, pretty much by the minute and you’ll be surprised by some of the things they have developed a taste for! What they are lacking is spices, especially meat spices and mixed spices. They mostly just use chili and/ or garlic to spice things up. It can get tedious.
DO: Bring foundation and bronzer. DON’T: Bring anything else!
The Korean complexion is different to all others so you’ll struggle to find a foundation to match your skin tone, even from the international brands like Mac or The Body Shop. But other than that you’ll be in make up heaven. Nail polishes, eye shadows, pencils and anything you can imagine will be yours and for relatively cheap.
DO: Bring the things you always turn to when you have a cold. Think Vicks, cold and flu remedies, allergy medicine. DON’T: Bring an entire first aid kit.
It’s comforting to have the things that you always turn to when you’re feeling sick. So bring things that will help you ‘feel at home’. But don’t go overboard because you will be able to find medicine here, it’s Korea not the Wild West. Also remember that you’ll have medical aid once you arrive and that health care is, generally speaking, very cheap.
DO: Bring some books, a pocket phrase book, a power adapter (if you are coming from South Africa make sure all your plugs are the two-pronged variety and you won’t have to worry about this), a few photos from home (your co-workers and students will love to look at them) and a few small trinkets from home to give to your co teachers on their birthdays, they’ll really appreciate it.
DON’T: Bring your cellphone (chances are it won’t work here and it’s easy to get a contract phone once you arrive), stationary (it is literally everywhere and dirt cheap).
That is all I can think of for now. Is there anything that I’ve left out? Let me know if there is!