Saturday, September 11, 2010

Prices and Products

Hi Readers,

How much is a loaf of bread?  How much for milk? or gas? or a night out?
I remember wondering these questions before I came to Korea.  As a matter of fact, I remember one night on Facebook pounding Yunji with question after question about her home country days before we were to leave.  I was especially worried about finding cheese.  Good old Wisconsin cheese.  And milk.  She assured me I could find "everything."

So, I thought I'd take this time to talk about prices and products - shopping in general.

I'm not a huge shopper.  Never have been and never will be.  But I can offer this: in general clothes and shoes and eating out at a Korean restaurant are quite a bit cheaper than in the US.  Groceries, especially fresh fruits and vegetables and meat, is much more expensive.

First, clothes.   The fashion here is wide-ranging but chic.  It's almost impossible for me to find clothes that fit due to my size versus the normal female Korean sizes.  But I did by a nice pair of shoes today for 17000 Won (about 15.50 US).  Shoe stores are EVERYWHERE.  Most shop keepers of all kinds put at least some of their wares out on the street in front of their place.  So it looks like Maxwell Street Days all the time here.  T-shirts abound for 5000 Won.  In fact, Brent bought a short sleeved button up shirt for 5000 Won one day (about $3)  So clothes are to be found easily and at good prices.  There are also an abundance of up-scale shops to be found in certain shopping malls.  Prices in these places are as you would expect - way beyond my budget.  In general, Koreans love to have the brand name sort of stuff, so there are also quite a few knock off brands to be found. 

Next, food.  Food is everywhere.  In one city block you will easily find clothing shops, a salon, a stationery store, a pool hall, a convenience store, a pharmacy, a PC Bong (internet arcade) one or two small grocery stores (always with icecream machines outside), a Baskin Robbins, and several eateries.  Some of the restaurants make their food right in their front window facing the street so you don't even have to walk in to buy their products.  These places sell tempura, spicy meat dishes, vegetable pancakes, waffles, or candies.  Their prices are very reasonable, usually ranging from 1000 - 4000 Won.  No tipping is expected.  The Korean restaurants usually specialize.  They might sell primarily spicy chicken or pork dishes or rice dishes with pork cutlets, or sushi-like options or soups, depending upon where you go.  Prices usually range from 4000 Won - 10000 Won.  No tipping expected.  At Western chain restaurants, like Outback Steakhouse the prices are rather comparable to what we'd pay in the US.  The menus are slightly different, but still a good place to find beef, which is rare here.  Tipping is expected and included in the bill.   Same for Italian restaurants, we've found.  Baskin Robbins and Dunkin' Donuts abound here - almost one on every other street!  We can get an icecream cone for 1500 - 2000 Won.

Now for grocery shopping.  I have yet to find anything like ye-olde-gallon of skim milk.  However, the litre-plus milk we find (probably closer to 2%) costs about 3300 Won (about $3)  I consider that pricey.  Cheese can be found in bulk at Costco for a somewhat reasonable price.  But in a regular grocery store, we've paid what amounted to $7 for 1 pound of Colby from Wisconsin.  The cost of any vegetable or fruit is generally almost twice what we'd pay in the States.  I haven't adjusted to the metric system yet either, which causes some problems.  A big cereal box?  About $4 -$5.  Diet Coke?  Well, I'm more likely to find Coke Zero and pay about twice the cost at Festival for a similar amount.  I haven't found sour cream yet.  Beef roast?  Impossible!  Beef prices are astronomical - including hamburger.  Most beef comes from Australia.  So there are some things that are nearly impossible to find (or maybe they're here and I just can't read the labels!)  But there are certainly a wide range of products in the grocery store that I've never seen or eaten before.  Seafood and fish are found in abundance.  I wouldn't know what to do with them!  Also, there are a number of vegetables and fruits that are new to me.  At one grocery store we saw a kimchi-bar (sort of like a salad bar, only with all different varieties of kimchi!)

Many Koreans simply eat out most of the time because it is cheaper than buying at the grocery store and making it yourself.  We're doing a bit of both - so far.  So it is always an adventure shopping for food!

:) B

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