Teach English in Korea: What you Should Bring
What? I can only bring two suitcases!?
That's right ladies and gentlemen, read 'em and weep. You're coming to Korea for a long time, but you can only bring two of those precious suitcases with you -- unless you plan on paying heavy fees to your friendly neighbourhood airline. What's more you can only cram your suitcases so full, as most airlines have a weight limit of 50 lbs per bag! You're going to have to choose what to pack, and what to leave at home, and I'm here to help make it a little more complicated for you as we discuss all the things that you need to bring to Korea, that you didn't realize were not so readily available here. So settle in ladies and gents and lets get started.
#1 : Deodorant
I know that I've already mentioned this one in another hub, but I really can't stress enough that deodorant seems to be just that much more vital for foreigners than it is for Koreans. I'm not sure exactly why it is that Koreans don't use it, but I know they don't because you can't buy it in the stores. You can sometimes find it in Seoul at specialty shops for foreigners, but its been imported especially for you and you're going to pay handsomely for it. Deodorant is so small and easy to pack, and you don't really need all that many to get you though your stay here. I have also heard of some people who get it sent to them from home, but it seem just seems so much easier to throw it in there before you leave, then you don't have to hassle with it once you're already here.
#2 : Western-style sheets for your bed
And no, I don't mean cowboys and Indians on your pillow cases...
Traditionally Korean don't sleep in beds, they sleep on the floor on a thin mattress called a yo. Your employer will more than likely provide you with a bed and a set of Korean style bedding which includes a comforter, a pillowcase and a bottom sheet. The problem comes with most westerners being used to having that sheet between us and the comforter. Comforters can be cumbersome to wash, especially since you will have a small washer and no dryer in your apartment. Do yourself a favour, and bring yourself some sheets. You'll be glad that you did.
#3: Not tiny-sized clothing
If you are a woman and your waist is bigger than a size five, your bust larger than a B, and your feet are larger than size 8, you're not going to have the easiest of times shopping in Korea. You will occasionally happen across some shoes, and some pants and shirts, but you should absolutely bring enough undergarments to keep you going through the entire year. The situation is comparable for men and has been known to pose a problem for many foreigners who are in Korea to teach English. The Korean culture is so homogeneous that it just doesn't cater to people who are different, especially outside of Seoul.
#4 : A power converter
You can buy a cheap power converter that converts from 110Hz to 220Hz at home for $10-$20 and it should do you for the duration of your stay just fine depending on how often you use it, and how often you are plugging-in and unplugging your appliances. They're tiny and can easily fit in your luggage. Buy one before you leave home as they are not as easy to come by here and are going to run you about 70,000 Won at a local department store, if you can find one at all.
#5 : Toothpaste and Shaving Cream
Or any other bathroom supplies about which you are particular. Although you can by Gillet men's shaving cream occasionally, women's shaving cream is nowhere to be found, and an informal poll has revealed that most foreigners aren't too thrilled with the taste or texture of Korean toothpaste.You can expect to buy most things that you need here, but not in the same brands that you are used to at home. So, if there's a particular brand of something that you can't live without, you should probably plan to bring it with you, unless you talk to someone who lives in your area-to-be before hand who can confirm that its there.
#6 : Women's Issues (Men, please skip this one!)
Speaking of brands of things that you are used to at home, you should also stock up on oral contraceptives if you've found yourself to do better on one brand or another, as well as feminine hygiene products for your visits from Aunt Flow. Apparently Korean women are shaped differently than western women. Don't say I didn't warn you.
#7 : Some touches from home
I'm not the sentimental type, and I always enjoyed spending time away from home growing up either through summer camps, or group trips, or student exchanges. I will tell you one thing though, and its that its so much easier not to get homesick if you've got little reminders from home around your apartment to make it a place you find comforting. Whether its pictures of your friends and family, a stuffed animal, the pillow from your bed or anything else that helps your home feel homey, you will be grateful for this advice that first day that you go back to your lonely apartment after a bad day teaching, wondering why you ever came to this crazy-town in the first place. Having a place to unwind, call yours and remind you that there are people who really love you at home can make all the difference on those bad days.
So pack your bags
Whatever you decide to fill your two suitcases with, make sure you leave room for optimism and your sense of adventure. You'll be happy that you did!
More by this Author
Before arriving in The Land of the Morning Calm, also known as Korea, many foreigners and prospective English teachers hear that learning Korean is not necessary, and that you can function pretty well in Korea without...
Lonely Planet's Korea: 7th Edition is an absolute must for anyone planning to travel to Korea. It covers the North and South of the country with humour and wit, and is the perfect travel companion for anyone making a...
As the culture of a country develops over the centuries -- and for Korea, there have been many centuries -- its people evolve a very distinct sense of belonging, and begin to differentiate themselves from the other...