What to Take When Moving to Korea & Golden Nuggets of Advice

Take it or leave it
Everyone has their own opinions on what you should take but we hope to dispel some of the myths and make our own comprehensive list of vital things to pack before you move.
Keep in mind, though, that this is based on our experience living in Busan, which is bigger and more multi-cultural than some other cities and so has more stuff available. And if you are moving to the country you will have even fewer "western" basics at your disposal.

So let’s go:

Deodorant – Top of everyone’s list. It is not entirely true that Koreans don't use deodorant/antiperspirant. It is definitely possible to buy roll-ons here, and you will find sprays if you take the time to look. However it is insanely expensive so I recommend bringing a few cans, especially as the humidity is unbearable in the summer. TAKE IT

Toothpaste – Korean toothpaste does not have fluoride in most of the time and many people complain about the taste so bring a tube or two. TAKE IT

Suncream – Suncream here is expensive and often contains whitening stuff in it as well. So take enough for the 4 months of bright sunshine. TAKE IT

Mouthwash – Korean mouthwash sucks but they do sell Listerine. TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT.

Bedsheets – I do not understand Korean attitudes to bedsheets - they appear not to use any. Some western style ones are sold in Homeplus or on gmarket.co.kr but they're not cheap. I would say TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT depending on space. I didn’t bring any and I have managed by simply lowering my standards of cleanliness, when it comes to my bedding. If you do bring them, bring queen or double size (if you don't know what bed you will have) and tuck it in if you get a smaller bed.

Gifts ­– It is very common to give gifts in Korea and it gets you off to a good start with your boss. It doesn’t have to be expensive but something traditional from your country is a good idea. If you are worried about space, buy something in the airport on your way, such as whiskey (which is taxed heavily here) or some chocolate/biscuits. TAKE IT or buy at your airport.

SHOES – Very important if you have big feet. By big, I mean bigger than size 8 for girls and 10 for boys (US sizes). Bring enough trainers for the entire year because you just cant find them here. I brought one pair of smart shoes and wear them inside school because I can’t find slippers that fit me here. (I’m size 13 US) TAKE IT if you have big feet - girls with average size feet will love shoe shopping here though!!!

Creams and Toiletries – They sell most stuff here so unless you really are tied to that ONE type of Nivea face cream (shut up Dave!), you’ll be fine.

Electronic goods – Every westerner I know expects Korea to be dirt cheap for cameras, MP3 players, iPads, etc but this is not the technological wonderland you have been led to believe. Most electronics are around 10-50% more expensive here including Korean brands. Check out http://english.gmarket.co.kr and compare. TAKE IT

Towels – EPIK normally provide a towel and if they don’t, get down to a decent sized Homeplus and you can get a nice big one for $10. I would recommend buying a travel towel but that’s because I’m a huge fan. LEAVE IT

Tampons & condoms – I will take the lead here because Dave doesn't know what he's talking about. You can buy tampons in Korea! They are available in big supermarkets like Homeplus, Emart and Lotte Mart and if you're not fussy about the style/brand then you'll be fine. I haven't actually bought any here so I'm not sure of prices but they are bulky thing to pack in your suitcase. If you are concerned then bring a couple of months' worth and get some posted over. They are dead light so won't cost much to send. 
Condoms are tiny so unless you have a miniscule penis, I would recommend bringing some. TAKE IT

Vitamins and Medications – Bring a good supply of vitamins as you’re more likely to get ill here because of the different climate, the change in diet (lack of vitamins) and being surrounded by people who love to share germs. Bring a supply of your favourite medications, as trying to play charades with a pharmacist isn’t much fun when you feel like crap. However, meds are generally very cheap here and readily available so don't worry too much about dedicating valuable space and weight to bringing painkillers and cold remedies. TAKE IT but don't stress about it.

Shaving Stuff – They sell Gillette stuff and have Mach 3 razor blades but they are expensive, although I suppose blades always are. For girls there are plenty of razor or hair removal cream options so I would say TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT

Books / Kindle – English books are difficult to find (but not impossible! (http://www.whatthebook.com/index.html)) so bring some reading materials. TAKE IT

Favourite Chocolate or Sweets – You’re going miss Cadburys, Haribo and Reese’s so bring some to treat yourself when you’re feeling a bit low. TAKE IT

MONEY – You won't get paid for a while so bring $1000 equivalent or more. TAKE IT

Herbs and Spices – There are only a few places that sell any flavourings other than salt, pepper, sugar, garlic and red pepper paste (in Busan at least). Bring your oregano, cumin and turmeric and you’ll save a trip to Sasang (for Busanites) to get your stuff. TAKE IT

Plug adapters – Don’t buy the bulky ones, get a small one so you can be sure it will fit in your socket. They use the 2-round-pin plugs like Europe so it's easy. If you have space you could even bring a multi-plug extension cord from your home land to add some sockets to your life. TAKE IT

EDIT: Travel Insurance - If you plan on leaving Korea during holidays, you will not be covered by their health insurance. So buy some before you leave home as it will work out a lot cheaper. We bought 18 months worth for under £200. If we would have waited until we left Korea, it would have cost over £300 to get 6 months cover. Most travel insurance companies require you to be in your home country before you buy it.

Golden Nuggets of Advice for Prospective EPIK Teachers

Lower your expectations – Students will probably not be interested in your classes (it's nothing personal!) and co-teachers will most likely undermine you. Don’t expect to change anyone's life and you won't be disappointed.

Keep an Open Mind – You’ve decided to move to Korea so don’t start getting upset that no-one speaks English or that your school doesn’t have a western toilet. You’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy. Just go with the flow, be easy going and above all talk to someone about your frustrations – no matter how small or petty they may seem. That’s what has kept us sane(ish).

Enjoy Yourself – You’ve flown halfway round the world so go out, meet some people, eat some strange food and sing some karaoke.

The best piece of advice for dealing with your co-workers: PICK YOUR BATTLES! Do not get hung up if they start translating what you’re saying into Korean during a class. It’s probably because no-one understands and even if you want to explain it differently, DO NOT say anything in front of class. Cool down, take a breather and if it is still bothering you a few days later, say something. I pretty much let everything slide over me except the big ones such as vacation dates, leaving early during camp and being paid on time. If my co-teacher was 10 minutes late then slept through my whole lesson – I didn’t say a word. If my co-teacher interrupted my class by shouting FOR TEN MINUTES at a student for being disruptive, therefore disrupting the class ten times worse… I didn’t say anything. If my co-teacher told me on a Friday afternoon, five minutes to me leaving that I have to teach something on Monday entirely different to what I was expecting to… I didn’t say anything. A lot of it is about saving face if they have made a mistake, or showing that they have more power than you. This is part of Confucian culture so get used to it - you are the bottom of the ladder. So remember to PICK YOUR BATTLES.