Korean Experience: Shopping

27 Jun

Forget “Made in China.”  Anything made in Korea is of substantial quality… and very, very cheap.  You can get nice tops, blouses, tanks, t-shirts, dresses at markets for $10 to $30.  A pair of shoes will cost you $8 to $30.  If you prefer to shop at high end department stores and chain stores, you can still expect to spend considerably less than you would at an American store.  A nice complete suite could cost a guy about $130 compared to $199 at men’s warehouse.  In short, shopping is Korea can be a happy dizzying experience.

There certain markets that are well-known by visitors; Myeondong, Itaewon and Namdaemun.

I was told by my house-mates that Namdaemun was smaller and less-know but things were considerably cheaper so I made that my main spot.  I bought four Korean long spoons, and four sets of chopsticks.  I also bought two banchan bowls, two rice bowls and two big (cereal) bowls for Turtle to use for his breakfast.  I remember the first time he put them in the dishwasher, he turned to me and said, “is it safe to put the china – I mean the Korea – in the dishwasher?”  He said this with a straight face, I swear.

I also got him three pairs of cotton boxers he swears are the most comfort-fitting he had ever worn.  As well as two ties that got rave reviews at Church mass.

Once when wandering around Hanok village (a 600-year old neighborhood in Seoul … which I will blog about later) I saw this small shop with nice silver and low-grade gold hand-made jewelry.  By the time I left I had spent a little over $100.  I got a nice gold-plated key chain and earrings for Turtle’s mom and four bracelets for a bunch of friends.  As for me…let’s just say I will not have to purchase earrings, bracelets or necklaces for a very, very long time.  Sorry, Avon.  Sorry Claire’s.  Sorry Lia Sophia.  I got my cheap fix.  I mean, I spent 1/3 of what I would normally spend at any of these American retailers.

Now, here is the down-side.  Yes, there is a downside.  Asian women are TINY.  This would not bother me at all if I did not see them wolfing down carb after carb-filled, rice, noodles, ice-cream, bagels and other things.  I even asked a group of them once, “where is all of this food GOING???

In the United States, I am a respectable “medium.” I wear size 6-8 pants and size 10 dresses. In Seoul, nothing and I mean nothing, fit.  I could not even buy a pair of shoes and I am a size 9.  I gave up after trying endlessly to squeeze my feet into pair after cute pair.  I cried a little, I won’t lie.  As for clothes, the only thing I found to fit were three pairs of pajama bottoms in XXL.  It kinda reminded me of when I go to get my nails done and the Asian women start criticizing and nitpicking at all the faults on my feet in order to get me to buy more services – I almost always give in to them too.  Talk plummeting self-esteem.  Even the “large” t-shirt I got Turtle didn’t fit.  He gave it back to me since it fit me better.  If only … I can see myself getting a new wardrobe for like $800.

The inexpensive clothing explained why Korean women are able to dress quite stylishly.  They can do it because clothes and shoes and accessories are very affordable, even the knock-offs look so well-made. Everyone dresses like fashionistas.  I, on the other hand was frumpy and matronly  by comparison.  They take their fashion tips from Vogue and Gossip Girls.  I kid you not.  You should have seen the disappointment in my housemate Lin Jiang when I told her that only about 25 percent of American women – most of whom are models, actresses and socialites – dress like the people in Gossip Girls.  I showed her a girl in sneakers, jeans and t-shirts and told her that was a typical American girl wore.

Anyway – to cut this very long post short, shopping in Seoul is a wonderful experience if you are the size of a Nicole Ritchie.  Other than that you are really shit out of luck.  Not that finding your size is impossible, chances are you just can’t dash into a random store and pick something your size off a rack.  You may have to go to specific markets (like Itaewon) that cater to us fat foreigners.  It is still worth the trip even if you go to the markets for the atmosphere.

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6 Responses to “Korean Experience: Shopping”

  1. Myne Whitman June 27, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    LOL…so guessing Turtle visited? I’m not too big on shopping so I’ll be looking forward to the post on the 600 years old neighborhood.

  2. EDJ June 27, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    Haha I am not a size 6-8 so I can only imagine how damaging it would be for me to try and shop there.

    The “korea” you brought back looks very modern. Very cool. I like dishware like that.

    The whole thing about Koreans (and other asian peoples) dressing like models, I have noticed that too. When I was in college so many of the girls/women always appeared looking like they had stepped out of a fashionista magazine. I always wondered how they could afford the stuff, but I guess now we know.

  3. BBB June 28, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    I’m still laughing at the fact that he said “korea” lol cute
    Have i already stated that i want to visit asia?

    well i guess shopping would be out of it, since im not even close to a 6-8 lol

  4. Ginger June 28, 2011 at 5:44 am #

    Lucid, tell me you carried dishware from dishware from Korea back home?? Thats strange shopping for a bona-fide Nigerian woman!lol.
    I can feel you on the clothes. when my Sis visited Singapore, she got these lovely suits for me and was like ‘Ginger, Asia was made for tiny people like you. I was so happy to know there was this population of like-sized people. sigh. sorry hun.

    You are really painting a lovely picture of Korea.

  5. eccentricyoruba June 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    I believe Korean women are the skinniest among the OECD.

    While I’ve never been to Seoul, I remember having similar worries last year before heading to Tokyo. I recall joking with my friend that the only things I’d buy, that’d fit me, would be hair ornaments and jewellery. However when I got there, I found that I could fit into Japanese clothes and shoes pretty easily, with exceptions. For my first few days in Japan, my suitcase was lost in transit so I had to find Japanese clothes and underwear. I’m lucky I had a friend based in Tokyo to take me shopping and I’m still surprised they have bras in my size in Tokyo. Then again, my friend is almost the same size and wears the same shoe size as me, and she’s Japanese.

    As for shoes, I bought 2 pairs of shoes in Harajuku and both of them ‘fit’ me, one pair I could wear and walk in, the other I couldn’t walk in without my feet throbbing. I bought a few dresses but I’ve noticed that the dressy tops I bought were too tight across my bust. T-shirts bought in medium size were no problem for me.

    I don’t consider myself tiny or thin even (people back home, in Nigeria, always tell me I look fat when I show them the pics I took in Japan) and I know I wouldn’t fit into trousers bought there. I’m not even sure of my American size, it’s either a size 2 or 4.

    /sorry for the length!

  6. Vera Ezimora July 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

    I don’t understand what you said about the boxers and them being comfortable. I would need to see them on Turtle to understand exactly what you mean. Inugo? Ehen, and ehm, don’t be coming here and telling me what you bought oh. Which one did you buy for me?

    *hisses and walks away*

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