Moving to South Korea?
Everyone has different ideas about what to bring when traveling to a foreign country. I’ve been living in Korea on and off for four years, and I’ve come to notice the things that are difficult to live without. Things have changed quite a bit since I first moved here in 2008, but there are still some things I would like to recommend.
The following are my (Jem) personal tips for those moving to South Korea:
1. Bring your own medicine – I would bring a bottle of many basic medicines. Unlike the USA, you simply cannot buy medicine off the shelf and have to ask for it in a pharmacy.
If you are new to Korea and cannot speak the language well, it’s hard to communicate perfectly what you need. Even a dictionary might not be able to help in this situation. I would bring a few bottles of basic medicines: pain medicine, cold medicine, antacid, heart burn pills, etc.
2. Bring your own towel – Towels are small. A towel in Korea is the size of a hand towel in the USA. Luckily, this situation has improved but I find the cost of the larger towels expensive (12,000 won + equivalent to $12 USD) I found it a little uncomfortable at first to use many small towels than 1 big towel.
3. Bring your own blanket – This would have to be your own choice, as a blanket is not exactly light in a suitcase. Comforters are very expensive in Korea. For a bedding set, they often run 80,000 won (80 USD) and up. If you are staying for only a few months, this can seem really expensive!? Because you know that will be hard to bring home!
Every time I have brought my own blanket. Recently, I was able to pick up a cheap comforter at E-mart for 20,000 won (20 USD) but it was the sale price.
4. Learn how to dispose of your trash – Throwing out your trash is a careful system. Regular trash, food trash, and recyclables must all be carefully divided and disposed of. When you enter your new home, don’t forget to ask where these places are (they may be in different spots).
5. You cannot register for a cell phone until you are in the country for 3 days. – Rules are rules. You have to wait a few days before purchasing a cell phone. When you go, be sure to bring your passport.
6. Apply for your ARC (Alien Registration Card) as soon as possible – You need it for everything. Go to your local branch, don’t forget two passport photos, your passport, proof of employment (if you’re a worker), and 20,000 won for the application fee. The application will be there in the Immigration Office. You have to apply within 90 days of arrival, and it can take up to 3 weeks to receive.
7. Bring your own deodorant – Though deodorant is growing in popularity in Korea, it’s usually a lightweight formula, spray deodorant, or something just not strong enough for my stinky self. If you sweat a lot and already need deodorant, I recommend bringing your own.
8. If you have large feet, bring your own shoes – Ladies, over a size 7-8 in the USA? Bring them! Men, over a size 10? Bring them! Not to say there are not places in Korea that don’t sell ‘large size shoes’ but your options will be extremely limited and you will be paying double for them.
9. Learn how to read Korean. – Speaking Korean comes later, but learning how to read Korean will help you even to identify English words written in Korean. You can learn to identify basic places like 약국 (Pharmacy), 노래방 (Karaoke), 식당 (Restaurant). Of course, many places will also have signs in English.
10. Be prepared to drink – I rarely drank before coming to Korea. Drinking is a big part of the culture. Prepare your liver and enjoy making some friends!