5 Tips on Surviving Winter in Korea

As a Singaporean tourist who went to Korea in sub-zero temperatures, it was a drop of thirty to forty degrees Celsius that I could never truly get used to. I woke up to a bad bout of sinus every day, and that wasn’t even the worst. Here are 5 tips (or rather, 5 lessons I learned) that may come in handy during your next winter trip:

1/ Wear thermal wear/heattech

I never really thought that thermal wear was anything more than another layer of clothing, and didn’t think it would do much to keep me wrong.

I was WRONG.

On my first day in Korea this winter, I wasn’t wearing thermal wear because there was no way I wanted to wear heat tech all the way from Singapore. I ended up braving -5 degrees in an airy long-sleeved shirt, a pair of boyfriend jeans, and a down jacket. I regretted it. The next day I wore heattech out, and I never felt more relieved.

I highly recommend thermal wear from Winter Time (we bought the cashmere ones) and heattech from Uniqlo. Guaranteed to keep you warm – just beware of rashes.

2/ Wear proper/sturdy footwear

Don’t laugh – I learned this the hard way when I slipped and fell on ice on Nami Island while wearing my Adidas canvas shoes, and all the times when I almost slipped on the dirty ice on the streets of Myeongdong. If you know that it’s highly likely there’ll be snow & ice, which is usually around mid-December in Korea, please take my advice and get footwear with a good grip. It’ll save your ass (literally).

3/ Moisturize, moisturize, MOISTURIZE!!

I think it may be obvious by now that I learned most things the hard way. I’m not sure if Korea weather is always so dry, but their winters definitely are. It gets a lot of getting used to if you come from humid places – my nose didn’t seem to like it much – and your skin will definitely show the difference.

Never ever skip moisturizing, be it your face or limbs. This is especially important if you wear thermal wear (see point 2) because you will find yourself with cold rashes at the end of the day. I found my skin to be in the most dreadful condition, literally dry and peeling and with patches of rashes because I was lazy about moisturizing. Take my word for it if you don’t want to end up looking like you’re molting.

4/ Put hand warmers in pockets before you head out

The worst thing you can do is to fumble around for hand warmers with your frozen fingers on a crowded street in Myeongdong. The best thing I did for myself (without too much suffering) was to always prep hand warmers in my jacket’s pockets before heading out. That way, my jacket is always warm, and I can tuck my hands in my pockets to keep them warm any time I want, without having to put gloves on (I have to say, gloves are terribly troublesome).

I recommend the ones from Daiso – cheap, but surprisingly effective. I’ve had them last one whole day in my pockets and still feel hot after I reached the hotel in the evening, and they still can keep my bed warm until I go to sleep.

5/ Get a mask

I always thought that wearing a mask was cool because celebrities do that – not until it became a necessity in my bid to survive winter in Korea.

The winds were not super strong, but it was cold enough to make my eyes water every time I walked against the wind direction. I also felt like my nose and lips were going to be frozen 90% of the time.

There are two ways to solve this: 1) buy a scarf and wrap your face around it, 2) buy a mask. Let’s just say that a mask is a simpler solution. Bonus points for getting to look like a celebrity.

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