Life in Korea as an English teacher seems to be a never-ending journey of sorts. Everywhere you turn, there is something new and different, which makes your time in Korea very interesting. From taking the subway to exploring the local Korean convenience stores – things are simply not the same as they are back home… and that is sort of the point of traveling across the world to teach English in Korea!
Check out this awesome and insightful video made by Ben below, who explores the ins and outs of Korean convenience stores. As you will see, they are set up to be a one-stop-shop that satisfies the everyday needs of Koreans.
From being able to quick charge your cell phone to grabbing a bag of shrimp-flavored chips to eating dinner – you’ll find all that you need!
Strange Snack Foods
You almost need to take caution when you are randomly picking out a snack for yourself, if you are not sure what that snack actually is.
A perfect example of this are ‘peel sausages’…which, in the name sounds like they would be sausages, right? However, in the photo above, they look more like cheese sticks! Both guesses would be wrong.
These peel sausages are actually made from fish products. Think of a this as consisting of the ingredients that would go into a hot dog, but is made of fish instead of…the stuff that goes in a hot dog.
Try this snack at your own peril…however, most Westerners are not big fans.
Shrimp chips on the other hand, may sound like a very weird flavor for westerners, but are actually quite good. They can be found anywhere and go great with a bottle of Soju or beer!
Charging Your Cell Phone & Reloading Your Subway Card
While you’re munching on some seafood snacks, you can recharge your phone at one of the super-quick battery charging stations. For around 1000 won, you’re phone will be charged in no time.
You can also reload your subway card at Korean convenience stores. Charging your phone here would be a better place to do this than at the actual subway station where there will likely be crowds of people lined up, especially during rush hours.
Grabbing a Quick & Healthy Bite
As Ben discusses above, one of the main healthy snacks that you will find in most Korean convenience stores is called ‘kim bab triangles’ – which translates to seaweed (kim) rice (bab) triangles. These are as filling as they are healthy (well most flavors!).
Kim bab triangles are wrapped in a way where you can easily peel and pull (instructions on the package), so that you can take a bite at a time and not have the entire triangle fall apart on you.
The main flavors you will find are: tuna and mayo, bulgogi, kimchi and spicy chicken. However, you will find different Korean convenience stores have other flavors, so make sure to explore all of them!
The Korean Ramen Culture
Ramen is such a popular go-to meal that in most Korean convenience stores you will find booths where people can sit or stand and eat Ramen. Boiling water is available to fill your cup as are chopsticks. Spoons are there as well, but most Koreans choose to ‘slurp’ the soup once the noodles are done.
There are endless kinds of Ramen that you will find including Kimchi, Fire Chicken, Curry, Spicy Seafood and more! So get out there and explore and discover your favorite! It will soon become your go-to snack of choice.
If you want to try the highest rated Ramen flavors, you can check out The Ramen Rater website which gives you details about the top 10 rated flavors.
Soju: Korea’s #1 Choice of Alcohol
Soju is the number one spirit drink of Koreans by far. If you go into restaurants, you will no doubt see these green bottles covering tables with Korean men (for the most part), continually pouring shots for themselves and their dinner guests.
Part of the appeal of Soju is its cost. At a Korean restaurant, a bottle of Soju, with an alcohol level of 19-21%, will run you a whole 3,000 Won, around $2.50 USD; a bottle at a Korean convenience store will be around 900-1100 Won or about $1 USD.
In addition to straight Soju, you can also find many flavors that will make drinking it a little easier. Lemon and cherry are popular and are good with ice.
Beer, Wine and Other Alcohol
Soju certainly isn’t for everyone. So it’s a good thing that beer is the second most enjoyed alcoholic beverage in Korea!
And guess what? You can find beer in any Korean convenience store – not only that, but you can find a multitude of kinds of beer from all around the world.
Beers from Guinness to Heineken to Becks to Stella to even Molson Canadian (you Canucks out there will understand the irony!).
However, the cost of these imported beers are a little steep, especially compared to its Korean counterparts.
While Korean beer usually contains less alcohol (4%), and doesn’t quite have the depth of flavor the western beer has, you will be able to buy a 500 ml can for around 1500 won ($1.50 USD), while a can of Carlsberg would run you around 3500 won ($3.50 USD). That may not sound like a big difference, but it will add up over time, especially if you are trying to save money while teaching English in Korea.
Our advice is to try different Korean food and drinks to see what you like. It’s fine to have a taste from home once in a while, but since you are living and teaching English in Korea, you should get out there and see what is out there for you to explore!