30kgs. That’s how much “life” you’re allowed to bring. It already sounds like so little… and then you pack half, weigh and realize.. “Dis flippen minder as min!” So here is your guide to packing for Korea! This is from my own experience (with the help of some of my friends,) so please don’t knock on my door and ask me why I didn’t tell you to bring your teddy bear.
Clothes: ‘Tis the season to be cold-ee! La-la-la-la-laaaa la-la-la-laa!
It really is cold. Not Cape Town winter cold… or Durban winter (what a joke).. it’s Korea cold. During the winter, Korea gets a lovely winter breeze from Siberia. You know the place with the snow and tigers? Well it’s a nice Autumn day today and it’s -17′C in Siberia at the moment. WINTER IS COLD. If you have a Kway jacket, bring it. If you don’t, don’t buy one because it will not help shit. Honestly, the guy from Cape Union Mart can tell you what he likes, Kway doesn’t help here!!! The key to keeping warm in Korea is… layers. The plus side: Less big bulky jackets = more space for other things! If it’s really cold out, mid-winter and snowy, I usually wear a thin sleeveless vest (saxy! lol!) long sleeve t-shirts (get nice thick ones), a jersey and a jacket or coat. I brought over ONE coat in Feb. But about 6 jerseys. The schools are warm, thanks to the heating, so you probably won’t wear your coat in class anyways. Bring one!
I live in jeans. Always. You can’t always wear jeans to school… I bought about 4 pants for school, which I wear winter & summer. In the winter, us ladies can keep our legs warm by wearing stockings underneath the pants. Woolworths has some nice thick ones. But honestly, any stockings will help. Socks, obviously, should be nice and warm, but you don’t need 20 pairs of socks. They sell socks on every street corner for R6-R12 and they’re much warmer. And you might as well start wearing those cartoon socks because everyone wears them – even your principal.
Bring a scarf or two and a cheap pair of gloves, but you can buy them on the same street corner as the socks. I bought my gloves right outside our orientation. You don’t NEED 5 different pairs of gloves. A beanie helps a lot though.. Temperatures at night can be around -13′C and with the wind it can drop to a windchill of -20′C… beanies are awesome.
You’ll be wearing your long sleeved shirts until like… May/June! So pack your summer stuff in a box and ask your parents or friends to mail it once you have your address.
As for shoes, if you’re bigger than a size 5 or 6 in SA, bring shoes! Don’t worry too much about nice shoes for school – you’ll wear sandals in school anyways. Same for guys. If you’re bigger than a size 9, bring shoes.
Skincare in Korea is awesome. (Try Faceshop and Skinfood shops – they are everywhere) so only bring travel size for the first week or so. Bring travel size of everything unless you have problem skin and use something very specific. Same goes for make up. They really have make up here too. So what toiletries do you need?
Toothpaste, deodorant, toothpaste, deodorant, oh and toothpaste. They don’t have a huge selection when it comes to deo… Nivea is available here, but at R65 a can, I’d suggest making a trip to Pick & Pay. Bring 3 or 4 and put more in your summer clothes box. The same goes for toothpaste. Unless you really want to try the pine needle flavour. *ugh!* The toothpaste is really not good… I mean.. LG makes it.. what do you expect.
They sell Dove here, as well as Pantene & Head and Shoulders if you prefer to use something you know. I think I’ve seen Close Up toothpaste before, but not sure…
You will most likely get a towel from EPIK, but bring at least one more decent sized towel. They are a bit hard to find sometimes.
Guide for Girls
Guys you can skip this part unless you’re really interested. Ladies! Bring tampons. They sell 5 million different kinds of pads but like 3 brands of tampons IF you’re lucky. And apparently they’re redonculous. Tampons weigh next to nothing. Take them out of the box and shove them between stuff in your bag. Ask your mom to airmail more if your supply is running low. If you airmail them in a bubble envelope it’s much cheaper than airmailing a box. If you’re using the Pil for contraceptive or skin problems or hormonal stuff, get a supply from your doc and bring them. They do sell some of them here, I *think* Minerva?? They have other brands here (Mercilon) but I’ve heard some horrible stories from teachers who switched.. Rather try to get enough from home.
Guide for Guys
LOL I have really awesome guy friends.. thanks for sharing….. They sell Gillette here for shaving goods and the price is very similar. However… if you plan on getting… hot and steamy in Korea, you should bring condoms. Korean condoms are “like pick n pay bag plastic and small”. I have heard *hilarious* stories about the size and quality of the condoms in this country. Like my friend wrote: “It says Durex on the box, it ain’t Durex IN the box! You also need to bring deodorant unless you’re willing to spend a lot on Nivea. The rest are basically same-same.
I want my mommy
Here’s the worst part of coming from 30′C to -13′C – You will get a cold. Most of you will absolutely get a cold within the first 6 weeks. Yes, it sucks because A) you can’t find the pharmacy cause you can’t read Korean. (it’s 약 – yak… write that down) B)When you do find the pharmacy, they might not understand you. Charades is your best friend. I promise you the pharmacist will try his/her best to help you. I’ve had them physically take one pill and do the following charades “eating, one pill, eating, one pill, eating, two pills) Ahaaa! One after meals, two after dinner. Got it. You can try to avoid charades till June if you bring some basic meds from SA. I recommend bringing:
- ACC 200 / Corenza (depending on the expiry date, I’ll bring about 2 or 3 tubes)
- Panado or any kind of pain meds you’re comfortable with (that aren’t insanely strong – you still gotta work!)
- If your stomach is sensitive to strange foods (just foods you’re not used to ) bring some kind of diarrhea medicine or something with probiotics.
- Anti-nausea or vomiting. Because you probably don’t want to wake up feeling sick and still not know how to read “pharmacy”.
- Vitamins vitamins vitamins. You NEED TO TAKE THIS before coming to Korea and also when IN Korea. Build up your immune system before you come by eating loads of healthy fruits and veggies, getting enough sleep and exercise etc. They have loads of vitamins here too, but have some ready for the first while. They also sell Berocca here (about R60 for 15). Just be sure to overdo the vowels. BEH-rO-kAAAA.
When bringing meds, be sure to put the meds in their original packaging with a doctors note or prescription. I’ve never had issues with these, but just to be on the safe side.
Moving into your new apartment is exciting! For most… I really do hope you all get really awesome apartments. Like mentioned before, they are one-room apartments. One-room, or wan-looooom means bachelor flat. The contract states that you will receive the basic furniture (bed, table, gas range, fridge etc) but don’t bargain on having a microwave, iron, etc. If you’re lucky, the previous teacher will leave a bunch of stuff behind. Also, the school will give you 300,000won (roughly R1800) called settlement allowance. This is to buy some things for your apartment. Hopefully you will get it in cash, but sometimes your teacher takes you shopping with the school card. So make a mental list of things you might need.
You will have underfloor heating (called ondol) but it usually works with gas which can be a bit expensive, so make sure you have a nice warm blanket to save on heating bills. Don’t buy an iron unless you love Madam & Eve. I have two (bought one and one was left in my apt this year) and I never ever ever ever ever use it. Not having an oven might be a semi freak out moment, but don’t use the settlement money to buy an oven. You can buy a small toaster oven for R200 so use the gas range until you really can’t do without an oven anymore. I remember buying another pan, because I only had one little pot. My friend had a *huge* soup pot, like 20litres or something. Also check your utensils. This will probably depend on what you like cooking, and if you ever will cook. Make sure you have enough cutlery & crockery, but you don’t need loads either. Think ahead. Summer is really really hot, so check to see if you have a fan. If not, skip the extra plates with the pretty flowers and buy a fan. If you ask for a fan in June, the school will post probably say no. If you ask for the fan in the shop with your co teacher and the school credit card, they’ll probably say okay. If you have a fan you’ll save money by not using the aircon so much. My first apartment was super dirty, so I think I spent a lot on cleaning products. Last year the teacher left the apartment spotless with about a 6 month supply of cleaning products…
I brought a sheet to Korea because they were “impossible” to find, however I now own fitted sheets in about 3 different colors. It really isn’t necessary. Some teachers do have trouble finding nice ones though, so if you are scared, bring one sheet. Not a fitted one though – the bed sizes are weird. Then if you can’t find a nice sheet (Look in the bedding shops, not the supermarkets) you can always have someone send you more from SA)
These are a few of my favourite things…
I like wine. Cheapest wine here is about R30, Nederburg goes for about R180. So if you’re a wine drinker, bring yourself a bottle.
Prestik. Yes, your students will think it’s chewing gum. No they don’t have prestik. And it comes in VERY handy.
Biltong. At least try!! It MUST be vacuum packed. They won’t throw you in jail if they find it. I’m guessing they will just confiscate it. Don’t be greedy though. If you have 30kgs and you pack 10kgs of biltong they WILL be pissed. Biltong IS available in Korea (See here) so if you’re not too keen, don’t do it.
Apricot Jam (and other spreads): I miss apricot jam so much! They do sell strawberry jam here, but really not a wide variety of any other preserves. I sometimes crave proper mayo (Korean mayo is not tangy at all) and I never leave SA with a huge supply of Mrs.Balls. But that’s just me. I also have spices sent regularly cause I believe in a previous life Ina Paarman was my mother. You can get oregano, basil, parsley, salt, pepper (the basics) but the rest is pretty hard to find.
Tea - Rooibos can *sometimes* be found in big supermarkets, or at Costco (like Trade center). You can buy them at the SA Spaza shop though. For “normal” tea I just buy Lipton Yellow Label at Home Plus. It’s pretty good and I think you get it in SA too.
Ladies and gentlemen I think this is it for now… it’s a huge ass list but I’m sure it will make it easier. There really are things you don’t need to bring or don’t need to bring so much of. Korea is not the Namib desert. You will survive. Promise! And if you don’t, send me your address and I’ll mail you some tea.
PS: Buy some vacuum storage bags for clothes that you won’t wear at orientation. They are awesome space savers and you can re-use them when your summer clothes arrive to pack away the winter things.