“Everything is so cheap in Korea.”
“You wont even need to pack! Korea has everything you could ever need or want and more!”
“Korea is the land of fast internet!!”
“Food is cheaper there”
I have been living in South Korea for over 4 months now, and I can confirm, that all of these are a major misconception.
So here is my pretty comprehensive list of busted myths, and things you will inherently miss from wherever you’re from if you decide to move to Korea.
1: Everything is cheap in Korea
– Nope not everything. Bills are extremely low (I’m talking no more than $15 a month for me), and hospitals/ medicines are cheap as well. My hospital visit, including an IV, CT scan, medicine, and check up was under $100 for everything. Some beauty products are cheaper as well. But in terms of produce and fruits and necessities like that, Korea is so god damn expensive.
Lets take some of my former-life staples for example:
apples- I am used to paying on average, $0.70 a pound (1/2kg) and being able to choose from about 10 different kinds. Here, apples are about a dollar or more PER APPLE.
Bananas– Always bought bananas no more than $0.56 a pound. Sometimes they were only a quarter a pound. Here?!?!? FIVE GOTDAMN DOLLARS FOR A BUNDLE.
Beans- $5 a can. A CAN.
Oatmeal- Good luck finding this staple… But when you do, 10$ or more for a small bag..
coffee- and I mean, shitty, instant coffee; not even quality beans are upwards of $5 a box.
Vegan meats- Lol.
The only thing I find cheaper, is tofu.
I miss being able to buy hummus and a huge bag of baby carrots for $3 dollars and having 3 days worth of snacks. Now I cant find baby carrots or hummus and having a fruit as a snack is actually not economical. So sale fruits (the ones that are no longer super duper fresh, are my go-to.
Berries and melon- Upwards of $20 per box of berries or per melon. $10 per mango.
2: Korea has everything!!!
Except Splenda, mustard, anything sugar-free or all natural, hummus, grains that are not rice (quinoa,bulgar, oats, grits, couscous, etc), multi-vitamins, fruit flavored Lipton teas, and a random one: piercings for areas other than ears.
3: The internet will be so much better
While I agree, the internet is fast, Korean websites take decades to maneuver and when you actually successfully complete something, its more of an accomplishment than completing a marathon. For instance, it took me an entire 8 hours to use an online gift card once, because I had to register through a government website, the gift card website, then use that website to purchase things on Gmarket. It’s been tough, okay. On several occasions, my coteachers have given up, leaving me to complete the processes alone.
My best friend sent me a christmas package, and she said it got stuck in customs, and the only way for me to get it was with a pin, but the website was in all Korean and required some sort of Korean citizenship or Alien Registration number so she couldn’t get it out of customs without me registering with the damn Gov’t again.
4: Clothes and shoes are super cheap and super abundant
That’s debatable. Some clothes are very cheap, yes. But shoes; I have a hard time finding cheap shoes that are cute and comfortable. I miss the ease of walking into Target and getting aaaaaall the cute, cheap shoes!
Also, you have to go to downtown areas to find cheap clothes. Most clothing stores are small little boutiques where an attendant follows you around the store the whole time and its extremely uncomfortable.
Overall though, despite my yearning for food variety, I have been able to save a ton of money. Of the $8,000 I’ve made so far in the past 4 months, I’ve saved over half and have transferred $2k into my american account as well. So while my faaavorite foods are very expensive, its still very easy to save money.
That being said, if you are planning on coming to Korea, here is my suggested packing list:
- a comfortable pillow
- a full sized towel
- bring your comfy shoes
- vitamins, midol, stomach pills, colf and flu medicine, allergy tablets; whatever you have at home. Its hard to communicate with a pharmacist and everything is behind the counter.
- drink mixes (if you’re into that)
- Your favorite teas
- protein powder or protein bars
- Hot sauce (like sriracha or Tabasco), mustard. shit you want on your shit.
- And don’t forget your chargers and all of your official documents!!