When packing your suitcase to go abroad there will always be these little things of which you think ‘o they will have that over there’, but some (girl) products that you will ‘obviously’ find in European and American (drug)stores might actually not be available. I experienced this first-hand being in Seoul South Korea. Here’s a list of products/clothes that you might want to put in your bag before leaving on your holiday to Asia, and especially when moving abroad for a longer period of time. This post is mainly directed towards girls, but guys you are obviously free to read it too.
Tampons – almost unfindable and very expensive, not widely used in Asia.
This one out of all the ‘missing products’ bothers me, and many of the foreign girls here in Seoul, the most. When I ‘lived’ in Japan for a month last year I already experienced that tampons are not as easy to come by there as in Europe or the States, but they were not unfindable meaning that most grocery stores sold them. I can’t remember how much one box of tampons costs in Japan, but it was for sure more than in Europe. Here in South Korea however you could deem tampons as ‘unfindable’. None of the small grocery stores sell them. Only at big supermarkets like E-mart you will, after you searched through three rows of pads, find them. One box of 18 tampons costs as much as 7800 won (5,40 euro/7 US dollars). You can have a decent dinner in Korea for this price.
Another thing you might want to keep in mind regarding tampons in Asia is that they only come with an plastic insert applicator (I believe most of them in the States do so as well, but not in Europe). Quite convenient for when you’re traveling and you might have you use public bathrooms which aren’t always that clean (although they do a very good job here in Seoul!).
Thongs – not worn as often in South Korea/Japan as in the Western world
Most European and American girls I know wear thongs on a daily basis, in Asia more girls wear panties as their daily underwear. At least that’s what my Korean friend told me and what I’ve noticed looking around in (underwear) stores here in Seoul. We were at the Forever21 and the thongs were on sale. ,,They are always on sale, because not that many people wear those here,” my friend told me. So you might have a harder time finding comfortable thongs here, but if you do find them you will most likely get a good deal on them.
Sunscreen/Aftersun/foundation without whitening
In the Western world being tan is considered beautiful, but in Asia being white is generally prefered. Most sunscreens, aftersun products and foundations in Asia therefore have a whitening effect. Now there is a difference between whitening and brightening, but I will blog about that in more detail another time. Even though I live in a tanned-skin-preferring world, I personally don’t mind being white, but the idea of chemically (for example by taking medicine) whitening/darkening my skin horrifies me. I must admit though that I haven’t done much research about the way these products work. Please know that the products shown above are only meant for illustration and have nothing to do with my ‘chemical’ comment. But if you prefer being tan, or are content with your natural color, I recommend you purchase your sunscreen and foundation at home instead of in Asia.
For people with black skin: you won’t find foundation your color in any drugstore or Korean brand make-up store here in South Korea. I haven’t really checked if this is the case in Japan as well, but I dare to guess it is.
Shampoo/Conditioner – only available in family packages, named differently (South Korea based)
Shampoo’s, conditioners and body soaps only come in huge sizes. To give you an idea of the size: my roommate who washes her hair every day is after 3,5 months here only at her second bottle. If you stay in a hotel during your stay this is something you don’t have to worry about as most hotels/hostels provide shampoo, conditioner and body soap. Unless you want a specific type of shampoo/conditioner of course, in that case I strongly recommend you to bring it from home. If you forget to do so you can find smaller bottles at Korean make-up stores like Skin Food, but these will be very expensive for a small bottle.
In The Netherlands conditioner is called conditioner, but some brands in South Korea (even Western brands) call it ‘Rinse’.
These are the main products I missed/struggled with.If you traveled to Asia (especially outside of South Korea and Japan) and have any tips/see things that I left out please let me know in the comments below.