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How to Survive Winter in South Korea (4 Tips to Help Keep You Warm)

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Lee, from sunny South Africa, has been living in South Korea for two years. She has found ways to keep warm during their chilly winters.

It is summer in the northern hemisphere. The weather is finally warmer and I am more willing to leave my apartment and have fun outside. The past two winters that I've spent in South Korea have been brutal. They were worsened by the fact that I am not from a country that has extremely cold winters. Korean winters feel like the tundra to a South African.

If, like me, you are an expat in South Korea from a warmer country, try the following tips to help you stay warm in Korea.

1. Wear a few layers of clothing.

The key to staying warm is layering your clothing. However, that doesn't mean you have to wear big, puffy jackets. First, invest in some thermal innerwear. That would be items worn under your clothing, such as vests, leggings and camisoles, among other things. Uniqlo has a collection called Heattech. This technology uses the moisture from your body to generate heat. Their innerwear is lightweight and warms you up comfortably. For more information about their products, please visit Uniqlo's website.

For extra warmth after layering, it is a great idea to buy warm socks, gloves, earmuffs and scarves. You can buy these items at a store called Daiso, which is essentially Korea's most popular dollar store. It sells inexpensive items that are surprisingly decent in quality. My favourite winter items to buy from Daiso are face mufflers. They are great for keeping your cheeks warm and covering your nose and mouth to prevent breathing in icy cold air.

2. Use hot packs.

On a cold day out, these are extremely helpful when wanting to keep warm. Heat packs are cloth-like packs with minerals inside of them. When these minerals are activated, by shaking for example, the pack heats up.

Note: Heat packs come in temperatures of up to 100 degrees Celsius (the temperature is usually displayed on the packs). They can get very hot, so please be careful not to put them directly on your skin.

Heat packs are great to put in jacket pockets or to preheat gloves and winter shoes for extra warmth. I've bought heat packs at the following shops in Korea: Daiso, Miniso, and supermarkets such as Emart and Lotte Mart. I also bought them at my local mom-and-pop shop. Those are in practically every Korean neighbourhood.

3. Buy proper boots for snowy days.

I cannot count the amount of times I have slipped on melting snow because I wore the wrong winter boots. Try and get a good pair of winter boots with a non-slip bottom (and honestly, don't try to get them for too cheap—they won't last!). This prevents you from slipping on icy surfaces.

A water-resistant, rubber boot is best as it will prevent moisture from seeping into your boots and onto your feet. The best brick-and-mortar shop that could possibly have a good pair of snow boots is ABC mart. This shop sells a variety of shoe brands. If they run out of winter boots or do not have your size, you could find a pair online. GMarket is Korea's biggest online store and they have a wide range of boots at affordable prices.

4. Turn on your floor heating.

One of the greatest inventions is the floor heating in many Korean homes. It is quite delightful for those cold winter days. Their floor heating uses water pipes under the floor to heat it up. For the floor heating to work, you have to turn on the boiler, which is controlled by what looks like a remote control mounted onto a wall. The boiler remote control (which is what I will refer to it as from now on) has several buttons on it that are all written in Korean. This article gives you more detailed information on how to turn on the floor heating and what each button on the boiler remote control means.

If the boiler stays on long enough, it can heat up an entire house. The one drawback of leaving the floor heating on for too long is that it can increase the amount on your gas bill. Since the boiler runs on gas, which can be a higher bill than electricity, it is best to use your floor heating only when necessary, that is, on extremely cold days. Invest in a fan heater and even an electric blanket to ease high gas costs.

Boiler Remote Control

Boiler Remote Control

Using these tips has definitely helped me to keep warm during Korean winters. I hope that they will help you too.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Lee