Snow has fallen and it finally feels like Christmas is near. Whether you’re going home for Christmas or just wanting to send gifts to your friends and family, here are some ideas for you.
Korea has an incredible range of novelty socks available pretty much everywhere. The designs cover everything from cute cartoons, Christmas-themed patterns, non-Christmas-themed patterns, fluffy winter socks, socks that announce your blood type, socks with the Shin Ramen logo, and everything else in between. Korean socks are so unique that they have inspired a blog called Socks My World, which is full of pictures of different pairs of socks from Korea. Check it out if you want some inspiration.
Anything from Insadong
Insadong is the place to go for souvenirs and anything Korea-related. You can find nice handmade Korean paper (hanji) for wrapping presents while hanji notebooks can make for a good gift. Also available are a variety of chopsticks, fridge magnets, bookmarks, purses and traditional crafts. For a more personal touch, you can make your own. In the basement level of Ssamziegil in Insadong are two workshops — Cerawork for creating your own painted ceramics and Ye-son for making your own hanji and mother of pearl crafts.
Cosmetics, skin care and hair care products
Korean skincare and cosmetics are becoming popular outside of Korea due to their high quality and reasonable prices. Anyone who has been to any of the skincare shops in Myeongdong on a Sunday will have seen tourists buying year long supplies of their favourite products. There is a very wide variety of high street shops to choose from and they all have something to offer. The two most recommended by female friends and internet bloggers are the Jeju Volcanic Pore Clay Mask from Innisfree and the Argan Oil Silk Hair Mask from Skin Food. Each high street shop also has a men’s line but men are not so vocal on the internet about what skincare products they use. Choose your favourite shop and ask a member of staff which men’s products are the most popular.
K-pop/ K-drama related products
I don’t think you can make a list of things to buy friends and family from Korea without mentioning the most popular recent exports – Kpop and Kdrama. If there is anyone at home who likes either, you can pick up calendars, socks, keyrings, posters and more in Seoul, all adorned with k-pop and k-drama stars. These can be found in Myeongdong but they are more easily located in Insadong. Kpop CDs are available to buy from Emart and large book stores.
Korea comes second only to Japan when it comes to cute stationery. Stationery gifts are especially good for younger family members who are still at school or for 25 year olds like myself who left school a long time ago but still like cute stationery. Head to Artbox (various locations), Ssamziegil (Insadong), or even your local independent stationery shop to find a range of notebooks, pens, diaries and stickers.
Winter hats, gloves, scarves, earmuffs
Winter woolies are warm and comforting. They also make great Christmas gifts for those of us who have families in countries with winter weather this time of year. There are stalls and shops everywhere, piled up with different woolly hats, scarves, gloves and mittens for you to choose from.
Christmas is about family but it is also about stuffing your face. Korean snacks are likely to be new to your family back home (unless your family back home is Korean) so you can give them something different to feast on. Snacks are also good stocking fillers. Personal favourites: 신당동 떡볶이 (Shindangdong Deokbokki) snacks, 부셔부셔 (Busho Busho), 마이주(maiju), (뻬뻬로) Peppero and Jeju Orange Chocolate. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could buy 바나나킥 (banana kick) which is a brand of banana flavoured corn puffs with a banana flavoured topping, Jeju Cactus Chocolate, or the infamous kimchi chocolate.
A drink that features strongly in at least the beginning of most expats lives in Korea, soju is the biggest selling spirit in the world. Introduce your friends and family to Korea’s favourite drink this festive season – it’s cheap enough to take home more than a few bottles for everyone.
You may not be able to get your friends or family to get on board with wearing couples’ outfits with their significant others but you can definitely encourage the spirit of it. Pick up some couples’ keyrings, couples’ phone charms or even some couples’ T-shirts.
Something you know they’ll like
Only you know what your friends and family like. Send them something you know they’ll enjoy or take requests. Personally, my brother wants nothing more than as much Shin Ramen as I can physically send him and my mum’s main desire is skincare products. Think about it and give them something personal.