My Favorite Places to Shop in Seoul: Seoul Series Pt. 4

There are so many great places to shop in Seoul. We spent more time shopping in Hongdae since that was where our apartment was. Each day, we would venture out for tours or tattoos or amusement parks. But we also went out and walked around Hongdae at least once a day either before we went on adventures or oftentimes, in the evening after we had rested a bit. So, the majority of these shops are in Hongdae, though almost all of them have shops all over Seoul.

First on the list is Etude House.

Etude House

Etude House is a cosmetics company based in South Korea. Not only do they have cosmetics, they have amazing skin care masks! They are also pretty inexpensive. They were running a sale when my sister and I went. So, we each walked out with probably 40 or more face masks for around $20 American.

Not only do I love their products, I was impressed that the employees were more than happy to help us find the correct CC cream for our skin even though there was a slight language barrier!

The decor of the shop is very dainty and pink and feminine. However, as with many shops in South Korea, there isn’t a lot of space to move around.

Next Up?



TonyMoly is another cosmetics brand in South Korea. My favorite thing about TonyMoly? The packaging is super cute. Want banana-scented hand lotion that comes in a container shaped like a banana? TonyMoly has it! Want a lip scrub that’s in the shape of lips? TonyMoly!

Be warned though, TonyMoly products are heavily scented. If you have an allergy to fragrances or have respiratory issues, use TonyMoly with caution. I have mild asthma and the fragrances don’t bother me. However, one of my friends has skin that is sensitive to strong fragrances. So, many TonyMoly products irritate her skin.



Artbox was by far, our favorite shop. We literally went there at least once a day. This shop is a great place to get souvenirs as well as little odds and ends you might need in South Korea. We got everything from slippers to wear in the apartment to luggage straps to hold our suitcases together on the trip back to the airport. We also got external batteries for our electronic devices, hats, tablet holders, sleep masks and bandannas.

Artbox may be a small shop, but they have a wide variety of items to choose from. Not only that, Artbox is a duty-free seller. If you are a foreigner, they will automatically hand you the paperwork to fill out as well as your receipt. Also, Artbox does charge you for a bag if you need one. If I remember correctly, it was around $1 American, so nothing too crazy. That being said, if you have a bag on you (from another store or a purse or backpack) you can use that instead of paying for a bag. I paid for the bag just because it was cute and it was a sturdy paper bag. So, I kept it as a souvenir for myself.

The next shop on the list is located in Myeongdong. (There may be more locations. But we went to the one in Myeongdong.)

If you are looking for Kpop cds and dvds, check out Music Korea!

Music Korea CDs

Check out my haul from our first trip to Music Korea!

There are several small kpop stores in certain subway stations. (Myeongdong station has a couple) But they are TINY! And cramped. And hot.

Shopping for Kpop in Myeongdong Station

The outside of one of the shops in the subway station.

Music Korea, however, is right outside exit 6 in Myeongdong and it’s got a lot more room to look around at your leisure.

The first thing to know about Music Korea is that it’s on the third floor of the Nature Republic building. The directions I’ve found online say to take Line 4 to Myeongdong station. Look for exit 6. Once you exit the station, turn left and walk to the street. Nature Republic is right there. (When we went, the building was covered in bright green vines and leaves. It was actually really pretty!) Now, you can go in the front door or the side door. If you go in the front door, walk straight back to the stairs. Go up the stairs until you find the music store. If you go in the side door, the stairs are right night to the door.

Music Korea has pretty good prices for most cds and dvds. And the staff was super helpful. Not only did they keep taking our stacks of cds back up to the register so we didn’t have to hold them, they were really helpful when my sister asked about cds from specific groups that she was looking for. When we finally made our purchases, they made sure to give us several posters and a ton of photo-cards from different groups of our choosing. We went back a few days later and to get more cds and walked out with even more posters and photo-cards.

By the time we were done shopping the first time, we had enough cds that we each had to buy another carry-on suitcase just to get them back to the States!

So, a few paragraphs up, I mentioned shops in the subway stations. I want to touch a little bit more on that for a second. Most of the subway stations in Seoul have tiny shops underground that you should at least take a minute to browse through.

One of my favorite things about the shops in the subway? You can get socks for around $1 American per pair! This was a total lifesaver for me. We went during the summer. So, naturally, I brought a couple of pairs of sandals and some Toms-type shoes and a pair of Vans slip ons. Now, I have been unable to find socks in the States that will actually fit in those shoes, stay up when you walk and not show. So, I usually don’t wear socks with them. (Gross, I know.)

Normally, I switch my shoes out enough that they don’t get super gross and my feet don’t stink. But I was not expecting to be as hot in South Korea as I was. Needless to say, after a couple of days spent walking, non-stop, in the heat, my feet were not holding up so well. I had blisters. My feet were swollen and tired. I needed to make a change.

Seeing as how the socks in the subway stations only cost $1, I could afford to grab a couple pair to get me through my vacation. Even if they only lasted until we got back to the States, it would be worth it. I was pleasantly surprised.

Not only did the socks help prevent more blisters, they helped my feet/shoes to not be super smelly and the no-show socks actually stayed up! I was amazed. On top of this, most of the socks I bought had cute designs or pretty colors. And, even better, they lasted through my trip and I’m still wearing them 4 months later! If you ever need socks while visiting South Korea, take my advice! Cheap socks from the subway station are the way to go!

Kakao Friends

kakaotalk friends

In one of my earlier Seoul posts, I mentioned the app Kakaotalk. If you use Kakaotalk, you might be familiar with the official characters used in the emojis. If you are a fan of the characters (or have a Kpop bias that collects them) you might be interested in visiting the Kakao Friends store in Hongdae. The store itself is massive, covering multiple floors. They sell everything from keychains to pajamas. We saw luggage and water bottles. Socks and stuffed animals. Everything has the characters on it. This store was seriously cute! It can get a little pricey, depending on what you’re buying. But even if you don’t buy anything, it’s worth it to stop in and see all the cute items.

Kakao Friends Shopping

I ended up with some Ryan gear!

Lastly, I couldn’t talk about shopping in Korea without mentioning the street-shopping!

We spent a lot of time just walking around Hongdae, checking out the street vendors. Cell phone cases, clothes, shoes, fidget spinners, accessories. We saw it all! We each bought shoes from a street vendor for around $10 American. (Pro-Tip: Before you go, find a conversion chart for Korean shoe sizes and screen-shot it! This makes it super easy to get the right size, even if there is a language barrier!)

I bought a super cute shirt from a street vendor and let me tell you! It was white and black striped with a bow in the back. The fabric was thick enough that the white wasn’t transparent at all.  Which as anyone who has ever bought a white shirt only to find out it was totally see-through can tell you, is basically a miracle to find one that isn’t transparent!

One of my favorite things about the street shopping in South Korea is that they had a lot of clothing styles that aren’t very common in the States. I loved seeing the fashion, not only on for sale by the street vendors, but also on the people walking around. There is definitely a different vibe to fashion in Seoul than we have in Kansas City. I can’t tell you how many compliments I’ve gotten on my “street purchases” since I’ve gotten home!

Here’s my haul from one of our first days in Seoul:

Seoul Trip Shopping Haul

Seriously, this was just ONE of our shopping trips. Now you know why we each had to purchase more luggage!

So, there you have it!

There are so many great places to shop in South Korea. What are your favorites?



Things To Know Before You Visit South Korea: Korea Series Pt 3

Visiting a foreign country is an exciting and worthwhile experience. I can not explain how life changing going abroad can be. Seeing a different culture first hand, trying new foods, meeting new people. There’s much to be said for getting out of your comfort zone. Going into it with an open mind and a sense of adventure is key to having a great time.

That being said, there are a few things to know before you visit South Korea. Knowing this ahead of time will help your trip go just a little smoother.

First thing’s first.


I know what you’re thinking.

“Bathrooms? Really?”

Yes. Really.

If you’ve grown up in the States and have never been to Asia, the bathroom situation can be a bit intimidating. Squat toilets, hand washing, “no flush” rules. What is all of this?

So, what is a squat toilet, you ask? A squat toilet is a toilet that you squat over to do your business. Ha.Ha. No. Really.

It looks similar to a urinal, but instead of being mounted to the wall, it’s laid out on the floor. I have never personally used a squat toilet, however, it’s my understanding that if you “hover” as you would over a “western” toilet, it’s going to end unpleasantly. But, if you squat straight down, you’ll be fine.

If you are nervous or uncomfortable using a squat toilet, no worries. Most public bathrooms have both squat toilets and western toilets. Oftentimes, there is a sign on the door to each stall that depicts one or the other to let you know what you’re walking into.

Speaking of stalls! Do you ever go into a public restroom and accidentally make awkward eye contact through the cracks around the stall doors? Well, not in South Korea! Want to know why?


I kid you not. You go in and close the door and bam! Actual privacy! My mind has been blown! I did not know you could have an fully enclosed bathroom stall. But apparently, this is a thing! And I miss it every time I use a public bathroom in America!

Now, here’s a couple of things I do not miss.

  1. In South Korea, in public bathrooms, you can not flush the toilet paper. The pipes and sewage systems are too old. Ladies, this means no flushing tampons either! There is a trashcan next to every toilet for you to throw away your used toilet paper. In your first few days, this will be hard to remember and get used to. After a couple of days though, it’ll be second nature to you and you won’t even think about it.
  2. Hand-washing. In America, we’re taught to wash our hands after using the bathroom. We’re all about using hand sanitizer and not touching doorknobs or toilet handles if at all possible. So, it comes as quite a shock to see people not washing their hands after using a public bathroom. Now, it becomes immediately apparent why they aren’t washing their hands in most cases. There is usually only an air dryer, no paper towels. At first thought, this doesn’t seem to be an issue. However, once you wash your hands and go to dry them, you’re lucky if the hand dryer actually works. When this is the case, you’re left with no choice than to come out flinging water everywhere after washing your hands. (Pro-tip: Buy a handkerchief or bandanna! They work great for drying your hands as well as wiping sweat if you visit during the summer!)

Now that we’re done with the bathroom discussion, let’s move on!

Recycling! Seoul is huge on recycling! This is awesome! There is one draw back that we found while in Seoul to so much recycling. It’s almost impossible to find a trashcan on the streets of Seoul. You will occasionally find recycling bins, but each one is only for specific items. Cans and bottles? Covered! Paper? Got it! Food or random trash items that can’t be recycled? Good luck! You’ll probably be carrying that item until you get back to your hotel or place of residence.

This will change how you go about your day. Stop in to the neighborhood convenience store to get a drink? Grab the bottle, not the can. The bottle can be closed and thrown into a purse or bag if you don’t finish it all at once. If you stop in to a coffee shop or fast food restaurant, take your time and eat your food and drink your drink before you leave. Not only will this allow you to throw away any leftovers without searching for a trashcan or recycling bin, it will also give you time to just relax. Take a break for a few minutes. Enjoy watching the people pass on the streets! There’s so much to see, if you just take a minute to look around. Enjoy the time this gives you. And remember, recycling is good for everyone! Do your part to help out!

So, what’s next?

Mopeds! Food deliver services are widely used in Korea. This means there are mopeds everywhere. And they are in a hurry. They do not limit themselves to just using the streets to get where they are going. They will frequently pop up onto the sidewalk and barrel through throngs of people to get to their destination.

In my first few days in Seoul, I felt as though I was constantly dodging mopeds. After a couple of days, you get used to it, and suddenly, it’s just normal and not a big deal. Don’t stress too much. It seems that delivery drivers are extremely used to weaving between groups of people in a hurry. As with anything, be aware of your surroundings and you’ll be fine!

Speaking of narrow pathways, one of my biggest issues with Korea was the lack of personal space. In America, we are used to everyone having their own personal “bubble.” This means, don’t get too close to me. You stay in your bubble, I’ll stay in mine.

This does not exist in Korea. I can not tell you how many times I was at the cash register paying for something and someone came up behind me, oftentimes close enough to be touching me. I was never uncomfortable because I thought they were going to rob me or anything like that. I felt completely safe the entire time I was in Korea. No, this was more that, as an American, I’m 100% not used to strangers casually inviting themselves into my personal space. But here I was. Paying for 30 face masks while a random person leaned over my shoulder to look at lipstick.

In relation to this, you need to be aware of escalator etiquette. In America, we stagger ourselves on the escalator. Meaning, if I get on the escalator with a friend, they take the first stair, and I take the next stair, but on the opposite side. This is partially so that we can look at each other and talk. But also because this allows us to give one another a bit of personal space.

This is not the case in Korea. For whatever reason, people will get on the escalator and walk it like regular stairs. I kid you not. Even though there is almost always a set of stairs right next to the escalator. So, when getting on the escalator, the proper procedure is to stand directly behind the person in front of you. If you forget to do this, you are almost guaranteed to have someone walk up behind you and then either release an annoyed sigh or start tapping their foot to let you know they want passed you.

Do not question this. Just roll with it. Yes, it can be incredibly annoying and frustrating. But remember, you are a guest in this country. Things will not be done exactly the way you are used to. This is all part of the experience!

Speaking of being a guest in South Korea: If you are not of Asian decent, everyone will stare at you. Don’t be alarmed or offended. South Korea is still a homogeneous society. This means that if you are of non-Asian ethnicity, you will stand out like a sore thumb. For the most part, everywhere you go, you will be the only Westerner. In my time in South Korea, the only time I saw more than two other Westerners in the same place as us, was when we were on a group tour.

Since foreigners are hard to come by, people will stare at you as you pass. Once again, don’t be offended and don’t freak out. You probably don’t have anything on your face. You just look different than what Koreans are used to. And if you’re like me, you were already staring at them because they have awesome style and you’re trying to figure out if you could get a shirt like that back home or if you’d have to buy it in Korea.

If it makes you uncomfortable, my advice is to “catch them” staring at you. Make eye contact and they will almost always look away, embarrassed at being caught staring. But mostly, remember that your personal style of clothing or hair or tattoos or piercings isn’t what they are used to. Maybe they’re trying to figure out if they could pull of the same hair cut as you or where they can buy a similar dress.

Now, one of my absolute favorite things about Korea is special seats on the subway. Now, we don’t have a subway system in Kansas City. So, this may be normal in cities that have subways. But I’ve never seen anything like it. In South Korea, there are specific seats in every subway car for the elderly, people with disabilities, pregnant women and people with small children.

Unless you fall into one or more of these categories, these seats are not for you. Do not sit down. You can get away with sitting in the seat for pregnant women, but you are expected to get up if a pregnant woman gets on the train. However, if the entire train is full and the only seats left are in the section for elderly and disabled people, you are not allowed to sit there unless you fall into those categories. And even if you do fall into those categories, it’s all relative. If you see someone get on the train that needs that seat more than you, it is expected that you get up so that person can sit down.

So, how do you know what seats are special seats? Easy! They have a sign. The seat for pregnant women has a picture of a cartoon pregnant woman behind it and a pink square on the floor in front of it. Sometimes, the seat may even be pink.

The other section will be the back section of the train car. There will be a line of seats on each side, and they will have a sign behind or next to them depicting someone with a cane, a pregnant woman, someone with a crutch and someone carrying a small child.

Now, understand this. The subway will almost always been full. There will be times when you have been walking for hours and your exhausted and your feet hurt and all you want to do is sit down. And when you get on the train, every seat will be taken and there will be hoards of people standing. And as you pan the train car, hoping for a seat, you’ll see a couple of seats in the back that are empty. The temptation is there. But remember, this seat isn’t for you. It’s just not. That’s why everyone else is standing. Don’t be that rude foreigner that takes the seat that’s meant for someone else. Just don’t.

So, that’s my list of things to know be aware of before going to South Korea. Is there anything I forgot? Is there anything that you wish you had known before going to a foreign country?

Falling In Love: Seoul Series Pt. 1

I recently took a trip to South Korea. And I was instantly in love.

So, how does one fall in love with a country or city? It’s easy, really. When the country is as amazing as South Korea.

There were several things that made me fall in love with South Korea, and Seoul in particular.

The first was the people. My older sister and I went to Korea knowing only how to say, “Hello” and “Thank you” in Korean. We didn’t know the language. The money. The subway system. We could barely pronounce the names of neighborhoods. We landed in Korea with only a basic idea of how to make our way to our Airbnb apartment in Hongdae.

It would have been easy for us to get lost and overwhelmed and frustrated. However, the people of Seoul were kind and welcoming. It seemed that the people of South Korea wanted us to feel welcome and at home.

If we looked lost, they would stop and ask us where we were going. Even if they didn’t speak more than a few words of English. We were helped by strangers in the subway when our luggage was too heavy to lift off the train. A tour guide helped us order food at a restaurant. A group of grandmas in Busan offered me a seat on the train next to them and then gave me the thumbs up and big smiles when I sat down. The security guard at our apartment building asked us if we had eaten yet and if we were enjoying our time in Seoul. A group of passing school children waved at us as we sat in a cafe drinking smoothies.

The more time we spent taking in the sites and shopping and eating, the more Seoul started to feel like home in a way that no other city aside from Kansas City has before.

The second thing that really made me love Seoul was the combination of ancient and modern. Visiting the City Hall area, there are several ancient palaces. They are beautiful and breathtaking and stunning. And what made them stand out even more was that they were surrounded by modern skyscrappers.

New and Old

There’s a huge, very old Buddhist temple right across the street from a giant, modern shopping mall.

The left side of the street:

Temple in Seoul

The right side of the street:

Coex Mall

When walking down this street in Gangnam, you hear the noise of the traffic. The movement of people from one place to another. But as you pass through the entryway to the temple, you hear nothing but a peaceful calm. The day we visited, they still had paper lanterns from a recent holiday. As the breeze worked it’s way through, we could hear the gentle flapping of tiny banners hung from each lantern. It was easily one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever visited.

Lanterns in the Wind

The third thing that made me fall in love with Seoul was that there is so much to do and see and explore. From palaces, to street shopping. The trick-eye museums and animal cafes. The DMZ and amusement parks. South Korea is a world of it’s own and we were never bored.

I’ll do another post of some of my favorite places that we visited. (Including my absolute favorite stores to shop.) Suffice it to say, after two weeks, there was still so much that we didn’t have time to see and do. South Korea truly has wonderful things to offer for just about anyone, you just have to know where to look!

Between the wonderful and kind people, the combination of modern and ancient, and the abundance of things to do, I have fallen in love with South Korea. My heart has felt homesick ever since I landed back in the states. But I know that someday soon, I will make my way back to my second home and find more reasons to love it.

Have you visited a place that instantly felt like a second home? Where do you want to visit someday?