Question from a reader: must-knows before coming to Korea?

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A reader writes in:

Hi Chris! I love your blog and have learned so much about various experiences in Korea. I am leaving on Friday to Seoul for a week of training and then living in [city redacted] which is nearby Seoul. Just wondering if you have any must knows that you could share with me, as I am clearly becoming nervous as time comes. Thanks so much!


Coming to Korea remains a scary thing. Despite the abundance of information, it’s hard to cut through the out-dated and biased info to find the useful nuggets.

  • MUST KNOW #1: What to bring. No need to bring an abundance of razor blades and shampoo – plenty of familiar and Korean brands are around in the department stores. Clothing for non-anorexics (or bigger people, if you like) is becoming easier to find, but it’s still a good idea to bring plenty of your own collection. There isn’t much that’s hard-to-find, but bring some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups with you and you’ll have a friend for life :)
  • MUST KNOW #2: How to read hangeul, the Korean alphabet. Start practicing the Korean letters on your plane flight over, or otherwise try to engrave the letters of hangeul into your brain. You’ll find a lot of words that are the same between English and Korean – but you won’t know that until you’ve learned the letters. At the risk of a shameless plug, my recent e-book “Korean Made Easy” may be exactly what you’re looking for.
  • MUST KNOW #3: Something about Korean culture, or Asian culture in general. Foreigners are forgiven most faux pas at the start, however. Start with the Culture of Korea page on Wikipedia (a decent general introduction) and the general page of Korea, then dive deeper once you arrive.
  • MUST KNOW #4: Where and how to get connected. Plenty of expat groups are on Facebook, and plenty more advertise in the local magazines, on craigslist, on meetup groups, and so on. In fact, I’ve started a new page (Get Connected!) to help people do just that.
  • MUST KNOW #5: Dealing with electricity is a hassle. The good news is there are plenty of converters around – anything from a simple plug adapter to a bigger and heavier transformer. Bring some electronics if you need them, but know you can buy almost anything here as well. Korean tech is up to snuff, while foreign tech is increasingly ubiquitous.

Readers, what do you wish you knew before coming to Korea? What would you have brought or done differently?

 Creative Commons License © Chris Backe – 2011
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This post was originally published on my blog, Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.



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