I should start by saying the number one thing I wish I could bring back with me from Korea is an entire convenience store. I don’t know, I never really found American convenience stores very useful in my daily life back home, but thinking about leaving behind the perks of having Korean convenience stores is quite painful at the moment. There are so many kinds of food and drinks sold in these convenience stores that I wouldn’t mind eating on a daily basis. I’ve started to think that if I had one of these entities back home I would be able to eat cheaper and healthier meals and be able to survive on just my skinny student budget successfully. I know I’ll be very sad to leave the convenience store, or pyeonijeom (편의점), culture behind, but I’m glad I get to enjoy it to the fullest while I am here!
The first thing I want to mention is that although you can find many convenience stores in Philadelphia, the sheer concentration of convenience stores in Seoul is kind of on a different level. I feel as if everywhere I turn, there will always be a convenience store (almost similar to how there’s at least 2 coffee shops on every block here). So it’s really nice grabbing a snack or a late dinner at the GS25 literally behind my hostel or the CU down the street.
What I will most definitely miss the most is the section of packaged Kimbab (김밥) or Korean rice rolls. In this little refrigerated area you’ll always find several types of regular and triangle kimbab, with the regular rolls being around 6 inches long and cut up in bite-sized pieces. The triangle kimbab is similar to Japanese onigiri in that it is simply a triangular chunk of rice stuffed with stuffing of choice and wrapped in seaweed and is meant to be hand held. There’s also a specific way you should peel off the packaging of the triangle kimbab so that the seaweed doesn’t tear. I don’t think I can explain it very well here, but just know that it’s pretty straightforward if you study the arrows on the packaging first. Anyways, the regular rolls end up being only around 2 USD and the triangle kimbab are usually 1 to 1.5 USD; one regular roll or 2 of the triangle kimbab usually fill me up on an empty stomach, which is a pretty affordable meal in my opinion. Ah, I wish I didn’t have to leave it behind.
One of the things that I’ve heard of, but was definitely kind of new was the section of meat or sausage on a stick. I have yet to try any of these, but it seems like most of them may also be microwavable.
I think one of the most important things that every convenience store must have over here in Korea is a large selection of instant ramen. There is usually an entire aisle dedicated to it. Not only is instant ramen very delicious and convenient, I think it’s a large part of the culture over here and many citizens probably have their go-to instant ramens for a late night snack or a cheat meal. None of the bowls or packets of ramen will exceed 3 USD (probably)!
The ice cream section is an obligatory mention!!! If we have something like this in Philadelphia then I simply do not remember it! I love having this wide array of ice cream to pick from and every item is 1 to 3 USD, however, there are many 1+1 and 2+1 deals (meaning buy one/two get one free).
Nearly every convenience store will also have a seating area for people who want to eat their ramen or kimbab sitting in the store. And yes, most convenience stores offer microwaves and free hot water for all the necessary “cooking” that needs to be done in order to feast. I also want to include a picture of the counter where you can reload your T-money card at checkout; you just place your card on the magnetic rectangular area and pay the cashier in cash the desired recharge.
This is not a comprehensive description of convenience stores in Seoul, Korea; but simply a few aspects of convenience stores over here that I will dearly miss!
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