Pin It

What to Bring if you’re moving to Korea… a Costco card!

Moving Tips: What to Bring to Korea… a Costco card!

Before I came to Korea, I scoured various online expat and info sources for advice about “What to Bring if You’re Moving to Korea”.

Frankly, these lists only helped mildly.  When I arrived I was both, over and under-prepared. The things you think Korea wouldn’t have, they do.  And if they do have it, it either, takes a bit of a search to find or you pay a tad more for it than you normally would in the U.S. 

As a vegetarian undergoing food culture shock, discovering Costco was my god-send. Costco was a neutral nose zone for me with enough “American Costco” products and familiarity to make me feel a little Home-Safe-Home.

Korea has Costco locations

Korea has a handful of Costco locations in cities such as Busan, Daegu , Daejeon, Ilsan, Sangbong, Yangjae ,Yangpyung.

Costco- Daegu wasn’t difficult for me to find.  It was a 5 minute taxi ride from Keungogae Station stop.

Finding Costco in Korea

Most of Costco‘s floor plan is similar to what you’d find in the U.S. in frozen food sections, fresh vegetables, seafood and meat area,  bakery and a clothing/books/technology  and home products floor.

I won’t lie- “blown-away” was not how I’d describe the Korean Costco.  American products are limited and the warehouse is shared with Korean products, as well. However, experiencing anything American, when you’re still acclimating to your new country is far better than experiencing the constant wave of “Everything Foreign”.

As of now, being a 5’8″tall, it occurs to me that the only thing that I may not find in Korea, are large-sized female clothing.

Everything else seems semi-available, with the one exception being that things  you would normally expect to be cheap aren’t For example- if I had known that those small red digital alarm clocks that you can get at Kmart for nearly $5 runs approximately $15 -25 USD here, I’d have bought one in the U.S. and packed it.

Now, to debunk some of the myths I’ve read about on forums:

Myth #1: Korea doesn’t have  tampons or deodorant

• Tampons

If you’re rural, remote or in a small town, I can’t promise you easy accessibility on these, but if you’re in the big city, tampons aren’t so difficult to find and can run similar to prices in the U.S.  You won’t have a large variety of tampon brands to choose from, but they exist and you only need one to do the trick! Stores like E-Mart (the Korean K-mart), Costco & I suspect, HomePlus, have them and I can find them in my neighborhood grocery stores as well as, corner convenience stores like GS25 Mart.

Moving tips: what to bring to Korea… Sanitary napkins at Gmart

• Deodorant

Haven’t really seen many in stores, but I also haven’t been looking. I hear Koreans don’t sweat, so I brought anti-perspirant with me as well as, one of those “just wet” sea salt deodorant sticks, which will definitely last me a year. Deodorant does exist here though and I’m pretty sure I saw some in Costco, though you will probably pay anywhere from $5-8 for it.

Myth #2: Imported items will cost an arm and a leg

While imported items definitely won’t cost “an arm & a leg”, they probably will at the least, cost you a finger! In other words, you will take a step back and pause for reflection, before adding it into your cart. U.S. products such as peanut butter, pasta sauce, oatmeal and cereal and frozen fruits are priced a little higher than normal, but the saving grace is that in Costco everything is by bulk.

I love smoothies, but many Korean grocery stores don’t carry frozen fruits and if they do, it’s usually in a small bag with a high price.

Costco carries my favorite 6lb frozen fruit bag, but the selection is as much as the U.S. Also, they have my Fiber One bars and Healthy Granola bars, cereal, raisins, dried cranberries, nuts, pasta sauce, pre-packaged salads and mixed greens, etc..  Balsamic vinaigrette dressing will cost you roughly $15 USD for one bottle, though the good news is that Koreans have their own cheaper version. They even have the good ‘ole American diet junk food, Veggie Straws!


Peanut butter for roughly $13. But this is a super-sized tub.

fiberone

Myth #3: Bring your vitamins.

I don’t know where I got this tip, but to the person who wrote it, I’d like say “Whuh?!

I packed lots of Vitamin C because I read advice to bring them (as if Korea didn’t have any…). Costco has everything from Listerine mouthwash to multivitamins, vitamin C, and Joint and Noni Juice.

True, I never see American branded multi-vitamins in E-mart and if I do they’re expensive. But they sell Korean multi-vitamins and vitamins at local pharmacies… and Costco. If you’re an Emergen-C fan like me,  you may want to bring them … or try Korea’s own brand, which is just as good. They have Vitamin C in capsules, chewable tablets for kids and in packets you can take on the go and simply pour into your mouth for quick pick-me-up.

Myth #4: Makeup, hair and skin care products.

Personal choice. For a country that doesn’t blink at the word plastic surgery, I was pretty confident Korea would be well-stocked on beauty and skin care.  In fact, they’re skin care and makeup products are beginning to gain global recognition.

However…

1) For those with tan or dark-colored skin,  bring your own foundation makeup. Korean makeup has whitening products in it, because the prized goal is a fair-skinned look. Porcelain to be more precise.

I wanted to try their BB cream makeup. My talk with the Korean saleswoman about matching foundation to my skin type, got me words like “radiant“.  Next day, as I was preparing my makeup for work, I looked in the mirror & realized-  my face could be used as a photographer’s bounce board to reflect light! I was so radiant, if you turned off the lights, I’d glow in the dark!

2) I like reading ingredients and instructions on skin care products. But most products are written in Korean. If you want to know what’s in your Korean products, take a Korean person with you to translate.

Myth #5: Bring your own appliances- hair irons, steamers, etc..

Again, I don’t know why someone wrote this as a forum tip. Koreans like to style their hair and iron their clothes just as Americans do… if not more.  In fact, Korean culture tends towards pretty stiff habits of dressing well and looking good (such that mirrors in every subway and in eateries can feel pretty common, next to plastic surgery ads and metro-sexual men). I’d leave my appliances at home and buy them in Korea. It’ll save you bag space. Not to mention, if you buy a product here, you won’t need to buy transformers and plug converters for it.

My first night in Korea, I totally blew my transformer on my U.S. brought steam iron

When I first arrived at orientation, many seemed skeptical of using hair curlers, dryers and laptops.  Laptops (120-240V) are generally okay without transformers, but you should check the label on your laptop plug or battery for safety. My Mac laptop sometimes vibrates though, so out of superstition, I never leave it on while I’m away.

Myth #6: You can use your Costco membership card from the U.S.

Yes. Your U.S. Costco membership works here and I was glad to use it. Is a Korean Costco membership worth the $35 annual membership fee if you don’t have a Costco membership?  Some would say No. The U.S. brands are limited and pretty select- you may or may not find your comfort products here, but you might want to check it out first and decide later.

Myth #7: You can use your Costco credit card at Costco.

I can NOT use my Costco charge card to pay for my purchases.  Korea takes mostly Korean charge cards and secondly, Visa, if you’re lucky.


What Should you Bring to Korea?

Outside of brand names, there’s a lot of things you’ll probably find in Korea for a comfortable lifestyle. You’ll even find things you never  thought of needing.  However, here’s a few  items I recommend bringing:

  • Enough cold medicine to last your first cold
    Korea has pharamacies with good medicine but a backup measure is always good.
  • Clothes and shoes if you’re a large person. 
    Most Korean sizes run small, even for men. While there are outlets or shops, which cater to large sizes, you’ll need to go to Seoul for them and they’ll be imports (aka expensive). While I’m fairly average for a 5’8″ woman, I’m also close to the max limit in sizing for shoes and pants. I could find clothes in normal Korean shops as Koreans either seem to like the fitted or baggy look. For my small-medium blouse frame, there were times the more fitted items were snug. I also wear size 9 shoes; I didn’t find many shoes my size.
  • Multivitamins
    Getting them in Korea can be expensive. I’d bring a couple of bottles with you.  Vitamin C can be inexpensive and I like that they occasionally sell them in flavored powder packets you can eat straight.
  • Favorite foods or snacks.
    Korea has some imports but obviously it can’t cover everything you’re craving. Chocolate and sugary candies aren’t so sweet in Korea.  If you have favorite instant soups or power bars, bring them. These are good snacks as you’re acclimating to Korean food..
  • Note:  There are Apple and Apple reseller stores in Korea.
    In case you were wondering, Apple has grown into the Korean market. While it’s not ubiquitous, you will find Apple stores in major cities.  However, you’ll only be able to order them online if you have a Korean credit card.

What are some things you’d recommend bringing to Korea?

Costco Daegu
1817 Sankyock-dong Buk-Gu,
Daegu, Korea
click here for site map

17 Comments

  1. Stefanie says:

    When I replied it was 5/2015 or 2014 and some of the info was dated so it is a few years old. For instance, deodorant is really easy to find here now. I have even seen an ajumma show off deodorant on the subway and teach another ajumma how to use it. It was pretty amusing.

    Foundation is also basically all for beige skin with yellow tinting. I am very fair with pink undertones and have wasted a bunch of money buying makeup that tests well on my wrist only to look jaundiced 10 minutes after I put it on my face.

    Most of the info is totally relevant though. I think the Costco card is totally worth it for steak alone. They also have a great cheap food court. The pizza is cheap but reminds me of college days. Mmmmmmm

    Current date September 19, 2016

  2. sanjeev sethi says:

    japan food product

  3. Stefanie says:

    I have lived in Korea for 9 years now and can confidently say that some Koreans, like my husband, basically never stink. It makes me want to smack him. Others, yes, they will cause subway and bus rides to reek. Summer and winter. You can find deodorant at a lot more places now than 9 years ago. Almost exclusively Nivea but it works well. You can find it at any big store or at Olive Young, LOHB, or Boon’s. Probably also Watson’s.

    An alternative is something called “Dri-clor” which is a roll on that will STOP your sweat. It is awesome. In the states you need a prescription but here it is OTC at any pharmacy. It is from the UK so you can use their website for info. They have generic brands that are cheaper. I just make sure they have the same active ingredient in the same percentage.

    As for the tampons, they are everywhere but the quality isn’t very good I have noticed, even the western brands. I don’t know why. There is like 0% absorption. I switched to pads while here and am looking into menstrual cups. That can be an issue though considering the lack of soap and/or toilet paper in many bathrooms.

  4. saejinesther says:

    Some organic or very specific herbal medicine is pretty much impossible to find eg. grapefruit seed extract. Also, it might be useful to mention, that you’ll need to look really hard for any fresh herbs like basil and the prices of fruits and cheese(especially good one) can be sky high! But I agree, life can be very comfortable here and you’ll find endless varieties when it comes to food and also beauty products!

  5. Yaer! says:

    Good list! By the way, the only credit card that Costco Korea accepts is Samsung Card (domestic credit card). But all other vendors normally accept globally recognized cards like Visa and Mastercard.

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      @Yaeri: Don’t they take other domestic credit cards like KEB as well? Otherwise thanks for clarifying what I failed to mention. I’m a member in the U.S., so I’ll have to use my credit card to prove my membership. In terms of paying, I had to use either a domestic credit card, domestic ATM card or cash.

  6. Megan says:

    This is so helpful, thank you! Is it hard to get to the Costco location… usually I end up buying a lot there, which would make it hard to bring it all home without my own car… was it convenient enough to take home?

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      Megan: You’ll have to limit yourself unless you want to take a cab home. Go w/ friends and you can split the cost. I never did that. I had one HUGE Emart grocery bag, an expandable college backpack and a collapseable cloth bag they sell at Daiso, for just in case. I’ve lived in NYC, so I’d buy a lot but I’d only buy what I could carry, which is a backpack and bags in two hands 😉

  7. facebook_mirnaangelicab says:

    thank u for the info… it really help 😉

  8. Claudio Masey says:

    Interesting, thanks for that. My son has a total aversion to eating fruit for some reason, so I made it into smoothies for him and then he loves it! I also found some great smoothie recipes here and thought I’d share – lots of other great ideas there.

  9. Mari Little says:

    fantastic advice and sharing. thanks

  10. Joel says:

    I paid 7k Won for a teeny tub of creamy Jiff peanut butter yesterday. Ridiculous.

  11. Laura Cancun says:

    Wait… Koreans don’t use deodorant? Do they have noticeable B.O.?

    • @Laura: I’ve not really been put to the test- I’ll get back to you on that in the summer. According to my co-teachers, the deodorants come out during the summer but for the most part, they’ve never had a prob. with sweat or b.O. Must be something to in that spicy food!
      @Joel: the price for comfort, I guess. But if you’re a big Jiff person, you might want to take a run to Costco for their whopping sizes. They’ve got a gamut from creamy, crunchy & regular…should last you a while.

  12. veganviet says:

    When was this published? I see Month and Day, but no Year, for the original post or comments.

Leave a Reply. Holler up and share your thoughts!

Follow the GRRRL

Follow
Before a trip can be a vacation, you'll have to survive it first!
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for Travel Survival Tips, inspiration and YouTube fun! 

GRRR Travel Survival Guides

BOOK YOUR TRIP | TRAVEL PARTNERS

Support us on Patreon or Paypal

Donate to help maintain this site, so we can bring you more free video and travel content!

Featured On

css.php