Home again, home again jiggity jig.
Now I know we’ve talked about Costco/Ikea and the Incheon Fruit & Veg Market, but I realise that I have been remiss in mentioning the various options that I’ve come across and regularly visit to get my grocery shopping sorted. This might be a repeat, but it is terribly strange here that the same items can vary so much in price in different stores so if you have the time/inclination, it is worth shopping around a bit. I visit all the stores on this list for different things, but have a little set route that follow so that I can go to most of them on one trip out, so it isn’t too arduous.
Emart is a department-esque store with a food court. You’ll find branches in Incheon, under the Lotte Department Store and, closer to home, in Square One and it is this one that I usually go to. Certain herbs (Coriander! Finally coriander is easily available in Songdo!) and vegetables are more easily found in Emart, but that will take a bit of trial and error based on what you usually need to buy. I will add that for some reason, the only green chillies I’ve found that seem to have any bite are from the 990won range in Emart. Not sure why this is, but there you have it. Emart is also associated with Waitrose (whoop whoop!) so in the foreign food aisle, you will find various Waitrose products cropping up from time to time. There is also a reasonable Deli counter in Emart, and the long hailed ‘No Brand’ brand. You’ll mostly find your essentials at much much lower prices than elsewhere – I tend to buy pasta / cleaning products (when I don’t get them from Daiso) and other bits and pieces that crop up from time to time. Recent finds here have been actual salted butter (from New Zealand) and cottage cheese at prices that don’t make you feel extravagant!
While you are at Emart in Square One, a quick walk across the car park will take to you Homeplus. Homeplus used to be owned by Tesco, but I believe that association is now over, so any Tesco goodies you find tend to be the last of stock. Homeplus is the place that I go to for the majority of my grocery shop – tinned foods, meat, veg, bakery and a reasonable Foreign Food aisle with some interesting treats from home! There is a another Homeplus a bit closer than Square One – at Technopark. I actually prefer to go here. The store itself is slightly larger and more of the things that I buy regularly are generally available here. There are also some members of staff who speak a little bit of English, as well as a pharmacy which has a big sign stating ‘English Here’ so it’s a great one stop shop.
Right next to The Oakwood is Lotte. This supermarket is the main choice for most people in Songdo for the sake of convenience, however I find it the priciest of them all, except for a few items. You’ll find lots of the same products that are available in Emart and Homeplus, as well as a couple of extra bits. My main purchases from here tend to be hot dog buns / hamburger rolls (no Honey! YEEEEAAAHHHH!) and organic yoghurt – the only yoghurt there is which doesn’t contain gelatine FYI. Helpfully, there is also a HiMart downstairs in Lotte which is helpful for any electrical items that you are looking for.
All the supermarkets above are useful stops for homeware/cookware and again, if you don’t need anything urgently, then it is worth your while to shop around amongst the three!
Further useful stops for groceries are Songdo Mart – I am told this is the cheapest place for fresh produce, but honestly, I can’t figure out what prices go with what and it feels like more work than its worth to shop there – and Awesome International Market, although the selection seems to have decreased ten fold since the opening of Costco in Songdo.
Gmarket is the Korean answer to Amazon. There is an English website which is supremely useful but the trickiest thing I found was setting up my address in the system. Despite the English translation, I couldn’t figure out what part of the Korean address goes where, so I did seek the help of my bi-lingual receptionist in Central Park 1 to do this. Payment was another problem and a for a very short while, I was able to use a new Paypal account linked to my Korean bank account, however, a recent change in legislation means that Paypal is no longer accepted for domestic purchases in Korea. When even the bank couldn’t understand why I couldn’t pay online using my bank card (yes, I took my laptop to the bank and sat there for several hours while they tried to help me) I started making use of the Korean Bank Transfer system instead. This is a peculiar system that I have only heard of in Korea, but it works, so I don’t question it too much:
(1) Add your items to your basket on your chosen website
(2) Choose ‘Wire Transfer’ as your payment option and select your bank (For GCF-ers, this is likely to be NH Bank)
(3) You’ll get an email containing a bank account number that the vendor creates specifically for your transfer at your bank (to avoid any cross bank transfer fees) and a deadline by which you must make the transfer.
(4) Pop along to your nearest ATM for your bank (for us that’s the G Tower) and make your transfer at the ATM.
Depending on where you are buying the goods from, they’ll usually be delivered within a couple of days. Easy Peasy. This wire transfer system works for all sorts of purchases, including flights and hotels if needed!
Ourshop India is self-explanatory – it is where I buy my Indian lentils/spices and sometimes even vegetables from when I can’t get to / don’t feel like going into Itaewon and carrying lots of heavy things. I tend to shop from here twice a year and payment is via the wire transfer system described above.
Last but not least is iHerb.com. An American website, I buy some of the more bespoke items that we use from here – although I know several people do quite a lot of shopping from this site, I try to do as much as I can locally. If you register your Korean Card to Paypal (tip: Don’t register it to your existing Paypal account, set up a whole new one just for your Korean Card and save yourself a lot of hassle in billing address/delivery address issues) you can use this to pay for orders easily.
Oh yeah, and actually last is Coupang. This site has a wider selection of international products and is cheaper than Gmarket, but I am yet to use it as I can’t figure out the payment side of things. Whilst you can search for items in English, the site is largely in Korean, and although I had a colleague of Raj’s set up my address in the app, payment is proving terribly tricky, so I am making do for the time being.
And there you have it. I am sure there are several smaller stores that I have missed out here but that’s basically the list of where I go shopping… Happy wandering!