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Planning on coming to Korea? What are you going to bring with you in your suitcase? Surely by now you’ve heard stories, about what Korea has or does not have, but as we discovered, a lot of those were just rumors. Since we’ve been in Korea for well over a year now, we can squash those rumors. After visiting Canada for summer vacation, we prepared “a what to pack” and “what not to bother packing” video. Unfortunately, the video could not cover everything, because it would be far too long, so this post will serve as the exclusive extras list of things you must pack to Korea.

Not mentioned in the video are the following:

ELECTRONICS: Simon packed his Wii and PS3, and has had no issue with them whatsoever. Nothing has fried after many hours of usage. The secret? Read your cables! If they say anywhere on them “Input: 100-240v” you’re safe! You can plug in your electronics from anywhere in the world so long as you have a little plug adapter to pop on the top of it. If you don’t have that cable, it’s ok! You can still buy a power converter. Go to any supermarket and in the lighting section (usually), you’ll find a thick, ugly, clunky metal box that will plug into your Korean outlet and let you plug in two of your North American plugs. It ain’t pretty, but it works.

BOARD GAMES: If you’re geeky and like board games like us, we had a hard time finding reasonably priced English games (ie: Scrabble was double the price) and the newer games (ie: Cranium, Apples to Apples) were impossible to find. Playing cards are also expensive. Pack any games you find necessary.
COMFORT FOODS: Fruit teas, chai tea, and your favorite black tea brands are impossible to find or are otherwise really, really expensive. Starbucks does offer a small selection of TAZO brand teas, though.

COOKING FOOD: Dried spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, oregeno, and basil are available in speciality import sections but crazy expensive, and Martina was unable to find liquid vanilla extract anywhere.

COSMETICS: If your skin tone isn’t similar to a Korean person’s skin tone, it can be hard to find pressed power or liquid foundation to match your skin, so come prepared. If you wear contacts and can only use a specific brand of solution, pack a few bottles to be safe.

GIFTS: It’s nice to bring your new employer a gift to thank them for hiring you. If you’re at a public school, get a small gift for your Principal, Vice Principal, and the co-teacher who will be taking care of you when you first arrive. We suggest a product that is only availble in your country. For example, a specific food (we brought organic maple syrup), hand cream/soap (Bath and Body Works is not available in Korea yet, and it’s sought after) or even alchohol (rum, ice wine, or rum filled candy).

Feel free to contact us or leave a comment about anything you’re worried about Korea not having. We might not know all of the answers, mind you, but we might be able to tell you if you should pack it or not.

ToFebruary
  1. Masterfruufruu

    So I have an interesting question, and am not sure if you guys can answer it. T.T I am of Mexican descent and cook tons of Mexican cuisine, I am wondering if you guys have seen corn tortillas there or maize (big white kind to make corn tortillas with)?

  2. Thank you! I’m about to move to Seoul and I found this very helpful! I heard that you weren’t able to buy peanut butter in South Korea. Is it true?

  3. Madisen Kleinschmit

    soda stream makes a&w root beer! you could add t to seltzer

  4. Hello! I love your blog! I am very excited to visit Seoul next week for the first time ever. I’ve never left my continent – I live in Minnesota. Any who, we are going to be attending my brother’s Traditional Korean Wedding and meeting his future in-laws for the first time. I want to make a good impression and bring some fun American gifts. What do you recommend? Can you get M&M’s in Korea? Do you think they would want pancake mix and syrup? Or maybe some bagels? They seems to be very traditional and no zero English. Thank you so much for any advice!!!

  5. So so sooo helpful!!!
    Thanks guys :D

  6. Tiara Kikyo Giles

    This is a late comment but I really like your blog and I trust you guys judgement. I heard from a Korean friend of mine that they have TONS of hair products but I have ethnic hair (or should I say mixed with five different cultures hair?) and I rarely use chemicals. Do they have products for that? Thank you!

  7. SimplyLiyah31

    HI im coming to korea for college i would like to know what to pack and paper work if you can help

  8. Luggage brands that can withstand international travel???

  9. Hi! I just want to say ahead of time I am so sorry if this has already been asked and answered. Okay, so I currently have an iPhone and plan on taking it with me when I move to Korea but I know that I won’t be able to use it. I noticed that you guys (or just Simon I’m not sure) have an iPhone and I was wondering if you just bought a new iPhone once you got there and how much it costs. Like, is it a hassle to get an iPhone? Do you think that it would be a good idea to take my deactivated iPhone and use it as an iPod then just get a cheap cell phone with plan?

    • My boyfriend moved there because he’s in the army. He didn’t get an iPhone, but someone he knows did. It’s a lot more expensive there, and the one his friend got didn’t have a plan with unlimited data. My boyfriend got a Sky (Korean brand) phone, which he likes decently. He has his iPhone from America still, which he can use with wifi (since he suspended his mobile account). I am going to move there, and plan to get a Korean phone. They have really good phone options, and the plans are really affordable. You can even get unlimited data.

      This thread might help you as well about iPhones and getting it to work there, as well as other phone questions.
      https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4290525?start=45&tstart=0

  10. This might be a really silly question, but do they sell hair dryers there that come with a diffuser attachment? You know, the kind for girls with curly hair where it’s like flat with spikes?

  11. Is there a bath and body works there now?? Today was my first day at the store and I plan to go live in korea for a while. I heard there’s the body shop, but they don’t have that similar products.

  12. Can you get coconut oil for a reasonable price in Seoul? I’m sure it is somewhere.

  13. Britney McSweeney

    Vanilla extract is sold all over- but its powered and sold in small bags.

  14. Hello everyone~ This is a very important(for me) and girly question…. Well, what about waxing? I’m not used to shave, is there some place where I could do it, seems koreans don’t have that amount of hair on their body :$ and another thing, I do use to straightening my hair with permanent, my hair is not curled hard is just frizzed, anyways…. Hair shops do it right? Thanks in advance! :DDDD Fighting~

    • Waxing is expensive here (in Daegu, at least). I wax my eyebrows and it typically costs around $20 here. It may also be harder to find a place if you’re living in a more rural area. Hair shops DO do magic straightening here and it typically is cheaper than what it would cost in the States. Most hair shops offer it and they call it “magic perm.”

  15. Popcorn and Ranch dressing is soo good. I grossed my cousin out by eating it. Have you tried it Simon?

  16. Monique Pereira

    Hello! Thanks for the video! Super helpful.
    I know you said it’s easy to find shampoo and conditioner, but do they have gel for curly hair? Should I pack a year supply?

  17. Agnes Tran

    lol its like the total opposite for me, im almost 5 foot and i can never find skinny jeans my size in canada……. they’re always too long…. and since i keep on getting skinnier TT^TT, its pretty hard to find jeans smaller then double 0…… TT^TT so i always buy like a year’s worth of jeans and shorts when i go to vietnam….

  18. We have the same Doggy Kennel box cage thing!

  19. Is it because that if we badmouth SuJu in Korea meaning that we’ll be doomed, and get bad-mouthed by the ELFs there cuz like almost over half of South Krea r SJ fans? (I noe this is stupid but i’m just asking. And i’m only goin to Korea for 8 days! N i have a tour guide, so will he/she review us bout the manners all these stuff?)

  20. I’ve been browsing the internet for videos and blogs like this. Thanks!  My packing list would probably be much smaller since I’m a very short girl with little feet. Didn’t know that much about beauty products though. Probably would have done the same as you did the first time. And A&W! That’s the best root beer ever!

  21. Hello! This question is more for Martina and it’s about what is standard to wear as a woman teaching in a public school in Korea, specifically where the line is with what is too causal or too much like street clothes. Is there any way you could do a video on this? I know that showing skin around the neck and shoulders is bad, but does that mean you should wear turtlenecks to school? Are sundresses okay to teach in? 

    • Way late to answer, but….
      What you can get away with wearing depends on the school. If you want to make a good impression, wear tops that have at least a cap sleeve (not a tank top or spaghetti straps). A cap sleeve covers to the edge of the shoulder. Another option is to invest in a couple of lightweight shrugs that you can use to hide your too sexy shoulders. Make sure shirts are long enough that your tummy doesn’t show when you write on the board. (not even a little bit of it).
      Pick skirts or dresses that are knee length. A little shorter is also ok if you have nice legs.
      In many schools, nice jeans or pants are also ok. Nice is defined by not too tight, no rips, neat hems, etc. Basically you won’t go wrong with a clean-cut/preppy look.
      It’s also worth noting that some schools (esp kindergartens) require a pair of indoor-only shoes. If you are a larger size (above 8 US women’s) buy them before you go — otherwise you’ll end up in a pair of men’s loaners for the year. They need to be slip-on, you should be able to wear them with socks, and they should have soft enough soles that they will not damage the floors.

  22. ewww ranch and marshmallow? lol  eewk!
    aww simon & martina.:'( i’m big too 5’10 and my shoes are 10 so i have to shop before gwangju? :/ booo! so unfair! I’m going to to feel like chubaka there T_T
    haha! Koreans have small boobs!
    How can I bring my pet iguana? Are there iguana’s in SK?

    • unfortunately, korean shops don’t sell shoe sizes above size 8 for women. if you’re lucky you might find a scarce 8 and a half. Even korean websites generally don’t go larger than size 9. so if you want cute shoes, i suggest bringing them from home.

      As for your iguana…you might be able to bring it, but you’ll probably have to jump through some hoops to get it through customs.

  23. teniya marie

     How many suitcases do you guys have each? No, seriously, how many? I’m afraid of not having enough room but don’t want to be hauling six different bags/suitcases by myself.

  24. Your information is great! I have a couple items to ask about:
    1. Sunscreen
    2. Neutrogena and/or Cetaphil products
    3. Bath towels– I have heard they only use smaller towels versus our larger towels.
    Thank you for your videos and articles!

    • 1. sunscreen can be found, they call it ‘sun cream’
      2. They sell some neutrogena products, but they can be quite expensive.
      3. Large towels are available at some markets, but i would suggest bringing one of your own to be safe.

  25. Hey Simon and Martina! Greeeeeeeeat blog. I’m loving it and it’s making me get so excited about living in Korea.

    My question is:
    Will I be able to bring my iPhone 4 and simply buy a sim card?

  26. Nani Chun

    What about glasses and contact lenses? Is it better to buy them in Korea?

  27. Anonymous

    Hi Simon and Martina ^_^!!!,
    Your videos and blogs are really helpful (and always hilarious) ^_^ Thanks so much!!!
    I do have a couple questions though:
    1. Should I buy a winter coat here(California) or buy there? I’m pretty sure I can fit the sizes but I’m thinking price wise, would it be cheaper? (I’m studying abroad at Yonsei Univerity during Feb-June and they said feb and march is really cold).

    2.Since I’m only going to be there for 4 months internet articles have said to pack like two weeks of clothing…Do you guys think that’s really enough as a student?
    Thanks for any reply ^_^ (감사합니다!!!♥♡)

  28. Iris Rios

    Wait, so does the airport allow you to pack food? I’ve never traveled before (except in car) so I’m not sure what your allowed to pack, because don’t they confiscate things, the airport people that is.

    • So long as it is in your bag and NOT a liquid/semi-liqui item, you should have no problem with food. Any toothpaste’s or water’s (anything liquid) over however-many oz. cannot be brought on board (as they’ve been used to hide bombs).

    •  depends on what you pack. If you pack 50 of the same thing, they may confiscate it. Really, they’re looking for people who are bringing stuff over in bulk in order to sell it for jacked up prices and avoid paying import taxes.

      Packing a few snacks, and even a bottle or two of alcohol is okay, just be sure to claim it on the customs form to avoid getting fined for it.

  29. The only position you can get in Korea is as a teacher? Can you work on a finance section or scientific? Because the only thing I hear is that foreigners can only be English teachers.

  30. Hey, have you thought of buying the dried packets of ranch, and making it back in Korea? I think you need sour cream or mayo to mix it. If that’s available in Korea you can pack WAY more ranch packets in your suitcase, or at least have the mix to make Ranch dukkboki :)

  31. Abby Beach

    I don’t know if you know this trick or not, but if you put a piece of bread in to a container with hard cookies, the cookies become soft and the bread turns in to a rock.  

  32. Abby Beach

    I don’t know if you know this trick or not, but if you put a piece of bread in to a container with hard cookies, the cookies become soft and the bread turns in to a rock.  

  33. Abby Beach

    I don’t know if you know this trick or not, but if you put a piece of bread in to a container with hard cookies, the cookies become soft and the bread turns in to a rock.  

  34. Abby Beach

    I don’t know if you know this trick or not, but if you put a piece of bread in to a container with hard cookies, the cookies become soft and the bread turns in to a rock.  

  35. Hi! I was wondering if you guys know if it would be easy to find and/or inexpensive to buy sunscreen and Off! Bug Spray (particularly the deep woods kind) in Korea? I have quite sensitive skin so sunscreen is a must and I’m awfully allergic to mosquitoes which is a hassle even at home. I had another question regarding other products, but I can’t remember what they are right now because it’s 3am *Fellow Torontonian* :) Thanks in advance for your help! I’m so happy that I chanced upon your video on youtube.

  36. Hi! I’ve watched your video and it’s been very helpful in packing. I will be teaching in Korea next week (I got the position at last minute) and I’m wondering about gifts to employer. My state is famous for berries and Jam so I was wondering if it’s appropriate to give my superiors something like that? Is that something cheap in Korea or is it expensive?  I can always get Bath and Body Works lotions/soap but if my superiors/co-teachers are male, it would be weird. Thank you in advance!

  37. thanks for metioning the ps3!! problem i think i would of die!! without my PS3!!! haha nah
    but all this info is great.

    thank you!!

  38. OMG! Martina, you and I have the same shoe size. My friend and I were looking into visiting Korea and buying their clothes and other merch. Thank goodness for telling me about the shoe sizes. I would’ve been so disappointed. 

  39. I’ve been wondering… Martina, exactly how tall are you? 

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