How to use a Korean washing machine.

You’ve come to Korea, you have a job, apartment, things are going swimmingly until…………………….you need to wash your clothes. And then you see this (minus the carpets);


Excellent. You throw your clothes in and then you see this;


It’s all in Korean and you don’t have a clue. Well fear not. I have translated the words to make it easy for everyone.

급수; Water Supply

온수; Hot Water

냉수; Cold Water

물높이;Water level




코스; Course

표준;regular cycle

이불; duvet and bed clothes

절약; Economic cycle

울;wool, fragile cycle.

불림; Soak

세탁; Wash

헹굼; Rinse

탈수; Spin dry

전원; on/off

동작; start your cycle

일시정지; Pause.

So you simply press the big buttons until the light shows beside the  option you want. Every machine has the buttons designed slightly differently but they always mean the same thing. Also, since my Korean is middling to so so , I might have made mistakes. Apologies if I have and be sure to point them out so I can fix them.

How do I use my heating?

When you come to Korea, you can say goodbye to the word radiator and say hello to Ondol. Ondol is an underfloor heating system that has been used in Korea for centuries.  Since many Koreans still sleep and sit on the floor, it’s extremely useful in the cold weather. In fact, most winters there’s nothing I love more than throwing my duvet on the floor, turning on the ondol and having a little nap.

But for foreigners who can’t read Korea, it can take a little while to get used to the dials. It’s sometimes a case of trial and error but fear not, here is a little explanation of what the words mean. (Every dial is different but generally the words are the same)



The first picture us much more common than the second. The second is a lot older than the first but if you look carefully, you’ll see the same words on both. Let’s take a look at some now.

1. 빠른온수- Fast hot water

2.  온수온도 and then  고, 중, 저. This means water temperature, high, medium, low. 

3. The wheel says 외출/온수전용. This means the temperature you want to set it to if you go out. Turn it up or down etc.

4.  난방선택 and then 온돌, 실내, 예약.난방선택 is heating choice. 온돌 is the floor heating, i.e. it heats the floor but not so much the water. 실내 means indoors or interior and in my apartment it heats the water and the floor. 예약 means reservation. You can set the heat to come on at a certain time but this has never worked for me so I wouldn’t know.

My tip is to leave your heating on continuously low during the real winter, especially if you go on Christmas holidays. If the pipes freeze and burst, the whole floor has to be taken up and it’s an expensive job. Leave the heating to 10 or 15 degrees. The heating only comes on if the temperature goes below that point so it’s not like it’ll be on the entire time.

I hope this helps someone somewhere! Apologies if my Korean spelling or explanation is useless, as it turns out, I’m foreign. Feel free to correct any mistakes below!

What TO bring to korea

Now that you know what NOT to bring, here are some ideas on what to bring;

1.Adaptor; I can’t tell you how many people I meet who completely forget to pack adaptor when they come. It’s an easy thing to forget but pack 1 or 2 international adaptors. If you’re American you’ll also need a surge protector which can be bought here.

2. Bath Towels; For some strange reason, Koreans don’t use big bath towels like we do. So it’s worth it to bring 2 of the biggest towels you can find with you. The smaller sizes you can buy here.

3. Swimsuit; Korea isn’t exactly known for its beaches but whether you go to a water park or Busan or just the pool, you’ll need a swimsuit.

4. Work Clothes & Shoes & underwear; Check what the dress code is like at your workplace. If it’s smart then bring enough work clothes from home. We don’t have Dunnes Stores or Pennys here so it’ll be worth it. If you’ve got larger feet, bring enough shoes for every occasion, summer, pair of boots for winter, school shoes, indoor shoes, going out shoes. If you’ve got an unusual bra size you should bring enough with you when you come. Same with regular underwear. You can get it here of course but it’s just not the same…….

5. Brown Mascara & other beauty products; It is very difficult to find brown mascara in Korea so if you use it, bring it with you. If you have colored hair and use a special shampoo, you might want to bring this with you also. The water here can strip your color easily.
For the men, good quality shaving products like aftershave. There is a poor variety here and they are expensive. For the women,quality perfume. If you wear Viktor and Rolf, YSL Cinema or anything other than Chanel, Dior, Burberry or a few other big names, bring it with you. And deodorant. Yes you can get spray deodorant here but its a good idea to bring stick with you because that’s harder to find (but still available) Either way a bring enough to last you a while.
The last thing is Colgate. You can get it here but so many people responded on my Facebook post by saying you should bring it. A happy medium is to bring one or 2 tubes of Colgate toothpaste with you and buy it here when it runs out.

6. Things from home; Everyone has a bad day here. It happens. It’s a good idea to bring a few pictures or something from home that you love.


7. Food and Drink; The all important one. Remember all food and drink only lasts as long as it takes you to eat them. Might be a good idea to bring seeds for herbs, Colmans mustard, Lea and Perrins, chilli powder. Cadbury’s chocolate to keep you going for the first while. And of course Barry’s Tea. You can never have too many tea bags. But remember chocolate and tea and technically all foodstuffs can be sent over easily so don’t take up too much room packing food! Also stock up on duty free liquor like Jameson and the like, only the major brands can be found here.


8.  Musical /sporting goods; If you’re Irish and you play music, you should bring your instrument.  Irish music is getting stronger in Seoul so there’s no reason not to keep playing. That goes for other musicians also.   Same goes with sports.  If you play gaelic or hurling bring your gear with you so you can continue to play in Korea.

9. A good attitude; Coming to Korea isn’t going to be a walk in the park everyday. Life is different here.  Come with a good attitude and an open mind and it’ll make things easier.  Even the most random experiences here are all part of the adventure…………..

As ever a huge thanks to everyone who helped contribute to this post via my facebook page.