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If you’ve made the decision to move to Korea, you’re probably wondering what to pack. Doing research, looking at what people advise you bring and what you leave behind. The problem with a lot of this content is that it becomes quickly outdated. It becomes easier to find things in Korea each passing year.
What you need to bring also depends on where you’ll be living in Korea. The climate in Seoul is colder and snowier in Winter than where I live in Jinju. It’s easier to find western food staples in Seoul than it is in smaller cities.
But regardless of where you are, there are some things that you can leave behind and things you should certainly bring with you. Before writing this blog post, I chatted with my friend Katie about what she’s glad she brought, wishes she brought, and should have left at home. Chatting with Katie was helpful since I sold and donated almost all of my possessions before moving to Korea. I filled my suitcases, but only with things I thought I’d absolutely need and nothing that I didn’t.
What You Should Pack
There are things you should bring to Korea that you might not consider. Aside from shoes, clothing, and a few sentimental items, there are some things that should find their way into your suitcase.
Your eye prescription
Getting glasses in Korea is fast and inexpensive. In most cases, you’ll have your new glasses within an hour. For this reason, I’d recommend waiting until you get to Korea to get new glasses. You can also get your eyes tested in Korea, and the appointment is covered under insurance. But having your prescription with you will allow you to go into any eye store and pick up some new frames. In most cases, glasses will cost under $100, even if you opt for blue-light repelling lenses.
Clothing Not Easily Found in Korea
I live in a smaller city, so something it is a bit difficult for me to find clothing in my size. I usually can find shirts in my size and I’ve been able to find some pants in my size as well. It’s easier if I travel to larger cities like Busan or Seoul where they have American Eagle and H&M, but taking the time to travel just for clothing can be a bit annoying.
One thing I’ve not had much luck finding is leggings. Just comfy leggings to lounge around in on the weekends. I only brought a few pairs with me, and they’ve seen better days. I was fortunate enough that one of my friends from home offered to send me some new leggings.
Depending on your size, finding bras can also be difficult. I’m able to find them at American Eagle and Uniqlo, but the ones from Uniqlo are not good quality. In fact, the ones I purchased there fell apart within six months. If you’re a woman, definitely bring bras that are in good condition to see you through your time in Korea.
If you’re a reader, this is a must. Books in English are hard to come by, but I wouldn’t recommend stuffing your suitcase full of books. Instead, bring a device that’s comfortable for you to read books on. I have an iPad and my friend has a Kindle. Both are compatible with the Kindle app. Apple devices also have access to Apple Books.
I know for some there’s nothing like a physical book. I’m lucky that my school has an English library, and I do periodically check out some books to read. But as a fan of non-fiction and political science, I find it much easier to read books on my iPad.
Seasoning is one of those things people always recommend bringing to Korea with you. Cinnamon is the oft-listed seasoning to bring along, but cinnamon is readily available in 2020. In fact, a lot of basic seasonings are. If you can’t find them in store, you can find a huge selection of spices available on iHerb, which ships to Korea for free if you spend $25 or more. iHerb has been a lifesaver for me as a vegetarian who loves to cook.
But one seasoning that’s harder to come by in store and online is taco seasoning. This might seem silly, but if you’re a fan of tacos, you’ll need to bring taco seasoning. A friend of mine sends me some around Christmastime each year. It was something my coworker requested in a care package from her mom. So forget the cinnamon and slip a few packets of taco seasoning into your suitcase.
What You Should Leave at Home
This might be even more important than what to bring with you. There are a lot of outdated blogs and YouTube videos. These posts are still the go-to for what to bring to Korea. When I moved here, I thought I was entering a country where deodorant was entirely non-existent. That’s most certainly not the case in 2020. So here are some things you can leave behind and free up some space in your suitcase.
A ton of deodorant
Unless you have to use a particular deodorant, you can lighten up your suitcase by leaving the twenty sticks of deodorant at home. You’ll be able to find deodorant at e-mart, homeplus, or stores like Olive Young. Worst case scenerio, you can order it online from Amazon or iHerb. But you certainly don’t need to bring an unreasonable number of sticks in your checked luggage.
Like deodorant, there is information out there stating you won’t be able to get fluoride toothpaste in Korea. This might have been the case a few years ago, but not anymore. Now, you can buy Colgate and Arm and Hammer toothpaste with fluoride. So unless you use specific toothpaste for teeth sensitivity or other medical reasons, you definitely don’t need to bring a lot of toothpaste with you.
Another item that can easily be found in Korea is the full-sized towel. While these are harder to find, it’s not impossible. Daiso carries regular sized towels, as does e-mart and Homeplus. There’s not reason to bring more than one towel with you.
When my friend and I were chatting she told me about how someone told her to bring silverware because her apartment wouldn’t have a fork. Well, usually when you move into a new apartment it doesn’t have forks because it doesn’t have anything. But that’s beside the point. You can easily buy forks at any store that sells silverware in Korea. It’s not a country without forks. So don’t worry about your ability to use chopsticks. You will be able to furnish your apartment with forks. And you’ll get the hang of chopsticks.
You’ll also be able to find bedding, pots and pans, and anything else you might need for your apartment. I’ve not had any trouble finding home goods, whether for cleaning, cooking, or decorating.
You’ll want to contact your school or former teachers at your school, but in a lot of cases, you don’t need your business and formalwear. My job allows me to wear jeans and sneakers. Some schools might want you to wear dress pants or a blazer. You really should check though, because if you are working in a more casual environment, you’ll want to leave behind the formal clothing in favor of things you’ll wear on a daily basis.
Moving to another country with only two suitcases is certainly overwhelming, and the packing process for moving might have you feeling like your head is going to explode.
Whether its a lack of information or outdated information, there’s no surefire way to know what you need to bring to Korea and what you can leave behind. I hope that if you are moving to Korea, this list is helpful.
If you’re already in Korea, what is something you wish you left behind and what is something you wish you have brought with you? I’d love to hear from you!