What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then
If you research items to pack for traveling to South Korea you will receive a lot of recommendations. The items range from packing large towels, your favorite chocolates, powdered beverage packets, and a whole host of other items you can purchase at your nearby drug store.
It turns out the same rings true if you visit the nearest Daiso, Homeplus or Watsons in South Korea. I didn’t know before leaving the United States they have similar brands I could purchase. If I did, I could have saved luggage space. I didn’t know I would see a Jamba Juice, TGIF and Nike Store in Mecenatpolis Mall ( 메세나폴리스 몰) as I would in any other mall back home.
Here are the things I wish I knew before traveling to South Korea.
There is nothing like wanting to buy cooking oil and you can’t read the product labels, let alone figure out if it’s corn, vegetable or olive oil. Creating a grocery shopping list before going to the store saves time, money and the frustration of trying to translate a product information. Most of the items inside the grocery store will only be written in Hangul. *Tip – Write your grocery list in your primary language and also Hangul.*
Additionally, if you have the cell phone storage space, I would also suggest taking a picture of the product. Nothing beats a visual. There are websites such as Gmarket that provide product names written in both English and Hangul.
Subway Korea Travel App
The Subway application provides accurate departing and arrival time, exit side door, fastest and fewest trip timetable, and the approx. subway fare for Seoul, South Korea.
However, what I didn’t realize is the transfer time approximation sometimes needs to be doubled or tripled depending on the date/time you travel. Although the transfer stations signs are written in English, Chinese and Hangul, the subway app doesn’t account for three variables that may increase your commuting time.
Enter/Exiting The Subway Station
The sheer amount of people transferring stations. If it’s a popular transfer station there may be a lot of people. Sometimes you can only walk as fast as the person in front of you or sometimes there’s a long line of people waiting to get on the escalator. There’s always the stairs, but if you’re like me waiting is better than the StairMaster. *Tip – Usually people ride the escalator on one side to let those who are in a hurry walk past.*
Finding The Exit
There are a number of subway exits at each station. When I first arrived, I frequently got lost looking for the correct exit number. If you’re meeting friends common questions to ask include: what station, what exit, and are we meeting inside/outside the station?
Finding The Correct Platform
In every subway station, there are trains heading in opposite directions (east/westbound or south/northbound). I don’t know if it’s because I am directly challenged (literally, I have received a compass keychain as a gift) I sometimes found myself on the opposite platform.
Washer/Dryer Machine Settings
Doing laundry is normally a task that I like to do. I like the smell of freshly cleaned sheets and towels. However, the washing machine settings written in Hangul turns what used to be a simple task, into a time-consuming chore researching on Google translate.
Buying Laundry & Softener Detergent
There is nothing like purchasing what looks like laundry detergent only to find out later that it’s fabric softener. Planning ahead could have saved washing my clothes again and the second trip to the store. Another important factor in purchasing laundry detergent is whether you need to purchase, drum, top load washer or regular detergent. Lastly, if you’re like me and your skin is easily irritated by floral scents checking the ingredient label beforehand is a must, my preference is Liquid Q detergent.
I still have a lot to learn about living abroad in Asian countries, like the subtleties of “Yes” and “No.” While I don’t claim that I know everything needed to live in South Korea as a foreigner, I did learn more than I knew before my travels.
Cheers! Fighting! To Everyone’s Next Adventure.