Lessons in grocery shopping in Seoul

Disclaimer: Not every post moving forward will be daily journal-type entries. I guess everything’s so new and fresh right now I’m just excited to share. Enjoy it while it lasts and while I have time for it. ūüėČ

Day three: The food here in Seoul is delicious. That said, if we ate noodles, dumplings, pork cutlet and fried street-vendor food every day for months on end, we’d return to the states quite a bit heavier. So! While¬†I plan to try as much of the local food as I can while we’re here, I’m hoping to be able to cook at home, too, and not go out to eat all the time.

My friend from the plane had mentioned that e-mart is a Walmart-like store found all over Seoul, with groceries and¬†home goods at affordable prices, so I knew I wanted to check it out. I’d also read that Lotte Mart is a similar type of store, and we have one located close-by¬†at Seoul Station. On my first day venturing out solo, I decided to drop by both stores and do some price comparisons.

Lotte Mart is enormous. Two stories of everything you could ever need. The second floor includes Lotte Hi-mart, their electronics and appliances section. I walked and walked and browsed, noticed they had what looked like a discounted section (think dollar-store kind of items), and concluded they have very reasonable prices overall, including for groceries. They also carry many common American brand-name products, albeit those are slightly pricier than back home.

Lotte Mart

Lotte Mart aisles

Lotte Mart groceries

Lotte Mart lower level

Lotte Mart Hello Kitty products

Lotte Mart natural products

Lotte Mart meat

Lotte Mart chicken prices

Lotte Mart octopus

Lotte Mart strawberries

Lotte Mart cereals

Lotte Mart snacks

Lotte Hi-mart

Lotte Mart pet products

Lotte Mart toys

Lotte Mart girls' toys

I then got on the train and headed south to Yongsan Station, which I discovered is housed in a huge mall that even has an IMAX theater, for all you movie fanatics. The e-mart is also located at the station. I’d decided to do my shopping there since I’d be heading straight home after.

Let’s just say my shopping experience was a bit hectic. First, you need coins to use a shopping cart (they’re chained up), and I didn’t have any coins. Thankfully the customer service lady gave me some change. The store is split into two levels, kitchen and household goods upstairs, groceries downstairs. Oh my goodness. So many people! It was really crowded and, you can see I don’t have many photos from there because I was so focused on trying to decipher product labels and find what I needed. Like with Lotte Mart, nice employee ladies stood at the end of almost every aisle ready to help. Unfortunately for me, most of them didn’t understand a lick of English. That was fun! We would both just smile,¬†and with words failing us it became a game of charades, until eventually they figured out what I was asking or looking for. Phew.

The meat/poultry/seafood section of e-mart was busy and loud. Employee ladies shouting in every aisle trying to get you to buy select products. One of them started placing a bag of frozen dumplings or something in my cart as I sternly said ‘no thanks’ and moved along. (By the way, food samples are everywhere throughout the grocery store. People shamelessly walk up and try every sample available. Free food FTW.)

It took several trips back and forth between levels one and two, but, in the end,¬†I got most of what I needed (and a few extra things to make our place more homey ‚ÄĒ dangit, it’s like shopping at Target!).¬†What I hadn’t fully thought through was how I was going to get everything home. After paying, I went to return my shopping cart and panicked. Three¬†large, heavy plastic bags full of stuff (i.e. laundry detergent, dish soap, a bag of rice, etc.), a big roll of PT, and other items in my sling bag. Dumb Carla, dumb! I ended up stopping oh, about 20 times on the journey home on the train. Walk, rest. Walk, rest. My fingers were falling off. My hands were starting to blister. I was drenched in sweat under my jacket. I must’ve looked like a crazy lady to people passing me by ‚ÄĒ none of whom helped. I shouldn’t say that. One guy did offer to help me, when I was already at the entrance to my building. ><

Riding the Seoul metro

Yongsan Station

Yongsan Station & I'Park Mall

Yongsan Station and mall view

E-mart entrance

Inside e-mart

E-mart milk

E-mart slippers

E-mart purchase

Lesson LEARNED. Next time I’m getting an old-lady shopping cart.¬†Actually no, because I decided that the price savings just weren’t enough to go to e-mart at Yongsan for groceries and stuff versus Lotte Mart, which is much closer. Lotte Mart, in my opinion, had a larger selection of products and food, and the prices are comparable enough.

So, today (Wednesday) is actually day five, but I guess I’ll have to play catch-up later. Got more sights to see today. Check back for more!

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