Further Shopping Adventures in Korea

So, I’m at the end of my second week teaching kinder and elementary level English in Korea. I am beginning to reevaluate the belief I had that I am good with kids and that  I like them. This is perhaps untrue. I still don’t really have wifi, so I write this in a Starbucks near the subway station, sipping an overpriced herbal tea and listening to their surprising choice of jazz standards humming in the background.

One of my neighbors and fellow teachers went with me today to find the department store in the neighborhood. It’s about a ten to fifteen minute walk from the apartments. The department store was about 7 stories high and there were many boutiques nearby. K, the other teacher is also new and so awaiting her first paycheck. We weren’t planning on buying so much as just scoping it out, getting to know the suburb a little better along the way. Along the way we kept seeing advertisements for an impressionist art exhibit, so there must be an art museum in the area as well. Find that might be my adventure during Chuseok break next week.

The department store was rather unnerving. It wasn’t like the cute university friendly ones I had been to in central Seoul. I know this area is home to many very wealthy people, but I was not expecting this. It was a clean, pristine, art deco looking place with each designer label having its own little room for you to shop one line at a time.

“If there’s more empty space than clothing,” K said, “You know it’s going to be really expensive.”

Her prediction proved true. One posh little room had some very cute retro, Jackie O styled dresses and jackets. We paused and K tentatively checked the label on a green blouse. I learned something about her today; she doesn’t have a good poker face. As we walked away from that particular room she whispered, “I just touched a thousand dollar shirt!”

Well, I figured it out later, the shirt was probably only around $830. Still. On the upper floors we found the slightly cheaper, youth geared area. There was actually a Gap in a department store. A small one, but still, a Gap store. I actually really love the look of a lot of the men’s fall fashion in the shops. A lot of great knits, rich saturated colors, patches on the elbows, pockets and collars in accent fabrics. Really classy retro style suiting with double breasted waist coats, but all in that very modern slim fit cut.

“I feel like I want a boyfriend just to have someone to dress up in these clothes,” I told K.

“We should just hang around here and look for guys buying these clothes.”

“Come to the department store to shop for a boyfriend?” I suggested. We laughed and decided it was time to leave. There was no way we could be buying anything here.

On a strange note it seems like most lingerie mannequins are glowing. They light up like, “look a bra and some lacy underpants!” No other mannequins seem to be light up, just the ones displaying underwear. I’ve seen this strange phenomenon at a couple shops now.

Near the department store was an E-Mart. This is the nearest thing to a Walmart that Korea seems to have. On the main floor there was clothing, housewares, cosmetics, etc. There’s a Baskin Robbins, a Starbucks, a Jamba Juice (the dude behind the counter gave my juice card 2 stamps– K was mad she only got one), a Payless, and a pharmacy all at the front. Downstairs there was a huge grocery store with lots of wine and a bakery. Not to mention free samples. Heck yeah– K was all over that. Upstairs, on the top floor, there is a bookshop and an Outback Steakhouse. Yeah, I don’t really understand that either.

We decided that we had enough excitement for the day, so headed back. K went home and I went to mooch some public wifi here. After payday we are going to go crazy at E- Mart. We’ve already discussed making this a regular weekly excursion.

Some things I have noticed about Korean shopping are that it’s a bit more chaotic. At least to my sanitized western perspective. It’s a bit more thrown together in a way that doesn’t fit my understanding of order and organization. Many things are cheap or at least decently priced, but some random things are quite expensive. Bed sheets are all pretty crazy expensive. Apparently fitted bedsheets aren’t the norm here? Certain fruits are surprisingly expensive too. Avocados are 3 times more expensive than in the States.

Feminine hygiene is sold a bit differently, but that will be its own separate post full of awkward anecdotes. And since it will be separate, my more squeamish male readers can just skip that post and leave their delicate sensibilities in tact.

Looking forward to next week: only two days of work and then Chuseok break!

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