Shopping in Korea (for me)

EatI think most South Africans think of Korea as the country close to China and within the South African frame of reference Korea ends up being compared to or seen as a second China. That being said, not all South Africans are geographically stunted, and realize that Korea is a country and culture in their own right. People back home automatically assume that shopping will be a cheap experience in Korea – which could not be farther away from the truth.

Things that’s cheap:

This list can get really long, but I have only been here for 6 weeks, and I won’t be able to write about the whole shopping experience, so I will only list what I found to be cheap during my limited shopping sprees. I hope to add more to this list as time goes by…

Cosmetics

Don’t get overly excited just yet! The cosmetic industry in Korea is huge, and because of that a lot of brands are in constant competition. Individual items might be more expensive than what you would pay back home, but because of the competitive nature of the industry, shops try to push their products by creating 1+1, 2+1 and 10+10 deals. These deals will save you a ton of money, and you will be able to buy products which were too expensive to buy back home. An example: the very popular single serving face mask packs. You can buy one pack for somewhere between 950Won and 1200Won depending on the brand. Currently all the cosmetic stores have a 10+10 special on these packs, meaning you will pay the price of 10 packs, and get 10 free. Score!

Stationary

Korea is heaven for all the stationary lovers out there (I include myself in this category). You can buy the cutest stickers, paper and pens for amazing prizes. I bought a 100 pack ‘hand made’ stickers for R12.00 (1000Won). Back home I paid R50 for a similar style sticker pack with 10 stickers. Boxes, postcards, envelopes and thousands more can be bought for really cheap. You cannot help to feel creative when you see these awesome things. Don’t skip the stationary isle in the grocery/convenient store or at the supermarket. You will be able to find a lot of branded items there, like Hello Kitty, Moomin, Pororo, Spongebob and others.

Soju

Soju, the Korean drink of choice, is very cheap – and sold just about anywhere. It is not illegal to drink in public, therefore convenience stores like 7 Eleven sells booze. You can get a 340ml Soju for R16.00. Compared to Black Label that is expensive, but, did I mention that Soju has 20% ABV? That is considered hard liquor back home. Here, it’s as common as beer.

Things that’s more expensive than back home:

This list is much longer than the top one! Since being in Korea I have gained a whole new perspective on certain things, and will never again complain about Cape Town prices ever again. Promise.

Clothing

There is no Mr Price or PEP Stores equivalent. Or, let’s rephrase, I have not found it yet! That does not mean that you cannot find affordable clothing. I found really cute dresses and shirts for around R100, but the quality is poor compared to what I can buy for R100 back home. I am really starting to miss the Mr Price special where you can buy three long sleeve T- Shirts for R49.00 each, or pay R59.00 for one. Here you will pay about R100 for an inferior quality long sleeve T-Shirt. Bigger size clothing is also more expensive, and anything larger than a 34 is considered big size. I’ve had luck finding good deals at the Homeplus (website in Korean) store, and if you keep an eye out, you will be able to find affordable clothing. Stay away from big department stores and branded clothing if you want to try and save money.

Produce and meat

The price of fresh produce and meat is cruel compared to what we pay back home. Korea is a small country, with limited agricultural space. This causes fruit, vegetable and meat prices to be very high compared to most other countries. Compared to SA, it is super expensive. Bananas? Easily R50.00 for a bunch of 10. One apple?  -R36.00. Three small sweet potatoes, – R38.00. I don’t want to scare you, but prepare for not eating a whole lot of fresh fruit and veg. Meat is also very expensive. The cheapest form of protein you can get will be fish/seafood, chicken next. Pork is more expensive than in SA. The meat is also sold in smaller quantities and often times chopped up into small pieces. It is rare to serve somebody a piece of meat; instead the meat will be treated as one of the smaller ingredients of a dish, instead of the main ingredient. Beef is super expensive, and you will pay more for a minute steak here than what you would for a fillet steak back home. This being said, eating does not have to be expensive. Have a look at my previous post to see how much cheaper eating out is than it is in South Africa.

Snacks

Our little family of two can easily survive a weekend on just eating Doritos, Nik-Naks, Sweets and other very unhealthy stuff. We are a family of snackers, coming from a long line of snackers. Back home you can buy family size chips for about R20-R30. Here we pay R25 for a regular size bag. Candy and other snacks are much more expensive than back home. A weekend of snacking could add up to an easy R800.00. Ouch!

Wine

The wine here is not like the wine back home. It is kind of flat and watery when compared to our robust and full bodied reds. It is also very expensive. A bottle of wine in line with something like a Four Cousins Rose will cost about R150.00

Electronics

Samsung are not being kind that’s for sure! The prices of cell phones and household appliances and electronics are definitely higher in Korea. The Samsung Galaxy S6 is currently costing R8799 through Vodacom. In Korea, it cost about R9200. It is weird, since this is the country where it gets manufactured. Cell phone plans are awesome, though! You do not pay for calls. At all. As long as you are phoning a Korean cell phone number, you do not pay. Data is a bit more expensive, but you can get away with 1GB per month, considering that your phone will be able to connect to the free wi-fi in every shop, complex and school building. Check out these cell phone plans at SK telecom and if you cannot find what you are looking for, call their foreigner call center at  080-2525-011.

I hope this info is helpful; I will do more posts like these in the future once I’ve had enough time to explore and learn through making my own mistakes. Also, please remember that this is my own experiences I’m writing about and that my frame of reference may be completely different from your own…

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