What to Pack

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So now you’ve got a job, a flight out, and your documents in the school’s hands. So the only thing left to do is pack. Here is our list of suggestions on what to bring.

  • A copy of your vital documents. Bring photocopies of your passport, degree, transcripts and photo ID in case you lose your passport or other documents and need to replace them. It’s also a good idea to have extra copies of passport size photos.
  • Clothing. Bring enough clothing for two seasons. Yes, you can buy clothes here (see our section about shopping) but sizes are sometimes hard to find. To give you a scale, I am a size 6 in American clothes but usually wear a size large in Korea. The fashion sense here is different. It’s fairly conservative so make sure to bring clothes that won’t garner stares and questions about whether you are a Russian (which translates to Koreans as a prostitute). For women, skirts are popular as well as suits. They wear a lot of color though black is the most common. Low necklines aren’t popular for women.
  • Shoes. Bring shoes for all weather. Shoes here are made for small, narrow feet. Women wear high heels EVERYWHERE—from the mountains to the beach. In the wet season it is important to have shoes with a heel or platform so you can wade through the puddles. Women, if you wear a size 8 or larger, it will be very difficult to find shoes that fit. Men, if you wear a size 9 or larger, it will be very difficult to find shoes here.
  • Underwear. Women, bring as many bras as possible. They are all padded here and very small. Anything larger than a B cup is really expensive and hard to find. Fellas—boxers or briefs? if you like boxers bring ‘em. Tighty whitey’s are the go here and it might be difficult to get anything over a 38 waist.
  • Deodorant. Koreans seem to be immune to sweat and all they seem to have is trendy deodorant that is useless and hard to find, bring enough for a year.
  • Tampons. Women, you’re not gonna find ‘em here. Koreans generally don’t use them. They are hard to find, so bring a supply.
  • Birth Control. Whether you’re into pills, foam, condoms or something else it is best to bring it with you. Condoms tend to be smaller and it’s difficult to communicate with doctors about pills so it’s best to just be prepared.
  • Bedding. Bring some Western style sheets. It’s next to impossible to find them in Korea. If you can’t find out the size of your bed just bring the size that you usually sleep on and get the bed when you’re over there. Queen is always a safe bet.
  • Pictures from home. We covered our fridge in Korea with photos of home a great way to see your old friends while living in a new, strange country. You can also get a lot of mileage out of them in your classroom. Photos are as golden as stickers in the Korean classroom.
  • Books. I am a book worm so my husband and I definitely took a lot of books with us to Korea. English books can be found at bookstores in Seoul and select stores around Korea but are much more expensive than back home. Don’t leave home without an English to Korean – Korean to English Dictionary.
  • Prescription medication. It’s easy and cheap to get over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, but if you want something with some zing to combat your winter cold or stomach virus, bring a few prescriptions. There are drugstore on virtually every corner in Korea.
  • Towels. Bring a couple of cotton towels and face cloths with you. Koreans tend to use polyester towels that don’t absorb water terribly well.
  • Electronic adaptors. Korea predominately uses the 220 Volt system (2 round pegs, with no third wire for ground). Don’t bother buying a fancy converter before you leave, these are expensive and heavy. You can buy an electrical converter in any hardware store in Korea for around USD $25. Remember to buy a converter that changes the voltage and not just a cheap plastic adapter that changes the configuration of the plugs or you run the risk of blowing up your hair dryer or computer. Some electronics will allow you to put the adapter on but not all will. Be careful.
  • Western cooking spices. Koreans primarily spice their foods with garlic, pepper and salt. If you plan on doing some western style cooking you may want to bring western cooking spices with you- oregano, thyme, basil, tarragon- whatever puts lead in your pencil. A word to the wise- bring them in their original packaging unopened with clearly marked labels.
  • Coffee. Coffee in Korea tends to be weak and expensive. If you like good quality coffee and drink lots of it, bring a few kilos of beans and a counter top bean grinder with you. Recently quality coffee has become more available in Korea, but it is expensive. Within the past few years Starbucks have become commonplace in Korean cities.
  • Teaching materials. Your school should be stocked with textbooks, games and other materials to supplement your classes with but it’s not a bad idea to bring a few things from home like stickers with English words that say “Excellent” or “Good Job;” maps; or small treats that you can throw in a prize bag for good behavior or work.
  • Camping gear. If you like to camp, don’t leave home without your tent. Camping is amazingly fun, easy and cheap in Korea and we ended up bringing our tent back to Korea after a quick trip back home to the states. In the late spring, summer and fall, we used it practically every other weekend to explore all the islands near our province.