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:
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.
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!
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!!