Packing for the move to South Korea can be a daunting task, even if you’ve travelled to other foreign countries. Some things that you’re used can be easy to find and some things are nearly impossible, that’s why we’ve created this list of things to help you get started on what to pack for South Korea.
Over the past few years, foreign products have become more readily available for expats living in Korea. There are more imported goods in grocery stores, foreign food markets and international districts around Seoul. Adventure Teaching has also partnered with The Arrival Store, an online store that imports hard to find essentials for everyday life, things that you never thought you would need, and a plethora of other items to help make you feel a little closer to home.
Before packing up your suitcase, look through the list below and take some time to look through The Arrival Store‘s website. Not only will it save you room in your suitcase and save you money on overweight or additional baggage fees, but everything you purchase will be waiting for you upon your arrival! This will ensure you’ll have everything you need when you arrive as well as keep all your favorite and hard to find items just a click away. We’ve been working with The Arrival Store for years, and have nothing but good things to say about their service!
What Everyone Should Pack
- Personal hygiene items like your favorite deodorant and toothpaste are hard to find. You might want to pack enough of your favorite brands to last you the year – Korean brands simply aren’t the same, trust us.
- If you like to cook or like the tastes of home, bringing some of your favorite spices, soup mixes, packaged seasoning to spice up your home cooking.
- If you are bringing a variety of electronics such as a computer, camera charger etc, you’ll need a power converter. We also recommend bringing a power strip to plug into a converter, giving you more outlets (so you don’t have to constantly be plugging and un-plugging things).
- A computer is something we highly recommend bringing if you have one. Keeping tabs on family and friends, current events and paying bills becomes part of daily life, and can be a headache if you are constantly going to a PC bong. They are also helpful for class preparation and work related tasks. If you can’t fit it into your suitcase or don’t have one, purchasing one in Korea is definitely an option, but because of warranty and language issues, we recommend buying one before you move.
- Sheets are available here but usually aren’t worth the price you pay for them, not to mention Koreans have a different standard for quality of sheets (they’re not 100% cotton). Be sure to enquire with your school what size your bed is before packing bedding, or because bedding takes up so much room, buy some!
- Koreans don’t use full size bath-towels, they only use hand-towels. Because towels also take up so much room, we recommend that you buy some.
- If you are planning on doing some weekend trips around Korea or hopping on a plane to a nearby country, we recommend bringing a backpack to fit your needs.
Guys, you should probably bring…
- Underwear – if you are selective on what brands you like to wear, bring enough for the year.
- Shoes – If your feet are size 11 or bigger, we recommend bringing shoes that will last you the year as well.
- Sports Gear – Soccer cleats or specific gear for sports, keeping in mind that sports like basketball and soccer are much more common than hockey or football.
- Jeans – Also a good thing to bring if you are larger or taller than the average person. If you like shopping you will enjoy the hunt, but there are no guarantees you will find a pair that fits.
- Condoms – And if you foresee the need: condoms.
Ladies, you should probably bring…
- Feminine hygiene products – such as tampons and specific hair or skin products can be hard to find. If you can’t live without them, its a good idea to stock your suitcase with enough product to last you the year. Although you might be surprised at what is available here, the chance of you finding specific products is unlikely.
- Bras and underwear – these may be difficult to find depending on your size and build. Korean sizing typically looks like this: young girls, one-size fits all, grandma sizes. Keep this in mind the next time you are shopping for undergarments.
- North American curling irons, hair dryers, and straighteners – these will need to be plugged into a converter. We recommend leaving hair dryers at home, and if you want to bring your curling iron and straightener, just be sure to get a power converter. You can of course buy all hair appliances in Korea.
Types of Clothes to Bring
One important thing to remember while packing is the dress code is at your work place. Dress codes vary from school to school, some informal and casual, others professional and tidy, so be sure to first inquire with your school and pack accordingly.
Keep in mind that Korea has four seasons. If you are used to the changing seasons, then there will be no real surprises with Korean weather, but if you aren’t make sure you’ve covered all the bases. The summer is hot and very humid, with the monsoon in July watering every inch of the country. The winters are cold and dry but typically very sunny, although the past few winters have brought unexpected, record-holding snow falls which have left almost the entire population without a pair of decent snow boots. The spring comes early, with magical gusts of warm temperature and blooming trees. And the fall seems to carry on for months, entertaining the city and country side with the mystical dance of autumn colors and cool evenings.
Electronics and Power Voltages
In North America we use 110 volt outlets, South Korea uses 220 volt outlets. We recommend buying a converter to transfer the power coming from your outlet into your appliance. They are quite heavy and you will probably want a good one, especially if your items are expensive.
You can find good power converters at stores like Home Plus, Emart or The Arrival Store for about 50,000 won or $50.00, or buy them here for much cheaper. Make sure to bring a power strip if you have numerous items.
Food items and specialty foods are becoming more available in the larger grocery stores in Korea. If you have specific foods or cooking items that you can’t live without, you should pack an ample amount for your stay.
If you have any allergies or special dietary needs, be sure to bring enough supplements to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Vitamins and minerals, protein supplements and medicinal products you use on a regular basis are also things you should stock up on.
Foreign food stores and international markets have some more hard to find items but there are never any guarantees they will have what you need. Be sure to check out the “Food” section on The Arrival Store because they have partnered with great local grocery outlets to help you get food that you’re familiar with.
Still Need Help?
If you still need help with what to pack and what to leave behind before your move to South Korea, fear not! You can of course ask us anytime but if you need in-depth help with things like getting a cell phone and power adapters to bedding and bath towels, contact our friends over at The Arrival Store. They have a dedicated team of former expats called Transition Experts who lived and worked in South Korea that can answer ALL of your questions before you head over.