You've landed the job, booked your flight, and are ready to get things going. Whoo! Here are some things that I've learned and experienced in the past month. I've included small tidbits of what you should and shouldn't do before coming to Korea.
Below is a timeline of things that I highly recommend you do leading up to the anticipated departure date.
2 MONTHS BEFORE
4 WEEKS BEFORE
2 WEEKS BEFORE
1 WEEK BEFORE
I brought 2 copies of the following:
**Gyopos (F-4 Visa): Bring parents' Korean registry information and renunciations
1 DAY BEFORE
DAY OF DEPARTURE
Things to Bring
Let's get down to the nitty gritty of what I think you should bring. Some items may not make sense, but know that Korea may not have the same quality of items that America has (such as toothpaste, floss, and deodorant). I've also included links to items that I bought before my flight, but I may have gone a little trigger-happy. If an item has a quantity beside it, that's the amount I brought with me.
How Much Money
The standard recommendation is $1,000 USD, and I concur. This will give you enough room to pay for initial living expenses, and any required documents and procedures for the immigration. You may need more or less depending on what your school provides and average cost of living in your city. Usually, schools will provide your first paycheck after 30 to 45 days. You'll need enough money to get you through 5 weeks.
Below is a list of expenses to account for.
Budget: $1,000 ~ $2,000
Basic Household Goods
*These expenses are based on 2018 Incheon prices. If you live in a major city like Seoul or Busan, they may be higher. A more rural area will probably be cheaper. Check your cost of living expenses to get a more accurate idea.
Remember to bring those nice big, fluffy towels from home! You won't find them here.
Hopefully, your school will be nice and give you decent bedding, but I often hear that the blankets, comforters, and sheets here are nothing like at home (soft, fluffy, warm). Mine were way too thin. I ended up sleeping on the floors for the first 2 weeks because apartment floors are heated and I came at the end of winter. It's spring now, and the temperature permits me to sleep on my bed with the thin blankets. My pillow was exactly like the ones given on international airplane flights, economy class.
I just list a few items that I've come across that can help you get by for the first 5 weeks in Korea, and to give you an idea of costs. Again, check your cost of living expenses to get a more accurate idea.
Groceries can be anywhere from $50 ~ $300 before your first paycheck, depending on how much cooking you do at home, if your school provides free meals, whether you enjoy milk and juices or can get by with just water, etc. Personally, I haven't cooked since I got here because 1) eating out can often be cheaper than cooking, 2) you have less trash, and 3) it's so much easier.
One app I use (yo-gi-yo) lets me order food and there's 1 restaurant that offers meals with a minimum order of 5,000 won (~$5) with no extra fee for delivery. I've seen so many restaurants that offer decent, fulfilling meals for as little as $4, too. It's literally heaven.
Apartments charge utilities in 2 bills: gas, everything else (called "Maintenance Fees")
Random Cultural Facts
My next post will go over more cultural tidbits in-depth that will be helpful to know before stepping foot onto Korean soil. Just to give you a teaser, here are some of the more apparent things I've noticed.
These are just a few of the many different cultural intricacies that I've noticed while staying in Korea. My next post will go more in detail about a few confusing topics that will be helpful to know, such as the washing machine, garbage system, the subway system, and best mobile apps.