I’m dreaming of a Korean Christmas (bonus: how to mail packages home!)

It’s mid-December and the drizzling rain is melting away what little snow has stuck around so far. Will Seoul have a white Christmas? It’s hard to know, but I can certainly imagine an unexpected thick blanket of snow falling silently overnight, making for an even more tranquil start to the day in what is already the Land of Morning Calm.

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Snowy or not, this year feels a lot more like Christmas than last year in Cambodia. Not only do blustery winds, festive decorations and cozy cafes with peppermint mochas enhance the atmosphere, but being settled in one location allows me to better notice the countdown taking place all around the world.

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Our workplace is having a secret Santa next week. In true last-minute Korean fashion, we have yet to know who we’re giving gifts to. There is talk of a potential Christmas potluck dinner among a few friends and acquaintances I know.

Decorations here are less commonplace than back in Canada, and nothing like what I imagine London and Munich might look like right now. Still, the occasional brilliantly-lit buildings and over-the-top cafes I see in Seoul are a nice visual treat.

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Even Dunkin Donuts gets into the spirit- look at these gorgeous snow gingerbread man donuts!

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Too bad the Seoul Lantern Festival didn’t continue a while longer- it had a wonderful Christmassy spirit to it.

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It’s also wonderful to picture parcels crossing paths over the Pacific. Just today I posted two boxes east, and one from my family is making its way west! I’m very excited to get a Christmas/care package while abroad- my first ever!!

Mailing packages overseas is one of those tasks that is relatively straightforward, but confusing when first attempted in a foreign country. Hence, in an effort to shed some light on the process:

So you want to mail a package from Korea?

The good news– posting mail from Korea is relatively cheap and efficient, especially if you’re coming from somewhere like Canada, often plagued by bureaucratic inefficiencies and unnecessarily expensive services- why are two passport photos $15? I sent two boxes that were approximately 20 x 30 x 15 cm and weighed around 700 and 500 grams, respectively. Mind you, I went Christmas shopping with ‘lightweight’ and ‘non-bulky’ in mind, despite hearing that packages are priced by the size of the box, not the weight.

In my experience, weight did matter- the attendant placed the box on the scale, then indicated the price on a chart based on the size and weight of the box and the shipping method.

My grand total was 33 000 won (about $31.65 CAD): for the two boxes (500 won apiece), one parcel sent by express post (‘seven days’) and one sent by ‘slower’ airmail (in two weeks- hardly unreasonable to me).

The process:

Locate your nearest Korea Post outlet. Its logo is a bright red bird that and may or may not have the name in English written below (my outlet did not).

korea postThis site seems to provide a large number of locations, but only in specific areas (a search within Gyeonggi-do only turned up outlets in Suwon, for instance). If you have no luck online, try asking Koreans where the woo je yuk (우체국, post office) is.

Once inside the office, I mimicked the locals around me, grabbed a suitably-sized box, taped up the bottom and packed up my items. I’ve read that one shouldn’t seal up their packages in case postal staff want to inspect them, but I didn’t encounter this. It’s probably best to observe what people are doing your location, to be safe.

After this step, the process was the same as back home. Clearly fill out the sender and recipient’s addresses, note the items inside and their approximate value, and let the cashier handle the rest. I didn’t pay a premium for a tracking number. Maybe I’m reckless, but I trust that as long as I write the intended address down very, very carefully, the power of the post will eventually get an item to its destination, snow, rain, heat, or gloom of night be damned.

I was happy to discover that parcel delivery is not overly expensive, and I’ve heard of many people sending large boxes of clothes and other belongings back home via slower surface mail- the ‘slow boat’. I’ll likely end up doing at the end of my stay here, especially if I decide to continue globe-trotting before heading all the way home! (And, being so close to so many other exciting Asian destinations, how could I not?)

Sorry, parents. You’ll see me again one day! 


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Nine days til Christmas! Merry early Christmas to you! How do you plan to celebrate, wherever in the world you are?

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2 thoughts on “I’m dreaming of a Korean Christmas (bonus: how to mail packages home!)

  1. Yes! Definitely do surface mail when you’re sending stuff home at the end. I sent home three heavy boxes and each was only 20,000 won if I’m remembering correctly. That’s unheard of anywhere else I’ve lived!

    I’m a huge snail mailer and my town’s post office was right next to my school, so I was in there every week… Hope you get a package to open in return!

    Email me your Korean address if you want a little snail mail surprise! : )

    Like

    • Hi Rebecca, thanks for your comment! I’m glad sending things home in the future won’t be a huge financial burden, not that I plan to buy huge amounts of stuff in the near future. And the idea of an in-Korea pen pal is a lovely one, so I will do that!

      Like

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