My deodorant dilemma in Korea is something I laugh about now, but at the time, I definitely wasn’t laughing. I hope that you’ll find some humour in this and that you’ll never forget to bring deodorant on a trip to Korea like I did.
I had an overnight layover in Korea. On my last overnight layover, which was in Shanghai coming from Bangkok, I had to pick up my checked suitcase, so I thought it would be the same this time going from Ho Chi Minh back to Japan with a stop in Seoul.
Wroooong! That was only my first mistake.
The woman at the check-in counter told me that my suitcase would meet me in Japan, so I hastily put a fresh change of clothes in my carry-on for the next day as fast as I could since others were waiting behind me.
Okey-dokey. No problem. I could use the hotel’s shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc., and I already had my toothbrush in my carry-on.
When I got to my awesome room at Fox Motel in Incheon, I checked to see what I needed to buy. The hotel had great hair care supplies – good quality shampoo and conditioner, a nice brush, and even gel! The only things I needed to buy were deodorant, dental floss, toothpaste, and of course, something to eat. I’d be back in my room on Facebook and working on my blog in 5 minutes.
The convenience store just up the street (to the left in the picture right on the corner of the intersection) had everything one could possibly need for a trip – toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner – you name it, but nothing that resembled deodorant! *Gasp!*
I was hoping that I was wrong since I can’t read any Korean whatsoever. Just to make sure, I decided to ask the cheerful grandmother working behind the cash.
Uh ooooh! What do I say?! Since my Korean vocabulary only consists of two words, hello and thank you, I asked slowly and clearly, “Do you have any deodorant?” while using the best spray onomatopoeia I could think of and pretending to spray my armpits.
She smiled and giggled sweetly when she finally understood after my third attempt. Third time’s the charm, right?
She checked the shelves and they didn’t have any. Oh my gawd! I couldn’t believe it. She pointed to a 7-Eleven that was across diagonally from her store.
Whew…7-Eleven’s gotta have deodorant! I looked and sadly, there didn’t appear to be any deodorant there either. Ooooh no!
So, I did it again…I asked the cashier if there was any deodorant, having my gestures and spray can onomatopoeia – ssssssssssssssssssh – down pat.
Luckily, the cashier, a young man in his early twenties at most, spoke English! He apologized and told me that they didn’t have any in very good, comprehensible English. He’s a great example of how young South Koreans’ English is communicable, unlike the vast majority of young Japanese people’s English, which is a completely different discussion.
Anyway, he told me about another convenience store further down the street, so off I went to store number three. Third time’s the charm, right?
Wroooooooooong, AGAIN! 🙁
The clerk checked for me, and she understood exactly what I was looking for after only one mini-show! 😀 She copied me to make sure that she understood me and before I knew it, we were both doing the deodorant dance together alternating arms…we must’ve been quite the sight to anyone passing by! LOL!
I didn’t see any other stores, so I figured I had no choice but to give up and to find a way to make it to the airport without knocking anyone out with my B.O.
Oooooh my gawd! What if I couldn’t find any deodorant at the airport either? How can deodorant in South Korea be practically non-existent?!
Why do I have to have deodorant, unlike my Japanese family members and friends? 99% of them don’t use it. Heck, they DON’T NEED IT! I’ve seen Japanese people my generation or younger use it simply because they like how it smells – baby fresh, shower fresh, etc. They don’t need it, but they like to try to smell nice and clean.
Poppa, my grandfather, cut down trees for the town paper mill for a living, and he never used deodorant in his life – he NEVER STANK! Every person I know who is half Japanese and half Caucasian NEEDS deodorant! One of my Japanese cousins joked one day that all of us double ice-cream cones inherited the “stinky white pits.” I guess it’s the same for South Koreans, except that in Japan, you can find deodorant easily. The only problem is that there isn’t a big selection.
As I was thinking about all this, I noticed a fourth convenience store near the station on the opposite side of my hotel to the left of Juan Station.
Okay, one last try.
When I walked in, the clerk was busy serving customers so I couldn’t just get into my act. Dang! I looked, trying to make heads or tails of what I saw…very little (if any) English on the products. It made me think of how fortunate I am to live in Japan; if I can’t read something, I speak enough Japanese to get help comfortably.
The situation looked bleak, yet again. The clerk, who was probably in her mid-thirties or so, understood what I was so desperately looking for right off the bat but even better, she actually had some! YAAAAAAAAAAAY! *Happy dance!* There was only one kind, Nivea, but I was too relieved to care. I was so ecstatic that I wanted to hug her!
I heaved the biggest sigh of relief when I stepped out and floated back to my hotel. My deodorant dilemma in Korea was finally over!
NEVER forget to being deodorant to Korea! Best of luck if you get stuck like I did, and I’d love to hear about it if you ever do! 😀