So I have a couple of friends that are coming to Korea this year and I realized I never made my list of “What to Bring to Korea.” Truthfully Chad and I packed pretty simple and light because in reality we have bought a lot of stuff here, from a Samsung HDTV to Pokémon figurines.
So here is my list of things to bring for those worried about space, weight and necessity.
This is the primary thing to pack because nudity is only acceptable in the Jjimjilbang. Working for a school they have dress requirements and you should check your school’s to see what the dress code is. At our schools men need: ties, dress shirts, slacks, dress shoes and polos.
Ladies need: dress shoes, skirts, dresses, sweaters, hose/leggings, slacks, and blouses.
And it all depends on your style and comfort.
Also bring at least one formal/semi-formal outfit (like a suit for men and nice business dress or outfit for women) Most schools have important events that are big photo-ops for the school, as a foreigner your job is to look great in those pictures.
Good shoes to walk in: my first day here I got lost and walked for about two hours in a new pair of dress flats. My first meeting with my new boss I asked her for some band-aids. I felt like a horse’s ass. So good walking shoe, very important you will do some major walking and standing.
If you are a larger bra-size or shoe size bring enough bras and shoes for the season you arrive in Korea. You can always have stuff shipped to you or you can go shopping once the seasons start to change.
laptop: it will be your best friend at times and for awhile the only way to connect with other people.
iPod/MP3 player: If you have one bring it, but if not you can buy one here.
camera: You’ll want to take pictures of your students, of your place and that random drunk Korean changing pants on the sideway. If you have one bring it, if not you can buy one here.
video games/DVD/Blu-Ray: Bring your handhelds (Nintendo DS, PSP, whatever you have bring it) We also brought our PS3 and Wii. But for those Wii and XBOX360 owners you’ll have to get a power converter because of voltage differences in Korea can fry your console. But limit your game selection because if you’re in Seoul, you can find most new games you want in Yongsan Electronics District. Same goes for your DVDs/BlueRays bring the ones you can’t live without but for the most part you can download or rent movies. But watch out for region locks.
**Leave your hairdryers, curling irons, straighteners, teapots, coffee makers and other electronics and appliances at home because you’ll run into voltage and adapter plug problems. You can get all of these things in Korea and cuter ones, I’m in the market for a Hello Kitty hairdryer myself.
For your apartment:
Fitted sheets- at least one fitted sheet set for your place. Most beds provided are twin or double/full size. Ask your school what size of bed they provide. It was a pain in the ass running around looking for an affordable fitted sheet. I spend over 10 bucks on a fitted sheet/pillow set that would have cost 4 bucks back home. They double the price here when it comes to bedding.
Towel- one of the first things you want to do once you get here is take a shower after traveling all day. Some places your school may house you temporarily (like a love motel) don’t have body size towels provided. The last thing you wanna do is run around looking for a proper size towel or dry off with a hand towel.
Blanket- most schools provide you with a blanket but if you have a favorite one to snuggle in or even better a SNUGGIE then bring it.
Deodorant- the hardest and most over priced thing that Westerners use that Koreans do not is deodorant. It’s used here as more of a perfume so it’s priced like perfume. Bring a years supply, don’t negotiate this and think ‘oh I’ll just have mom send me some’ because as soon as you run out you’re gonna be like “OH SHIT I’m all out and it’s 98 degrees Fahrenheit outside!!”
Toiletries- to last till pay day, so bring your favorite soap/body-wash, shampoo, conditioner, perfume/cologne, facial cleansers, and make-up. But if you shop around you will develop your own favorite brands for these things that you can find at places like Olive Young, Etude House, It’s Skin, Tony Moly and there’s about 5 more bath and body product stores in Korea.
Toothpaste- They have lots of brands of toothpaste here and most likely you’ll get some in a giant package for the holidays but I really don’t care for Korean toothpaste. It’s just not minty enough… So bring some tubes of your favorite and mine too while you’re at it.
Chapstick- I’m a huge Chapstick user and my favorite kind is Chapstick Moisturizer and that’s the ONE kind I can’t find in Korea. They have cherry, original, spearmint, and for men but no Moisturizer. Also Chapstick here is around 3 bucks a tube vs the 99 cents you pay back home. So stock up on your favorite kind. But they do have Burt’s Bees, Nivea and several other brands of lip balms.
Vick’s Vapor Rub- I found Vick’s in Itaewon for 5,000 won for a little tub. So if you like using Vick’s when you get sick (and Chad really does) be sure to pack at least one.
Midol-for the ladies, if you use Midol back home for any regular basic it’s good to bring at least a few bottles. I haven’t been able to find a Korean equivalent but then again I haven’t tried that hard to search for some.
Food and Food Related Items:
You’re coming to South Korea not North Korea so there is plenty of food. But somethings that are over-priced or not easy to find you might want to bring some
Season Salt, Garlic Salt (not powder they have that here), gravy mix, mac and cheese, and a couple of your other favorite spices. But don’t bring too much because it start to weigh you down. We brought a cansiter or Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, and Cavender’s Greek Seasoning.
Money- it makes the world go around. Be sure to bring enough to last you before your first paycheck which may not be for 6 weeks! Also budget in spending mistakes, going out with new found friends and co-workers and things you might need for your apartment. I’d say around 600-1000 buck will be pretty good.
Bank account info of course you need your passport and visa and other documents but don’t forget your bank account info for international money transfers. That may seem like a given but I thought it was important enough to put on the list.
Okie that’s all. For the most part you’ll find what you need in Korea. South Korea isn’t a 3rd world country. In fact it’s one of the world’s fastest grown and most competitive countries in the world so finding the comforts of home all over. It might be harder if you are outside of the Seoul area. So in that case if you are teaching in a smaller city or town you might bring what you can now and have things shipped to you. Korea has amazing postal service, it’s fast, reliable and cheap! For those who want more ideas check out these blogs:
The flight was so long, 13 hours from Chicago to Seoul. And the plane was SO HOT! I thought they were trying to cook me!! I couldn’t sleep at all. It sucked bad. But I’m here now in Seoul! Wish me luck!!
As I wait here at Will Rogers World Airport I’m sitting with Chad and Jamie and see the following image…
Any one who know Chad and Jamie will know this IS BIZARRO!! Chad reading and Jamie play a video game. Well it’s off to Chicago O’Hare and then Incheon International Airport!
So Chad and I finally got all of Pepper’s documents to bring him to South Korea! However we didn’t bring him, due to the heat. They won’t fly animals if it’s over a certain temperature. It’s for their safety. I would have had to wait and most likely miss my flight to Korea and be really delayed. I was heartbroken that I couldn’t bring him but he’s going to provide my mom company. Which is really great cause Pepper loves Mama and Mama loves Pepper.
So after getting an official health check for him and his rabies certificate, at the Oklahoma State University Vet Hospital and going to the USDA we left him at home in Enid. It’s better this way for now. Hopefully once we get some vacation time we can come home and bring him.
As the days get closer to my departure date I think about things I’ll miss about the US. Of course I’m gonna miss my mom, family members, and friends- that’s a given but I’m not here to write about that. With Chad’s help, I have compiled a list of things we’re going to miss about Oklahoma/USA
10. Long distances between towns/cities- Seoul is a metro area full of people and districts and neighborhoods. (I compare districts to counties and neighborhoods to cities.) So here in Oklahoma if you want to drive from Enid to Lahoma (which is the nearby town) that’s about an 20 minute drive. But it’s only a 5 minute train ride from one district to another! It will be something to get use to going from once town to another without a wheat field in between.
9. Over hearing conversations- Most likely the conversations I’ll over hear will be in a language that I don’t know, i.e. Korean. It’s one of my favorite things to sit in a restaurant or coffee house and over hear bits and pieces of surrounding conversations. The best part is laughing at younger middle schoolers and make fun of them trying to act grown-up by talking loudly about something they think is “deep”
8. Mexican Food- I’m sure they have Mexican restaurants in Korean especially in the Seoul area. But authentic made by Mexicans, serviced by Mexicans and you order in Spanish! I doubt they’ll have….
7. Tornadoes- Of course tornadoes are scary and devastating but they are also fascinating!! Like any good Oklahoman as soon as the sirens go off, it outside to look for it. I’m sure Korea has it’s own natural disasters to grow fond of, but tornadoes will always have a special place
6. My Bathtub- I need bubble baths, so I’m not sure how I’m going to deal with no bathtub. It drove me crazy living in Stillwater with only a shower. Most apartments for teachers in Korea just have showers so I don’t know how I’ll deal. Maybe I’ll set up an inflatable kiddie pool in my bathroom
5. Drinking Crown Royal- Chad and I have been long time Crown and Coke drinkers. This Canadian whiskey is the best, but I’m not gonna spend tons of money on a Crown and Coke! I recently discovered Crown Royal Black, which is the best thing ever. It’s so smooth and delicious! Well good-bye Crown and hello Soju!
4. Stillwater, OK- Going to school, living and working there for 5 years “Stilly” will be a hard place to leave. I’ve made life long friends there, met Chad there, cheered for OSU there, did tons of theatre there, and countless other things in Stillwater. My great-grandpa’s and grandpa’s homesteads are not to far from Stillwater. Tons of my family have gone to OSU. So Stillwater is full of memories and reason to call it “home”
3. Drive my Car- With public transportation what is the point in driving anywhere. But I will miss listening to my ipod and just driving around.
2. White Trash/Rednecks/Hillbillies- These people have been the source of humor for Chad and I for years! So once in Korea who will we make fun of and laugh about??
1. Sooner Fans- I know that seems crazy but it’s the same as above. Endless supply of laughter! But Sooner Fans have to have a category of their own! There is something special about a rivalry. There is also something special about laughing at bandwagoning ‘folks’ who have never stepped foot on any college campus, but cheer for OU football like it’s the NFL. And once OSU wins something, they jump ship. Also they fact that Sooner means land-stealer (a Boomer was someone who took part of the Land Run of 1889), and their mascot is a mobile home.
This seemed to be the most difficult thing to do out of this whole process. But Chad, Jamie, and I finally got our E-2 work visas!! They look so awesome and official. They even have a little golden embossing on it! We had lots of trouble with communication problems with the secretaries at the Korean Consulate in Houston, TX. They would never talk to us for more than a few minutes, never fully answered our questions, hung up on Chad several times, and accused me of being rude, when I was nothing but polite. Then once we got there the secretary was texting and messing around, being completely unprofessional, and took her sweet time to help any of us.
Yet, the other employees there were nice and polite. And the man we all interviewed with was super nice and sweet. So in the end after jumping though hoops, dealing with that rude secretary on a power trip, and having to fly all the way to Houston AND back, we got our visas. We’re official, we’re going to Seoul, South Korea, departing Monday July 19th, from Will Rogers World Airport!
What to pack, what not to pack- that is the question. Chad and I bought some large suitcases a few weeks ago now to fill them. However, according to several airlines that I have researched not only is there a weight restriction but there is also a size restriction. Each piece that goes into cargo the sum of LxWxH must be less than 62 inches and to top that off the two checked bags together must be less than 107 inches! So 3 of the 6 suitcases we bought we have to exchange for a smaller size. So another trip to Ross…. Ross is awesome by the way (for those that don’t know it’s a department store that sell merchandise at clearance prices)
Anyway we got an approximate date of departure: July 20th! But that isn’t set in stone until we get our visas. But I really only have about 3 weeks to decide what to pack. Well deodorant is a must since I’ve heard and read deodorant is stupidly expensive in Korea. (Some Koreans only use deodorant like they would perfume only to smell nice.) And I should pack some work clothes, a pair of shoes, a month’s worth of toiletries and a towel. Once I get paid I’m gonna buy lots of clothes, it won’t be hard for my since I’m half Filipino and build small like most Asians, so I probably won’t bring any winter clothes since it will be hot for my first few months there. I keep reading on other people’s blogs that it’s super hard to find C or D cup bras in Korea and when you do they are stupidly expensive. This is the first time in my life having small bosom has come as an advantage, I’ll be able to buy so many bras I’ll have one of every shade and color, haha I win. Since I’ll be in Seoul I’m sure I’ll be about to find all the comforts of home. I keep asking Chad “will they have _____ in Korea?” It’s become a little game and is getting a little crazy but I do wonder about some things. It seems the more I read stuff online the more confused I get. I guess I’ll just find out. Once I do I’m going to write the ultimate “What to Bring to Korea” List EVER! Well for sure I’m going to bring some clothes, toiletries (especially deodorant!!), stuff for Pepper cat, and my video games.
Other than that I’m not to sure yet, anyone out there have any suggestions??
Papers papers, oh these poor trees! Well it’s no lie it’s a long process to get a job teaching English in South Korea. For those that are interested in teaching make sure you have your paperwork before you start sending out your resume. It will make things move faster if you already have your paperwork! Before you can work in a foreign country you need a work visa. For me I need a E-2 work visa (E-2 is for English teachers)
But the thing is before you make money you have to have money. (Thank God for my mom, she’s been so supportive and helpful to me and Chad.) Here is the run down of the documents, how to get them and most importantly THE COST!
1.) Diploma- no cost but you have to pay off your final Bursar bill which can be a lot if you’re not careful. If you don’t want to send them you original diploma you can get it copied, notarized and apostilled which can cost over $25 so we just send our originals, you do get the originals back)
2.) 3 sealed and stamped transcripts- at OSU it didn’t cost and I got 5 just in case. You need 2 to send to your company and 1 to send to the Korea Embassy/Consulate (for those that don’t know a consulate is like a mini embassy that deals with smaller matters like visas, my closest one is in Houston)
3.) Passport- if you have one that’s great, some companies won’t even talk to you if you don’t have a passport. If you don’t have a passport you need to go to your local passport agency (usually the post office or city hall) it cost about $7 to get passport photos at Wal-Mart, $75 for the passport fee and some place charge a processing fee which we had to pay $25.
4.) Criminal Background Check- In Oklahoma it cost $15 to get the background check, this you have to get at the OSBI, then we had to go to the capitol building and get it apostilled by the Secretary of State’s office. (Apostille a way of legalizing a document for international use) Apostilling documents in Oklahoma cost $25 per document! That’s one of the most expensive in the US (yeah… thanks a lot Oklahoma…)
5.) 7 passport photos- We had to send 5 to the company we’re working for and have 2 for the Korean Consulate. (We got ours at Wal-Mart they only charged $7 for the passport photo fee and only charged per photo sheet about the price of a photo greeting card) That totaled about $9
6.) Contract with School and E-2 visa Health Statement- both were emailed to us and you just have to print out and sign. Just the cost of paper
7.) You Resume- make sure it’s good and looks nice, I’m sure somewhere in college someone taught you about resumes. (If you want resume help, I’m a total pro!)
Thus far with the paperwork above it may run you close to 200 bucks! Plus mailing these documents to your school can cost over 100 buck. So far it’s been about $300 each to get this paperwork done and sent. Not to mention the $45 visa application fee. (but the school reimburses you for that)
Chad and I are very excited to go, the company is great and they even worked out things so I can bring my cat Pepper!! Well that’s just a basic run down of the documents we had to get so we can go. But FedEx has them now and we’re on our way!!