Adjusting to Korean Life - Grocery Shopping and Cooking at Home

Adjusting to Korean Life - Grocery Shopping and Cooking at Home


Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping in another country can be challenging. Acclimating yourself to reading new food labels, knowing what products are common and readily available, and how products are priced can all cause stress. In addition you have to figure out where to shop and what options are available to you. Luckily, in Korea, a variety of options exist for buying your groceries.

Many people still shop at local markets where you can find produce, meats, fish, as well as Korean side dishes (반찬). Other places include local marts, supermarkets (HomePlus, Lotte Mart, and EMart), and even department stores (Hyundai, Lotte, Shinsegae). There are also many online shopping portals that offer food and will deliver right to your door. Even convenience stores carry a small variety of grocery items.

So, what’s unique about grocery shopping in Korea?

Produce: Many vegetables are easy to find and prices are generally inexpensive (with some exceptions). Fruit prices can vary but beware of fruit in fancy packaging selling for premium prices as these are normally used as gifts for special occasions or holidays. If you’d like, support small business owners by visiting fresh fruit & vegetable stands or outdoor markets. You can normally haggle for prices and prices may be cheaper than your local supermarket.

Meat: Generally expensive, especially beef since a lot is imported from Australia or the USA. Local Korean beef is called Hanu (한우) and is also expensive.

Seafood: Many supermarkets and traditional markets sell a variety of frozen, dried, and fresh seafood. There are also some famous seafood markets such as Noryangjin in Seoul and Jagalchi Market in Busan.

Spices and Herbs: Certain spices and herbs can be difficult to find in Korea or are very expensive if you can find them. On the other hand, locally used spices, herbs, and sauces such as gochujang and doenjang have many varieties and are inexpensive.

Grains: You can buy very large quantities of rice at supermarkets and even some smaller marts. Although for wheat products like bread - department store bakeries, supermarkets, and Korean chain bakeries (e.g. Paris Baguette, Tour Les Jour) are better than smaller marts since they may not carry that wide of a selection of bread products. Note that Korean breads tend to be sweeter than similar western bread products. Department store bakeries will often have western style breads but at a premium price.

Cereals: Dry cereals and oatmeals are usually available in marts but may be lacking in variety. Supermarkets carry more varieties but it is usually nothing compared to a grocery store in the USA.

Tips and Tricks

Here is a tip about shopping for food in department stores. At the end of the business day the food areas of department stores will have sales on food they need to sell by the end of the day.

If you have some Korean language skills, some local marts and the larger supermarket chains will deliver to your home (a minimum spend may be required). Larger supermarket chains also offer online shopping but their websites may only be in Korean.


Unless you own a car, grocery shopping can be challenging as you have to carry everything you buy back to your home on public transport (Taxi, Bus, Subway, etc), walking, or biking. While some stores will provide plastic bags for free, others charge a small fee per bag. Some store’s bags can be reused as general trash bags, check the bag to see if it is district-specific. That being said, it is best to bring bags with you, they can be any reusable bag (plastic, canvas, etc). If you shop at a supermarket like EMart, they often provide boxes, tape, and scissors to package your purchases after checking out. At Korean Traditional Markets, it is also advised to bring your own bags to carry your purchases if you are going to purchase large amounts.

Finding international ingredients?

If you are having trouble finding certain international ingredients, there are international grocery stores and markets that sell a variety of goods. Within Seoul, these are mostly located around the Itaewon area. You may also try your luck at the American warehouse store called Costco (Membership Required) which has locations scattered around Korea. Be aware that some imported products may carry high prices.

International Grocery Markets

High Street Market

223 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul.

Korean: (주) 하이스트릿, 서울 용산구 이태원로 223 2층.


Foreign Food Mart

36 Usadan-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

Korean: (주) 코리아트레드앤드써비스, 서울 용산구 우사단로 36.


Costco [Any Costco membership card can be used worldwide. If you want to purchase membership in Korea it is currently ~KRW 40,000 per year]

Various locations around Korea.

Korean: 코스트코


Cooking at Home

In regards to kitchen space - Unless you live in a large apartment, villa, or free-standing house, kitchen space is generally limited. Counter space for food preparation is generally not very large. Cabinet and pantry space may be limited as well but at discount or online shops, other shelving and storage can supplement what is in your kitchen.



While almost all kitchens will come with a gas or electric stovetop, this may be your only cooking appliance. Stovetops are generally not very large and will often only have two burners. Full size ovens are not as common. Compact counter-top ovens are common for kitchens with limited space. A microwave may or may not be included in your kitchen. You can also find combination appliances that can function as a microwave, small oven, and steamer. Washing dishes by hand is more common than having a dishwashing machine. For one-room studio apartments and other smaller housing options, the refrigerator may not be very large (as shown above). Large apartments may have a fairly large refrigerator and even separate refrigerators for kimchi. Ice makers are rare and are most common in restaurants and cafes, not in homes. Many Koreans still believe having a water purifier or bottled water is a necessity even though tap water is safe to drink. Many people still cook with bottled water or filtered water.

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While many people do make their own Korean side dishes, there are options to buy them rather than make them on your own. There are many different stores and small shops where you can buy kimchi and other side dishes. Even convenience stores will sell individual servings of kimchi in small packets. Traditional markets will normally have banchan stalls as well. As stated earlier, department stores will also run sales close to closing time and these often include ready-to-eat side dishes and other food items.


Do you have more questions about grocery shopping or cooking in Korea? Contact the G.O.A.’L Community Mentor today!

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Secretary General Application Period Closes Sept. 30

Secretary General Application Period Closes Sept. 30

A few months ago, I announced I would be stepping down from the secretary general position at the end of this year. I wanted to provide ample time for those who were qualified for the job to consider what working for the only adoptee-led Korean adoptee non profit and non governmental organization in Korea would mean to them. We now have to start bringing the process to the next phase where we accept applications for the position and schedule interviews.

If serving the community as the next secretary general for G.O.A.’L resonates strongly with you, please find the attached job description below. To apply, please submit your CV/resume, cover letter, and two letters of reference (one personal, one professional) to [email protected] by September 30 (KST). It is our hope to have the entire process wrapped up before the annual Christmas Party so that the local community can meet the new SG then.

Serving the adoptee community through G.O.A.’L has been an honor and a privilege. I hope that we will have a great pool of candidates from which to select the next leader of our organization, but we need your support in getting the word out and with potentially identifying our next leader of the organization. Please share this post with others, especially those who you think would be great for the position. Thank you for your suppport!

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Korean Adoptee Life - Activities for Families

Korean Adoptee Life - Activities for Families

Korean Adoptee Life - Activities for Families

All photos are for informational purposes only and are property of their respective owners/institutions

Many adoptees are returning to Korea with their families. As such, many have children and wish to find appropriate family friendly activities to do in Korea. Finding opportunities for their children to interact with native Korean children may be important too. There are a variety of activities where families can spend time together as well as activities where adoptees’ children can interact and meet other children. Below are some attractions and activities to enjoy while visiting Korea with your family. Some attractions and activities may have entry fees but many museums and parks are open to the public free of charge.


Korea has museums, aquariums, and zoos scattered around the country with many located in Seoul. The grid below has some examples. COEX aquarium is located in Seoul in the COEX mall and convention facility. Gwacheon is just south of Seoul and is accessible by Seoul’s subway system. Click the links below the photos for more information.


Seoul Children’s Museum


COEX Aquarium


Gwacheon National Science Museum


Alive Museum (N Seoul Tower)

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 5.47.40 PM.pngChildren’s Museum, The War Memorial of Korea

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Lotte Aquarium

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Aqua Planet 63 (아쿠아플라넷 63)



While there is no shortage of cafes in Korea, not all are convenient for families, especially those with young children. However, these days there are cafes being created specifically for parents/guardians to enjoy with their children. Many of these cafes have food, drinks, and activities that cater to children and the parents/guardians that accompany them.


Lilliput Kids Cafe has many activities for kids, admission is per child and they have multiple locations.


Petit5’s website says it’s a multi-store where Moms and kids can have an enjoyable time together - food, fashion, parties, learning, and playing. The cafe is located in HanNamDong (한남동).


Cat and dog cafes are also quite popular but they usually have age restrictions. More unique animal cafes include a cafe that has sheep as well as one that has raccoons! Click the links below the photos for more information.


Cat Cafe Example



Lilliput Kids Cafe (키즈카페 릴리펏) (MAP)

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Petit5 (쁘띠5)


Thanks Nature Cafe (Sheep)

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 12.58.20 PM.png


Blind Alley (Raccoon) Map Link

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Dog Cafe Example (Map)



While Seoul has a reputation for not having many outdoor spaces, contrary to popular belief, there are many areas to enjoy the outdoors in and around Seoul as well as all over Korea. Korea also has a few theme parks, the most famous ones being Lotte World and Everland. Water parks are also popular in Korea as well as outdoor public pools. There are also many hiking, camping, and biking areas all over Korea. The Korean National Park website is here.  Click the links below the photos for more information.


Lotte World


Han River Park

Korean Folk Village (한국민속촌)
Seoul_Forest.jpgSeoul Forest Dream_Forest.jpgDream Forest (북서울 꿈의 숲)


Seoul Children’s Grand Park


Seoul Grand Park




Water Parks in Korea


Korea has many different festivals and exhibitions throughout the year. Depending on when you are in Korea, you can enjoy festivals and celebrations not only in Seoul but in other areas of the country as well. Other festivals coincide with major national Korean holidays. Check the schedule of Korean holidays here. Click the links below the photos for more information on some of the festivals in Korea.

Yeon Deung Hoe (Lotus Lantern Festival) (연등회)
1607952_image2_1.jpgYeongdeungpo Yeouido Spring Flower Festival (영등포 여의도 봄꽃축제) 1993552_image2_1.jpg
Damyang Bamboo Festival (담양대나무축제)

I hope this post gives an idea of what you can enjoy with your family while in Korea.


Helpful Links


Korea Tourism Organization

Korea Tourism Travel Hotline

Tourist Information Center

Volunteer/Goodwill Tour Guide


Do you have more questions about activities to enjoy with your whole family while in Korea? Contact the G.O.A.’L Community Mentor!

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Korean Adoptee Life - Advanced Level Language Student Interview

G.O.A.’L offers Korean language scholarships to a variety of universities located in Seoul. Today I am happy to bring you an interview with an advanced level Korean language student and recipient of G.O.A.’L’s Korean language scholarship. All words and thoughts are the interviewee’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of G.O.A.’L, its staff, or any university.

Can you give a brief introduction of yourself and how long you have been in Korea?

I’m a 34-year-old French adoptee currently working as a language teacher in Korea. I have lived in Korea for over 8 years.

How long have you studied Korean and where have you studied?

I have been studying for one year and two months at Kyunghee university, including a break for one semester.

How has being an adoptee affected your experience throughout Korean language school?

An ardent desire to learn the language to make a connection with Koreans and at the same time desperation because learning is so tough.

What unique perspective does being an adoptee add to being an advanced level Korean language student?

Unfortunately, reaching the advanced level doesn't mean fluency (yet). In my definition, a Korean adoptee in Korea is also a foreigner and an expat, who has to deal with the language and the cultural barriers. Climbing up the levels and becoming advanced helps to make those barriers less stressful and the experience of living in Korea smoother.

What can adoptees look forward to at language school?

An opportunity to learn the Korean language and culture, which are priceless.

How have you managed your time while being in language school?

I had to work to pay for everything and study at the same time. Often I could not rest and had very long days. It was challenging at times.

What motivates you to learn Korean? Has your motivation changed during your time in language school?

Not speaking the language was, for me, like being socially handicapped, especially since my expatriation is a long term one. I had many stressful events at work or in my social life. I still believe learning Korean is a necessity.

What challenges have you dealt with while studying Korean?

Teachers in my school were well educated and aware about different races and cultures of students. However, there were some students that had stereotypical views of others, especially those that were from environments that are not very racially or culturally diverse.

Also, for me, it was hard to mingle with my classmates due to the age gap and that adoption is not common in some of my classmates’ home countries.

Any advice for future adoptees that will study Korean language at a university program?

Keep going the more you can. Enjoy learning the language with other students. Consider yourself a foreigner to the language and culture (because you are at the time you come back to Korea).


I would like to thank our scholarship recipient for participating in this interview and sharing her thoughts about studying Korean. To learn more about the G.O.A.’L language scholarship, click here! The winter scholarship period is open as of today!

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