Wednesday, March 30, 2011

West Meets East: Surprising Finds in Chosen

I know I've commented on this matter before but I wanted to thoroughly examine the issue. Before hopping that plane to Korea, many a waygook is faced with the issue of what they cannot get in Korea. Will I be able to be deodorant? Will they have the snacks I like? Will they have peanut butter? These are normal concerns as everyone is used to their comforts (foods and otherwise). Koreans worry if other countries sell kimchi and chili paste.

I was told I wouldn't be able to find bread (so wrong) or coffee (even more wrong) in the Land of the Morning Calm. These are two basics that most Americans can't live without. However, I didn't really consider the availability of other Western options like cheese and dill pickles.This is my short list of things I was surprised to find in Korea, organized by store. (This is another generally informative post for those wanting to come to Korea or curious about what there is on offer in Chosen.)

·  Goldfish: This is by far my favorite chip/crack snack. I love the fishes cause they're so delicious! You can also find these at the store Olive Young which, on another note, is a fantastic store with tons of cosmetics AND scented candles. If you're into that kind of thing. (I've recently become a fan of the scented candle as my apartment tends to cling to that Eau du Daegu: a lovely mix of the rotting trash outside of my apartment and sewage gases.)
·  Peanut Butter: Skippy and the Lido brand. I'd never heard of Lido but it's American made, much cheaper than Skippy, comes in crunchy and smooth, and is delicious. You can also find PB at larger grocery stores. If you're really gung-ho on it, go to Costco and pick up a ginormous jar.
·  As mentioned in my Packing Guide, Tampax Pearl! I actually yelled to my friend down the aisle to show this find off.
·  Good wine: Homeplus has an excellent selection of wine from across the world and also offers a nice selection of decently priced wines ($7-9/bottle).

·  Costco is every foreigner's dream in Korea. It is truly a godsend for all of those Western cravings (although you can buy cases of kimchi, mandu, and soju but I'm not sure why you would want to). I'm going to just list these here, as they are all self-explanatory. Note: this is not exhaustive.
·  Cereal: Special K Red Berries, Honey Nut Cheerios, Kashi Go Lean Crunch, Quaker Instant Oatmeal
·  Snacks: Fruit Roll Ups, Nutri-Grain Bars, yogurt covered cherries, chocolate covered raisins/almonds, Veggie chips, tortilla chips, Snicker's ice cream bars, Western candy (alas, no Reese's)
·  Coffee: Starbucks Breakfast Blend, Starbucks Double Shot Espresso Drinks
·  Liquor: For some reason liquor is rather elusive in Korea. If you aren't in the market for rice wine/soju/beer then you should head to a department store or Costco. I bought a bottle of normally priced Tanqueray in Costco. They also sell Amarula, Baileys, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Absolut, brandy, cognac, and lots and lots of wines and champagnes! And if you're lucky, maybe you will find a liquor tasting (I only encountered a beer tasting, MGD.)
·  Misc: sour cream, Eggos, tortillas, Costco cakes/muffins/croissants/soft cookies(!), spices (these are cheap, too), capers, canned veggies, nifty salad dressing
·  Toiletries: lots of vitamins, shaving cream, Neutrogena lotion, Aveeno lotion, tampons, various brands of facial cleanser (Clean & Clear, Neutrogena, etc)
·   Cleaning supplies: Tide sticks!, Clorox wipes (well they are Kirkland brand but still do the trick), Swiffer
The damage that 3 foreigners can do at Costco.
The moral of this post is that you can easily find many of your Western comforts right here in Korea. Korea is not some exotic nor under-developed land that produces only kimchi and soju; it is a very well-developed nation that embraces both the traditional Korean and the international. Stores like Homeplus, Costco, and Emart are there to ease the homesickness of many a foreigner in Korea. If you want it badly enough, I am sure you can find it somewhere in Korea. And if not in the Korean stores, if you can find a friend in the military, you may be able to get it on base, otherwise search in Itaewon on website such as GMarket. The only thing I've encountered serious issues in obtaining are limes. Perhaps this will change come summertime.


  1. I think it really sucks that there is a Costco in Daegu, but not one in Lexington.