6 Western-friendly stores in Korea

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Last Updated on October 1, 2017 by Christine Kaaloa

6 Western-friendly Stores in Korea: Food samples anyone?

Ever taken an American road trip?

You’re passing through unfamiliar terrain and you’re hungry. You want food, supplies… But not a familiar store in sight– just a joint selling deep-fried chicken wings, a 24-hour gas station convenience store and a biker bar. Down the stretch you see it– a giant glowing… Target! Angels sing. There’s a halo over the neon red bulls-eye… and it’s right next to a big blue and yellow sign …a Best Buy!

As a traveler, the notion of a country having a lot of American one-stop shopping chains like Kmarts and Targets, spoils my notion of an exotic getaway . But as an expat creating a lifestyle abroad, it’s damn hard not to feel a whoop! when I see one.

Sales greeters in each beauty product aisle

6 Western-friendly stores in Korea for expats

Korea has one-stop shopping giants, similar to Target and Kmart… with one major difference– Korea knows how to make shopping an experience!

For that one concrete perimeter of a moment, you’re not too far from feeling like you’re back at home, stocking your icebox and apartment, with household items and groceries to keep you merry.

1. Emart

Is it silly to say I hear angelic singing whenever I see an Emart sign? I do.Emart is my favorite one-stop shopping for groceries, household items and more. It also has a food court with the best big bowl of bibimbap!

One-stop shopping (for the newly arrived):
Emart and Homeplus are the two major brands off the lips of expats as the one-stop shop for groceries, clothing, household goods, bedding and home appliances!

Vitamin shop:Yes

For those who hunger, but don’t speak Korean:
Bothchains style food courts with numbered “mock dishes” on display (occasional English translations). Go to the cashier and place your order, “Number 25, chuseyo.”
Travel agencies & photo areas to get your visa photos:
Yes. I recently got 7 visa photos for 7,000W with a one-hour turn-around. Many expats also like to get their vacation visas from the agents here.
Pharmacy:Yes .

2. Homeplus

Emart is the Korean K-mart; Homeplus is its Walmart. The experience and departments varies slightly.

One-stop shopping:Yes.

Vitamin shop:Yes

Food courts with mock dish examples:
Yes.Similar deal as Emart, but you may not always haveas broad a selection.

Expats and veggie lovers who crave a western twist:
Ashley Restaurant. A buffet-style eatery, which prepares tasty salads and euro-asian cuisine you’ll think heavenly. Sweet potato salad, couscous salad, edamame, etc… Almost half the dishes there have been vegetarian and things your western tastebuds may miss.

Travel agencies & photo areas to get your visa photos:Yes.

Pharmacy:Yes .

3. Lotte Plaza

A Lotte Plaza Shopping Mall just moved in across my neighborhood and now I don’t have to commute for anything. It’s like Emart with a department store and movie complex.

6 Western-friendly stores in Korea

One-stop shopping:Yes

Vitamin shop: Yes

Food courts with mock dish examples:Yes.

Ashley Restaurant:Sometimes.

Pharmacy: Yes

Three extra incentives: Digital Park for your last-minute tech needs
Some Lotte stores are just a super-grocery store with some household appliances. The one in my neighborhood is a “plaza”. It packs a Digital Park,a department with a slightly larger array of digital cameras and computers/ accessories, than Emarts & Homepluses.

English Translations:
Tired of feeling like a damsel in distress? I have good news. Helpless? Whoosh- gone! Some of the Lotte stores have their aisles translated in English! Wanna know the difference between detergent fabric softener and bleach? Check the aisle names!

Parking Lot Greeters:
So far I’ve only seen it with Lotte, but maybe parking lot greeters are a new wave of hospitality. Korea, you never cease to amaze me!

. ..Sometimes you’ve got a girl on a mic greeting cars with a bow and curtsy; sometimes, you’ve got ninja baton twirlers, who really gives off a performance. Inside, the lots there are attendants to point you to aisles with open stalls.

4. Shinsegae

My mom dubs it the Neiman Marcus of department stores. Ground-level and up, it stocks chic brand name apparel and beauty products. But I’m not listing this place for clothing racks.

As a vegetarian I get tired ofsearching for the staple bibimbap, soon doo bu jigae and kimbaps for my meals on the road. Sometimes, I yearn for a healthy gourmet variety. The basement floor of Shinsegae makes you feel like you’re in an exquisite Parisian bakery. It feels like a different world– where all the beautiful people go. It’s got a plethora of food chef-coated vendors to scour through, offering everything from pastries to pizza, fresh fruit smoothies, salads and hot meals prepared on the spot.

Price-wise? Don’t let the word “gourmet” fool you. This is Korea. Some dishes may cost a little more than street price, but it won’t break your bank.

Note: smaller Shinsegae stores may not have the food court. The big departments normally do, however.

One-stop shopping: No. Clothes and beauty products. Food court and gourmet grocery store on basement floor.

Food courts with mock dish examples:
They’re not mock but many foods are displayed.

Vitamin shop:Yes



5. Costco

If warehouse shopping is the home you’re looking for, Costco is your deal. Costco is Costco— look, style, layout and feel. The prime difference is that you’ll see more Korean products, but it houses a few American onestoo.

One-stop shopping:Yes and No.

Food courts with English translations:Yes.

Vitamin shop:Yes


Related posts:
What to Bring to Korea: A Costco Card
Being a Vegetarian in Korea: The Costco Honeymoon Begins…

6. Daiso

Not sure if this really should be on this list, but what the hell. It’s not a one-stop shopping giant, but it should be because it’s one of the most helpful one-stop convenience chain stores in Korea. Daiso, originated from Japan as a 100 yen store (aka one dollar store).

It packs Korean odds-n-ends from stationary to home supplies for cheap and it usually has those oddities that you just can’t find anywhere else. And it’s a great place for souvenir shopping. Recently, I was able to find a quarter of my travel supplies there!

Of all the stores, this one will definitely be a godsend to your expat lifestyle.

One dollar store

What are your favorite Western-friendly stores in Korea?

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