I’ve been receiving a few emails from vegans planning on moving to Korea, with questions on what vegan essentials to pack with them. So I figured it would be smart to just post some of my ideas here! Moving to an entirely new country can be daunting, but when you add specific dietary and nutritional needs on top of everything else, it gets more complicated and nerve-racking. Well, I’m here to help make the planning process and transition a little smoother! I’ve made a list of things you might want to consider bringing along, divided into three different categories, depending on how easy or difficult they are to find in Korea.
Clearly, it will be impossible to pack all the items I’ve listed into your suitcase (you might want to leave some space for clothes and undies), so you can be the judge of what you think you can or can’t live without. Also, ofcourse, not everything is specifically ‘vegan’, but they seem to be staples in many vegan pantries, so I have included them here. And just so you know, I have not included easily perishable foods because, well, it might not be wise or practical to pack cartons of soy yogurt or almond milk in your suitcase. :)
Also, most vegans in Korea have fallen in love with iHerb.com. I must say that their vast vegan inventory, and quick affordable shipping rates have made being vegan here infinitely easier. So even if you cannot get lara bars or nutritional yeast here, you can always have them shipped to you at a decent cost. Use coupon code ‘mip268’ for $5 off your first order.
If anyone sees anything missing from this list, lemme know! :) Last updated July 16 2012
* Available at certain imported goods stores in Itaewon, Seoul (ex. Foreign Food Mart, High Street Market, National Foods Mart).
^ Can be found on Korean online stores, like gmarket.com
Virtually impossible or rare to find:
non-dairy and soy-free milk
carob chips / carob powder
Ener-G egg replacer
vegan protein powder
sea salt (fleur de sel)
vegan protein/energy bars
vegan cream cheese
nut butters other than peanut butter
Challenging to find:
flax seed oil*^
sunflower seed oil*
aluminum-free baking powder*^
vegan face/body products
vegan veggie broth*
Available but somewhat expensive:
Phew, that’s a long list…. But if you only have space in your suitcase for a few essential items, I personally suggest you pack the following:
1. Vitamin B12 supplements: While you can find these at most department stores, vitamins in Korea are pretty expensive. Also, since B12 is essential for vegans, it would be wise to have a small supply with you, until you can get your bearings in Korea and find some more, whether at a department store, or by ordering it online.
2. Flax seeds: Check my previous post on flax seeds. Until you’re settled, it might be good to bring your own supply so that you don’t miss out on your Omega-3s. I just can’t imagine life without flax seeds… hehe
3. Your favorite vegan body/face products: Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to personal hygiene/beauty products, so if you have a favorite product, bring it! :) Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find specifically vegan (no animal ingredients or animal testing) products in Korea, especially when you can’t read the Korean labels.
Final closing thoughts: I know, the list of things unavailable in Korea is rather long. But stay positive! While you may not be able to find many things that you are attached to from back home, try to appreciate the fact that you will be in a brand new country, and that you will get to try out many totally new foods and products. Being vegan in a strange land can be a struggle at first, but I promise, it will get better. And after a while, you won’t even miss the Western vegan products that you might have grown attached to. There is life without vegan cheese, vegan mayo, and vegan marshmallows~
Happy packing! :)