TIPS for Adapting to Your New Life in Korea

by Anne Ladouceur, 16/07/2012

First of all, welcome to Korea. The purpose of this site is to help you get the best out of your time in Dynamic Korea. A lot of things will be new, unfamiliar and sometimes challenging, but hopefully some of the suggestions below will assist you in finding your way.

Humidity: August is probably the muggiest, hottest and wettest month of the year, but it does get better in September….a lot better. In the interim, you may want to invest in ‘Hippo’ water absorbers. You’ll find them on the grocery and convenience stores shelves – white box, pink lid, cardboard cover with friendly-looking hippo half-full of water. Remove the foil lid (leave on the white one) and place throughout the house where you have leather, dry goods, or anywhere you want to protect from the humidity. The air-conditioner also helps, but as you’ll discover if you’re paying the utility costs, electricity can be quite expensive here.

Mosquitoes: Along with the extra rain from typhoons in surrounding areas come the mosquitoes…and they’re hungry. Although in Canada I tended more toward natural repellants, I’ve resorted to using the commercial (chemical) ones here out of self-defense. The various insect repellants (from low to high tech) can be found grouped together in all supermarkets and convenience stores. Mosquitoe netting is also available in many locations. Although you may find mosquitoes in your home all year, even February, this is really the worst time for them. Come September, netting is usually not necessary.

Preparing for the dryness of winter: We don’t get a lot of snow any more in most areas of Korea, however, it does get cold and it is very dry. I was used to long hard winters, but I had not expected the dryness. Here are a few ways of preparing for it:
- Buy a humidifier for each room, more than one if the room is large.
- Check your wood furniture. If it’s never been exposed to very dry weather or if you’ve come from a very humid climate, be prepared to put a humidifier or ‘bowl’ of water under or (in some cases) in it. Depending on the year, you’ll want to start doing that around December, definitely in January and February.
- Stock up on good quality moisturizers for the whole family.
- The dryness along with other factors (antibiotic resistant germs, certain cultural practice in Korea, etc) also makes it very likely that newcomers to Korea will fall prey to colds, flues and bronchitis the first winter. It’s not a bad idea to boost your immune system before winter gets here. Although supplements are not as easily found here as they may be in your home country, a number of North American and European products are distributed here. 

Finding what you need: The Korean market has opened up a lot in recent years, however, there are familiar products you just won’t find here. It’s not just a matter of familiar brands, but of certain types of products just aren’t in the Korean culture or come in a form totally different from what you may be used to. However, sometimes what you’re looking for does exist it, but isn’t in an obvious location. We’ve tried to provide some information in various sections of the website, including Living in Korea and Moving to Korea – Shopping (see also What to Bring). The Forum is a great place to go and ask questions and also see what’s been asked previously. Some of this information will also make its way on to the K4E Q&A section, so don’t forget to check that out as well. For those wanting to see for themselves, contact me about my Shoppers’ Delight Tours – SIWA members can sign up through the Interest Group program. If you’re not a SIWA member, contact me at for more information.

Courses for Expat Women in Seoul: SIWA (Seoul International Women’s Association) offers a wide range of ‘courses’ by its members for its members, called Interest Groups.  The list of courses should be posted on the SIWA site in early September but you can expect to see my shopping and cooking tours, of course, but also language, cooking, arts & crafts, fitness, cultural experience, personal development courses, among others. Also a great chance to meet other people in a smaller group setting.

How to Meet People: Getting to know other people is an important part of settling in and there are a great many ways of doing so. 
SIWA (in Busan, BIWA and Daegu, DIWA) provide networking opportunities for women of all nationalities. Each offers various programs of interest to its members and also raises money through a yearly Bazaar that it then distributes to Korean charities. For more information check out their websites.

  • BIWA, DIWA, SIWA and other community organizations and their website or contact details are listed in the Living in Korea / Meeting People section as well as in the Directory. Sometimes very large groups can be intimidating, but there are smaller associations of people of the same nationality or those who share hobbies or interests.
  • Volunteering is another good way to meet people, learn about the country and keep your skills active. Each organization has committees and projects that could use your help. We list some of the volunteer opportunities in Seoul/Gyeonggi-do and elsewhere in Korea on this site. You may also want to check out the Special Interest and Community Theatre/Entertainment that are available.  If you have a  particular interest that is not mentioned on the site go on the Forum and let people know. Someone who shares your interests or knows of an opportunity may see your request and get back to you.
  • Korea Culture Learning Opportunities exist all over the place. You can learn about the country’s history, art, music, language, films, etc. Information can be found in What’s Going On and in the Activities section (click on the Activities tab on the menu and go from there). 

Work for trailing spouses: There are employment opportunities available although they may be somewhat limited due to language and cultural constraints. There are also immigration procedures to follow, but these are not insurmountable. Some trailing spouses – male and female – have found network marketing to be an option as well. One way to find out about some of them is to ask on the Forum and/or to contact

K4E Events E-newsletter:  Korea4Expats sends out an e-newsletter (via email) about twice a month. The newsletter highlights some of the events listed in our What's Going On section and also provides links to some of the new/updated pages on the site. To get on the mailing list, send an email to (Our mailing list is completely confidential).

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