Moving to South Korea, but not sure what exactly to bring for your trip? This comprehensive guide has you covered! I moved to Seoul in the spring of 2020, and despite hours of scouring different expat blogs for packing advice, I found upon my arrival in the city that I was still missing a few things. This list contains all the supplies I wish I’d known to bring along with me before starting my journey. Read on below for what I consider to be the absolute essentials for your travels to the peninsula!
A Bath Towel
The bath towels in Korea are quite small, they look more like washcloths or hand towels! As someone who was used to the giant fluffy bath towels back home in America, I found this adjustment to the thin, small cloths traditionally used here to be difficult (especially during the frigid winters, when I wanted nothing more than to bundle up in a warm blanket after a hot shower!). While I've heard from a few expats that it's indeed possible to find the large towels we're used to in the city, they are not easily found. You definitely have to hunt them down, so it's best to be prepared and bring some from home!
The deodorant in South Korea is not as strong as the foreign antiperspirants you may be used to. The reason behind this difference in quality is quite interesting. Due to the presence of a gene called "ABCC11" (which causes "dry" earwax and the increased presence of eccrine sweat glands over apocrine sweat glands) in many Koreans, deodorant is often not needed. You can read more about the study behind this discovery here. But for everyone else visiting South Korea, it's essential to stock up on your favorite deodorants, as the summers on the peninsula can be extremely humid and sweaty!
Something that I absolutely wish I had been told before moving to Seoul was to bring an air purifier. I moved right towards the start of spring, and while the weather is fantastic and the beautiful cherry blossoms are in bloom, it’s also the start of what’s known as “Yellow Dust” season. Yellow Dust is particulate matter from the deserts of China, which is pushed southwards by the winds into South Korea. It contributes significantly to the air pollution present in the city, and can make your eyes sting and your nose run. You can read more about what additional health precautions you should take during Yellow Dust season from the English version of the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s official website, located here.
The voltage in Korea may differ from that of your home country (it's 220 V at a frequency of 60 Hz). If you plan on bringing some small appliances with you when you move, you should purchase a voltage converter as well as an adapter plug for these devices. I ended up frying an air purifier I purchased from the United States during my first week in Seoul because I thought I would be fine with just an adapter plug, not even realizing that the voltage was different. Save yourself from making this very expensive mistake!
A Light Jacket
This section applies more to ladies. In South Korea, women tend to favor more conservative styles of clothing, especially regarding their blouses. If you have a lot of tank tops or sleeveless shirts, it’s probably best to also bring along a light jacket or shawl to cover your shoulders and chest. Even during the summer months, it’s quite rare to see women wearing low cut shirts, so if you want to blend in and follow the fashions of the locals, it’s best to bring this along!
Keep all of this in mind as you prepare for your new adventure abroad, and you're sure to arrive in South Korea ready to go! Happy travels, and I wish you great success as you open a new chapter of your life!