Do you come from a tropical country like me? If so, you may feel as though you’ll freeze to death in Korea in the winter. Here, temperatures drop as low as -10, but with a brisk wind, it feels like -16. Before coming to Korea, I had never experienced a super cold winter, so as the days got colder, I learned — by necessity — how to stay warm. Rest assured, I made plenty of mistakes… But I’ve made this guide so you don’t have to!
Winter in Korea
Get a Hot Pack
Wifi and phone signals are renowned for their speed and clarity in Korea. Unsurprisingly, Koreans like to use their phones… a lot. I noticed many people tapping away on their phones with bare hands in the winter and they didn’t seem to be freezing. That’s when I realised they were packing heat with hot packs. Hot packs come in different forms but are typically small bags that heat up gradually as you squeeze them. Pop one in each pocket and you’ll have no need for gloves!
Hot packs usually last around 12 hours and you can find them easily at any convenience store and, of course, Daiso.
Coats, coats, coats
Buy a coat. Seems like a no-brainer right? Wrong. I made a lot of unecessary purchases in my pursuit of the right coat. Furthermore, coats are by far the most expensive survival item for the winter. While there are many beautiful coats sold across Korea, most of them won’t keep you warm.
My suggestion: invest in long padding. That’s those coats that look like a giant pillow and cover you (pretty much) from head to toe. Once you zip it up, the coat creates good heat insulation and acts as a shield against the harsh wind. Additionally, don’t forget to get a hood. You’d be surprised just how cold your ears can get, especially when its snowing.
Bonus tip: be mindful of whether your coat pockets have a zipper or not, as when you go inside places you’ll mostly be hanging your coat over your chair, and its an easy way to lose your wallet and other pocket items if not secure.
Even in subzero temperatures you’ll still see plenty of ladies wearing skirts in Korea. How is it possible? The secret is in the extra thick stockings/pantyhose they wear. Some of them are even lined with fur to keep legs as warm as they would be in pants, if not warmer! Invest in a pair of winter pantyhose and you’ll rock those flowy dresses and skirts come rain or shine.
On the topic of undergarments, I recommend buying a few ‘second skins’. Second skins are essentially thin tops and leggings designed to be worn underneath clothes to keep you warm. These are super easy to find and pretty cheap too. It may look flimsy, but these wonders are what makes a difference on a cold day.
Icy winds feel like a slap in the face, and it shows on the skin too. Cold burns and dry skin are all too common during winter in Korea. Therefore, it is worth getting some moisturizer, hand cream and lip balm to help your skin cope. Furthermore, being indoors a lot can dry your skin out even more. One time, I got a cold wind burn right beneath my eyes (a very sensitive area) and so I used moisturizer several times per day to aid my skin’s recovery.
Sweet Potato Lattes (Optional)
I highly recommend that you warm up your body and soul with a sweet potato latte! They are a common treat here in the winter and absolutely delicious!