It’s not the hottest place in Asia, but that’s little comfort in 35 degree heat and 90% humidity. Especially when you don’t have a car, so you are walking everywhere. Even worse when your apartment doesn’t have an air conditioner. When the monsoons start to roll in for July and August, then you’re fighting to stay dry and cool. It’s virtually impossible.
Light cotton is the key. Even when it’s not extremely hot, everything starts to get sticky. And then it rains. You need light layers that can dry quickly. Jeans are suffocating and will feel like they are vacuum sealed to your legs by the end of the day. Cotton trousers or dress shorts are better, flowing skirts and dresses are best. Sorry guys.
For work or evenings out, it’s important to have a top layer to go over your summer dress or tank top (because shoulders are scandalously unprofessional in Korea). I recommend Uniqlo’s summer cardigans. They have them in 3/4 and full sleeves. They are light and sheer– pretty much the lightest top layer you can wear.
And for shoes, you can choose to go with rain boots or something that is allegedly waterproof, or you can stop fighting it. Sandals are your best bet because they dry quickly. Or you can go even further down the rabbit hole and buy… Crocs. Turns out that Crocs makes a lot of cuter styles now that are pretty far from their sad clog origins. Tons of people in Korea wear Crocs for the rainy season because they don’t have fabric components that will get ruined when completely drenched. They are easy to clean and without fabric, they don’t hold odor.
Korea has very strong sun compared to the US and UK. I definitely recommend wearing a light spf whenever you’re going to be out walking around. Sunglasses are slowly starting to gain popularity in Seoul, though they aren’t commonly seen outside the beach in the provinces. I recommend sunglasses regardless. Lighter colored eyes can be photosensitive, so why risk it?
If you want to be super Korean, carry a parasol. Since most Korean people desire a pale complexion, lots of women will use a “sunbrella.” Not going to lie, I carry one on days when I will be walking around outside a lot. I burn very easily. I also recommend blotting paper and a folding fan if you’re walking around outside. Your skin will become super oily very quickly and sometimes you’ll want to pick up your pony tail and fan the back of your neck. Trust me.
Around the house
Your house will quickly become a rain forest in the summer, with mildew creeping up under the wallpaper. You’ll want some sort of dehumidifying system. Ground and basement levels are the worst and certain regions of the Korea are worse. Regardless, you can buy small dehumidifiers on GMarket (Korea’s answer to Amazon) or at your local Emart. You can invest in a big industrial one as well, but they can be expensive. For specific spots, you can also buy “Thirsty Hippo” containers for a couple thousand won. They absorb water from the air and when they get full, you just dispose of them.
If you have laundry drying around the house (hardly anyone in Korea has a dryer in their apartment), I recommend cracking a window (unless your windows have no screen…) or your clothes will take days to dry.
Otherwise, just stay hydrated, try to do outdoor exercise or activities before 8 am or after 7 pm. Bug repellent is a good idea because Korean mosquitoes always seem to leave a giant welt when they bite. And when it’s hot, eat all the bingsoo. I definitely recommend that. Basically, it’s just shaved ice with fruit, condensed milk and various other toppings. From fruit syrups, to chocolate, to frozen yogurt, to cheesecake or brownie chunks– bingsoo comes in many refreshing varieties. It usually comes sized to share with a friend (or 3) which also makes it really affordable.