Women’s Clothes and Shoes
If you’re bigger than a size 6-8, much taller than about 5’6″ (168 cm), or wear a shoe size larger than about size 8 US, you may have a rough time buying new clothes and shoes. Luckily, there are a number of western store that can help you suit up for work and play. If you live in the larger cities, like Seoul, Busan, or Daegu, you won’t have much trouble finding things.
Some clothing stores you can find in Korea:
H & M / Forever 21 / Zara
Payless Shoe Source
Shoes can also be tricky if you’re above a size 8, US. Luckily, Payless Shoes is in Korea and carries larger sizes! It’s not the best brand in the world, but it makes for an easier time finding bigger sizes. Find Payless “shops” inside E-Mart stores throughout the peninsula.
Aldo also has a few stores in Korea, mostly in Seoul. You may also have luck getting some larger sizes here.
You can also order all kinds of things online!
These days, many western stores will gladly ship to Korea. Keep in mind, the shipping may be steep. Additionally, any price you pay over $150 US may be subjected to an import tax:
Express / Victoria’s Secret / American Eagle / Shoebuy.com / Overstock.com / DSW
Groceries and Necessities
E-Mart and HomePlus
Korea has a couple of “big box” giants similar to America’s Target and Wal*Mart stores. You can find just about anything you need for your home at E-Mart or HomePlus. Both carry mostly the same things, but when looking for some western brands, one will have some things and the other store with have the others. I’ve found that I have to make trips to both and neither is a complete “one stop shop” for me.
All the biggest cities in South Korea have a Costco. All the stores accept American memberships, or you can purchase one here for a measly 35,000 won (about $31 US). Costco carries a ton of western brands, as well as some other hard-to-find goodies: sour cream, canned whipped cream, American cereals, and tons of others. You can also get better deals here on alcohol (they also have a great wine selection, just like in the Americas!) and unlikely things like avocados.
You can also get home items at Costco, and occasionally they have clothing that comes in American sizes.
It’s official! You can shop online at Costco now! I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s possible. Simply register with your Costco membership number (found on your card) and go to town!
Daiso is like the Dollar General of your dreams. Everything is cheap, cheap, cheap and everything you need in a pinch is “getable” at Daiso. Junk for your classroom, school supplies, prizes, kitchen basics, bathroom necessities, emergency socks, and tons more. This is a great place to grab all the goodies you need for your new apartment once you’ve dropped your bags.
Koreans love convenience stores and you can always find little things you’re missing at your local shop. Many Koreans also stop here for meals, like kimbap (think sushi in short rolls or triangle-form) or ramen noodle cups in various flavors.
Need some milk in a pinch? Forgot to grab more toilet paper or don’t want to haul home the thirty rolls (because you can’t buy small packages like in the Americas)? Need just a couple of eggs? Want a little snackie to get you through your late night blogging or binge watching your favorite TV shows? Hop into the convenience store on your street.
Local Street Markets
When it comes to things like produce, you’re better off to buy it from a local vendor/farmer from the street than to purchase it from any neighborhood store or the “big-box” places, like E-Mart and HomePlus. You’ll get a much better deal from a local guy.
You can also find things for your home, clothes, and a plethora of other things from local markets.
iHerb is the best place to get all kinds of good stuff. You may have to do some searching – everything on iHerb is natural-based, organic, etc. However, they ship to Korea for a flat 4,000 won! I get food items, protein powder, and my skin care products from these guys and they’re awesome.
Use my referral code to get a first-time customer discount!
Gmarket is a Korean online store that has zillions of things. Consider it the Korean version of Amazon.com. Someone from your school can help you get an ordered placed and shipped to the correct address.
Amazon ships to Korea! You’ll most likely pay a higher shipping rate and you can count on not having the “free shipping” option on orders over $35 (sad face), but you can still get the majority of the things you want! Give it a try.
High Street Market has a brick-and-mortar location in Itaewon, a trendy neighborhood in Seoul. You can also have items shipped to you from them. They have all kinds of things and go way beyond the scope of organic and “healthy,” unlike iHerb. While they’re a great resource, their prices are quite steep on a lot of things, so be aware!
If you’re working with a recruiting company, you may have heard about The Arrival Store (TAS). While it seems like this is a great place to stock up, I would urge you to really consider what you’re buying. TAS will have you believe that everything on their site is lower cost than anywhere else, and in my first few weeks here, I realized this wasn’t necessarily the case.
The best part about TAS is that they let you buy on their own “credit system,” called “Order Now, Pay Later (ONPL).” TAS will give you up to sixty (60) days to pay off your balance with them. If you’re coming to Korea with empty pockets, this is a great resource. Aside from that, there’s not too much I would advise getting from them before shopping around in your neighborhood first. Check E-Mart, HomePlus, and Costco before defaulting to the Arrival Store.
[Also, if you consider their cell phone plans, read the fine print! You can rent a phone from TAS for a pretty reasonable price. You may be encouraged by your recruiting company (or TAS themselves, via email or one of their many “advocates” who may try to reach you) to rent or set up a cell phone through them. Honestly, you don’t need one right away and someone at your school will be able to help you with this. I would just avoid using TAS for a phone altogether.]
****************There are tons of other stores out there that will ship to Korea. Check the “Customer Service” tabs on your favorite sites to see about getting more where you live.