What are the items that I should bring with me because they’re not available (or are too expensive) where I am going?
Western goods are becoming more available and easier to find in Seoul every day. It is impossible to keep an up-to-date list of what is available and what is not. As a general rule of thumb, bring along some your favorites of everything you can’t do without or know you will miss. Even if they are available here, you might not find them right away and this way you know you’ll have a supply, at least for a while. Following are some hard-to-find or particularly expensive items:
Appliances & Electronics: If yours are not compatible with 220 voltage, you will need transformers.
These are readily available and not expensive. Some housing for expats include both 110 and 220 voltage. Most small appliances and electronics can be purchased here, including imported ones. (Instructions are almost always in Korean only, although you can usually get them in English via the Internet.) Clothes dryers are now more available than they were in the recent past. They are still somewhat expensive to buy and to run. It’s still more common to find dual function (washer/dryer) machines. These machines often take longer to dry and therefore use more energy. (This can be an issue in Korea since electricity rates increase as the amount used increases). Humidifiers/de-humidifiers - humidifiers are needed in winter and de-humidifiers in summers.
Foods: if you have any special dietary needs, bring your own supply. In Seoul and other areas around the country, there are a number of supermarkets/shops that target the foreign community. They may carry products such as specialty rice, gravy and custard powder, artificial sweeteners, vegetarian food mixes and broth, diet/low-carbohydrate products. Instant baby cereals and milk powder are available in some of the foreign stores and an increasing number of the big supermarkets have baby food brands you’ll know from your home country.
Mattresses are available here, but sizes can vary a little depending on where you’re coming from. Twin mattresses are generally "twin long" so be sure your sheets are the same. Korean mattresses are also constructed a little differently from American ones and are quite firm. If you prefer a soft mattress, it is best to bring your own.
Medicines: If possible, bring a 6-month supply of prescriptions although most everything is available here. Non-prescription drugs and first aid supplies are also available, although your favorite brands may not be. Tampons are increasingly available but with limited options and a high price tag.
Sheets: The fitted sheets in Korea may not fit your bed. Moreover, sheet sets (fitted and flat) are very expensive here. It is best to bring enough of your own to last until your next visit home, especially if you want some with a high thread-count.
Sports Equipment: Skiers and snowboarders should bring their own boots. Golf equipment is very expensive, as are racquetball and tennis equipment. Bicycles are available, although somewhat costly. Best to bring replacement parts. Children’s bikes should come with your shipment.
Toiletries & Cosmetics: Although there is an excellent selection of imported and local cosmetics brands, your preferred shades may not be available. If you have any allergies or sensitive skin, make sure you have an adequate supply of your special products. Some Western brands of toothpaste are available, as are some deodorants, etc., but usually the prices are at bit higher than in your home country, so again, best to bring a supply of your favorites.
Toys-Games: Bring your children’s favorite toys and DVDs. A limited range of DVD options are available in English (also Chinese and Japanese), but not usually in other languages. Many games for Nintendo DS and PlayStation 2 and 3 are available in English versions, but not all of them. Children´s games in English can be difficult to find, so bring along plenty of those. Books in English can now be found in most of the bookshops in Seoul.
Miscellaneous Items: Exercise equipment is available here but often very expensive although the prices have been coming down.
Costco membership cards from other countries are accepted in local Costco stores, so bring yours with you if you have one.
Passport-sized photos will be needed for visas, your residency card (also family members), your company or school ID, club membership, etc. Such photos are easy to get here but having ten or so with you will save you some time and energy during the first hectic weeks.
It is increasingly possible to get almost everything you’ll need in Korea, albeit at a higher price than you may be used to. The brands may be unfamiliar and it may take you some time to find equivalent products. Please contact Crown Korea if you have any specific questions about items to bring before coming to Korea.
Will anyone have particular trouble finding clothes that fit?
Clothing for Children: Children’s clothes are easy to find but be aware that the quality might not be what you are used to. For some reason, buying clothes for the spring and summer is easier than finding really good and warm winter clothes. Good leather shoes/sandals and warm leather winter boots are really difficult to find. Since the winters in Korea can be cold with a lot of snow, make sure to bring good warm winter clothes/boots.
Clothing for Men: Men, unless very tall, will have less trouble finding something that fits (or having something tailor-made) than women. Korean men are now taller and bigger than they were a few years ago. However, stores may not carry the same range of sizes as can be found in many countries, especially outside Asia.
Clothing for Women: If you don’t have an Asian physique, best to bring what you’ll need, especially lingerie. If you wear women/queen and/or tall sizes, you may find some pants, jeans and tops, especially in Itaewon, but the style, fabric and size choices may not be what you´re used to. Bring an adequate supply of pantyhose in your size and colors. If you sew, bring your sewing machine but no need to worry about fabrics, etc. You will surely find what you need at the local fabric markets. While tailors often specialize in men’s clothing and very few sew for women, there are seamstresses/sewers who will come to your home (to measure/fit and/or to do the sewing).
Shoes: Koreans generally have small, narrow feet. Although you can have shoes made-to-measure for average Western-size feet, that may not be possible if your shoe size is outside the norm.
Therefore, you’ll want to make sure you have a good supply of shoes and boots with you. Import brands are available, but in very limited sizes. Sports shoes, ski boots, etc. may be less expensive and fit better if purchased in your home country.
What grocery stores do expats in your city shop at?
Most large department stores will have a nice grocery store in the basement floors, such as Hyundai, Lotte and Shinsegae. Also, several hotels will have a deli/bakery, such as the Hyatt Hotel. Costco and E-mart are also popular for wholesale food shopping stores for families. There is an online food shopping website for Costco and non-Costco items that is very convenient at
http://www.ezshopkorea.com There are also a number of smaller grocery stores that cater to expats:
Expat Grocery Stores Contact Number
Bugak Grocery 02-763-0022
Dandy Grocery 02-796-2390
Denmark Milk 02-793-1557
Foreign Food Mart 02-793-0082
Haddon House Supermarket 02-794-0511
Where can other household items (such as cleaning materials and home furnishings) be found?
Costco, Emart, Kim's Club, and various other department stores.
For furniture, Hanssem is a popular local store. IKEA opened its first store in Korea in mid-2011.
What are factors that might affect my shopping habits in this country/city?
It is increasingly possible to get almost everything you’ll need in Korea, albeit at a higher price than you may be used to. For example, wines and cheeses are becoming more widely available around Seoul, but they are still more expensive than what many expats are used to in their home countries. The brands may be unfamiliar and it may take you some time to find equivalent products. Walmart, Carrefour and B&Q all tried unsuccessfully to enter the Korean market several years ago; the stores are no longer operating in Korea. IKEA registered in Korea at the end of 2011 and purchased land near GwangMyun KTX, which is southeast of Seoul. IKEA's first store opening is planned for 2014.
Crown Relocations has made every effort to present accurate information. However, regulations, rates and other variables are subject to change and Crown Relocations cannot accept responsibility for the errors that might result. Should you have any questions or need additional information, please contact your local Crown representative.