by Anna Dehm
It can be hard to know what to pack when moving to a new country. When I got to Korea, I realized that there were some things that I brought but didn’t need and other things that I wished I had. This list of tips that I have accumulated will hopefully help you figure out what is right for you!
- Talk to a current teacher about what the dress code will be at your new job.
If it’s a little more casual you won’t need to waste space in your bag with dressy clothes, but if it is more professional, then you won’t end up needing to buy a bunch of new clothes. Also, Korea has four distinct seasons, so make sure you bring clothes and shoes for both a cold winter and a hot summer. In the winter you will want to have a pretty heavy coat but if you don’t have space to pack one, it’s not hard to find one to buy.
- If you have specific brands of toothpaste, makeup, moisturizer, etc. that you prefer, bring enough to last a year.
You want to do this because you may not be able to find those brands in Korea. Korea does have a great cosmetic industry, however, so you may end up finding brands that you like even better. Also, it tends to be difficult for people to find deodorant, so definitely bring your own supply of that. For the ladies: bring enough tampons to last because they are more difficult to find and more expensive in Korea. Or better yet, get a divacup. Easy for travel, better for the environment, and it saves you money. Trust me, it’s the best thing.
- Don’t forget to buy a plug converter before you leave.
You can find them in Homeplus in Korea, but it’s something that’s nice to have right off the bat so that you can charge your electronics without needing to make a trip to the store. When I say “plug converter” I don’t mean a heavy power adapter, I’m talking about a small, lightweight gadget that simply changes the shape of the plug. This is another great thing to travel with in general since there are so many different plug styles. It is easy to find a universal adaptor that can be modified to used almost anywhere you can go. That said, other than laptop, ipod, tablet, phone, it is pointless to bring other electronics that operate on a different voltage and will require a heavy power adapter. Just buy the Korean versions when you get there.
- It is respectful in Korean culture to take off your shoes when you go into someone’s home.
In many businesses and restaurants as well. Bringing a pair of shoes that can be quickly slipped on or off is just a convenience. Also, it can be tough to find shoes to buy if your feet are bigger than an 8.5 (women’s.. I’m not sure what the cutoff is for men, but same idea. If you have bigger feet, then bring shoes to last.)
- You probably won’t be paid right off the bat, so make sure you leave with enough money to make it through a couple months.
Bring some in cash as well, just in case you have a problem with your card. The medical check alone costs 70,000 won in cash. That, along with a number of other “settling in” purchases, will need to be made within your first week of being in Korea. Plan for it!
- Fitted sheets and “full size” bath towels can be tough to find, bring them if you think you will want them.
You do need to be aware though, that the bed sizes are different in Korea, so it is possible that the sheet you bring won’t fit. If you can ask your employer and maybe some of the current teachers what the size of your bed is likely to be and then err on the side of too big, you can probably make it work though. It is a risky use of the limited space in your suitcase, but I mention it because I ended up wanting one and had my mom send a package, so it would have been cheaper if I’d just taken one with me in the first place.
- It wouldn’t hurt to pack a couple comfort foods to snack on as you get used to the Korean cuisine.
Iherb is an excellent website for purchasing health foods and other health products that you may not be able to find in the Korean supermarkets. Gmarket is another website to check out if you can’t find something in the stores. It is similar to amazon.
- At the end of your stay in Korea you will need to figure out what to do with anything you brought plus anything you accumulated during your time there.
Either throw it away or find a way to transport it home. So overpacking is definitely not advised. Again though, just like with the shoes, if you wear smaller sizes it will be easier to shop for clothing and if you wear bigger sizes then bring more of your clothes from home. At the end of your stay, anything that won’t fit in your suitcase can be mailed home in large boxes that take between one and three months to be shipped (on an actual ship) back home. It costs approximately between 40,000 and 60,000 won per box, as opposed to the much more expensive air mail option.
- Google any other questions that you might have about packing.
This is a short list of tips from my personal experience, but there are countless personal blogs written by past and current ESL teachers that can help you to feel confident about what you should or should not be packing as you prepare to embark on your exciting journey! Good luck!