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When packing for Korea, you will want to make sure that you have all of the essentials. Before going to Korea, a person should be armed with the knowledge of what to bring. Although it is most comfortable to travel light, there are some things that you will want to be sure you have.
Deodorant: Koreans don’t sweat the way Westerners do, so bring a year’s supply of your favorite deodorant. It is now starting to show up on some shelves, and you can find it in black markets if essential, but it will cost you over $10 apiece.
Big towels: Korean towels are generally small and it can be difficult toweling off with what we would consider a hand towel. Again, you can sometimes find them, but you will be happy to have brought one or two bath towels.
Fitted sheets: If you are a fan of fitted sheets, bring your own. Single size is best. Korean sheets are more like a thin blanket thrown over the bed. Those who enjoy their fitted sheets will find it hard to get a hold of them here.
Dental floss: You can get it at the pharmacy, but it is also over-priced because it is not well used.
Condoms: Condoms are available, but are sometimes more expensive. Some foreigners have also complained of a lack of larger sizes and poor lubrication. Plus, you can usually get them for free at your local health unit, so might as well stock up if you are planning on using them. Also, if you are using birth control pills, you should be sure to get a year’s supply before going.
Tampons: Korean women usually wear pads. Tampons are becoming available, but are less common than pads. If you have a tampon that you are comfortable using, you may want to stock up before going.
Shoes and clothes: If you are a larger or taller person, you may have a hard time finding your size. Clothes for larger people are available, but you have to spend some time searching.
Money for your first month: In Korea, you get paid by the month, not every 2 weeks. So, when you arrive, you will have to budget for your first month. Some schools give advances on pay, but you should check with your school. If you have a credit card available, that would also be helpful.
International driver’s license: You may want to drive in Korea, and it is easy to get your international driver’s license by going to your local CAA, AAA, or by contacting your department of transportation. All it takes is a photo and a form, no test required. Note that they are valid for one year.
Passport: Without one, you are not going. If you don’t already have a passport, make it your first priority. You can request a rush order, but there will be a surcharge for this.
Copies of your birth certificate and passport: In the unlikely event that you lose them, copies can speed up the process to get new ones in a foreign country.
Family pictures: Pictures will remind you of home, and may help you deal with loneliness and homesickness.
Books: The flight is long, and having books to read will help you pass the time. Also, you may want to bring a few of the books you have wanted to read with you. English books are available, but not all titles. However, there are websites that have a great selection, and deliver to Korea.
Vehicle care: You should make sure that your vehicle has the appropriate insurance if you plan to keep it. You should also decide where you are going to store it.
Razor blades and shaving cream: Korean people do not have nearly as much facial or body hair as Westerners. Therefore, razor blades and shaving cream are somewhat more expensive than in North America.
Visit family and friends: Although you will be very busy before going, take some time to enjoy being close with people whom you won’t see for a while. You won’t regret having taken time out to do so.
Spices: If you enjoy cooking and have particular spices that you like to use, consider bringing them. There are not a large variety of spices for home cooking in Korea. Koreans mainly use red pepper in most dishes.
Cigarettes: If you are a smoker and enjoy a certain brand, you may want to bring some of this brand along with you. However, it should be noted that Korean cigarettes are far cheaper than those sold in North America.
A gift for your director: Although it is not necessary, a gift for you director would get you off to a great start. Appropriate gifts would be a small bottle of whiskey for a male director, or perfume for a female director. Of course, you can be as creative as you like. This small gesture could go a long way in ensuring a good year.
Money or other items from your country: Many of the students you will teach will never have been outside of Korea. It can be fun for them to see money from another country, or pictures of you and your family. This can also help break the ice with your first class.
This section has mainly concentrated on the things that you should consider bringing that you might not have thought of on your own. There are obviously many more things that you will need to bring. We suggest making your own checklist and packing well in advance. The more prepared you are, the less stress you will feel.
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