Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dongdaemun, Barganing, and shopping 'til 2:30am

Before I start, I thought I'd just point out how close Dongdaemun is to my house. Those tall buildings you can see there in the skyline? Those are some of the shopping towers in Dongdaemun. I walked home last night after shopping, and it's only about a 10-15 minute walk.

Anyway, while I have walked around the area of Dongdaemun and been to the movie theater there, I've (surprisingly) never been shopping there. I guess I'm not a big shopper, since I'm so cheap.

My friend decided at about 9:30 last night that she needed to go shopping, so I volunteered to go with her. We got there at about 10:00 and the streets were packed with people and the street was one big traffic jam.

Our first stop was the building where most of the vendors buy their merchandise. For this reason, you can get good deals for clothes and such, because you're buying wholesale. The downside is that you can't bargain here where as you can and SHOULD in just about ever other part of Dongdaemun. We didn't buy anything here the first time around, but my friend went back at the end of the night to buy a coat she really liked. In many places here you can not pay with credit card/ bank card, so be sure to have as much cash as you plan on spending with you. ATMs of most major banks are located on the first floor in most buildings.

Next stop for her was to buy some ski gear. She needed some new snow pants because she's going snowboarding today (lucky bum). Down on the second basement level of Doota (one of the shopping buildings) is a whole bunch of shops with ski gear. I'm not sure where to buy equipment, I didn't see any here, but snow pants, jackets and anything else ski wear related you can find here. Prices weren't that cheap, but they did have a lot of name brands here... the one I recognized was Burton (Vermont Represents!). Shopping here can be so nice in some places, because the Korean shop workers live to cater the customer. They have no problem spending 1/2 an hour with one customer to help them find exactly what they need. Of course, they will always tell you that you look pretty in what you're wearing... (ipuda- pretty in Korean) so you can't trust them to make a good decision usually. After my friend finally found her snow pants, we went shoe shopping for me. We found a small shoe store on the street and I found lots of cute shoes there. I finally found the ones I wanted, and found out they cost 30,000 won.

See, this is the point where I would have said... no thank you, have a good day. I'm way too cheap to pay 30,000 won on shoes, but my friend came over and I finally understood why she put on make-up before leaving the house. All she had to do was bat her pretty eyelashes and the price went down to 28,000 won. But she wasn't done. "No... it's too expencive.... please... my friend really wants these shoes, but she doesn't have enough money... can't you help us...??" Or at least that was the gist of the conversation from the words I was able to pull out. Finally, reluctantly, the seller smiled at me and told me 25,000 won. And... they were cute shoes... and I do really need black shoes... so I buckled too and bough them.

While I understand all the mechanics of barganing, I'm still too shy to try. But if I were going to bargan... this is what I'd say....

너무 비싸요! (naw-moo pissayo... emphasis on the naaaawwww mooo)- It's too expencive!
까가주세요! (ggaka chuseyo- not said as a demand, but more as a plea) - Please give me a discount!
If the shopkeeper is a youngerish man and you are a youngish female you can always try-
오빠! 너무 비싸요 (Opa! Naw-moo pissayo!)- Literally Opa means older brother, but it is often used to speak to older guy friends. If you say it to a shopkeeper... or any other guy you just meet, its slightly flirty...
Then there is the classic:
학생 이에요!! (Haksang ieyo) I'm a student! (Implying that you're poor...hey, all is fair in love and barganing...)
Well... I am a student... sort of... I do take Korean class once a week! And, speaking of this fact, if I got any of that Korean wrong, please write me a comment so I can change it. I'm still learning and I did that all from memory. I finally put the Korean keyboard stickers on my computer so I can type in Korean without having to guess which letter is which and punch buttons till I find the right one. I don't know about on PCs, but on Macs its easy to add a forign language keyboard. All you have to do is go into the international settings in system preferences. I have three keyboards on my laptop. English, Spanish and Korean... its quite convienient, I love it.

Anyway, I digress. The biggest barganing victory of the night though was at our next stop. My friend wanted to buy herself a big men's t-shirt that would come down to her mid-thigh to keep her warm. We met this shopkeeper who wanted to sell her a shirt so badly that when he couldn't find one in his own shop that fit her qualifications he started to go to around to the shops around him to find something for her. Unfortuatly for him, he was not able to find anything. We wondered around 'til we found a really long t-shirt. We asked the woman how much it was. She told us 28,000 won, which we knew way waaay too much, and my friend told her as such. She told her she would only pay 12,000 won. The woman lowered the price down to 20,000. Still way too much for basically just a t-shirt. My friend tried to walk away, but the vendor was insistant. She put it in the bag for my friend and told her 18,000 won. My friend pulled out 14,000 and said that was all she had. The vendor woman tried to peak in her wallet to see that she had more. Then she tried to convince me to lend her the rest of the money. I knew enough Korean to reply to this! 없어요! (Opsoyo-I don't have any!)This whole discourse happend while laughing of course. This is really one big game to all parties. My friend finally gave the bag back to the woman and walked away. At this point, the woman chased us down and said fine, 14,000. So... my friend cut the price in half. And it wasn't even a guy she was pretending to flirt with!

We walked around for a little while later and I bought myself a cute dress for 10,000 won (it was so cheap it wasn't even worth barganing for). Finally when we decided we were done, I looked down at my watch for the first time all night and realized it was 2:30 AM!!!! Who would have thought? The streets were packed (and evidently it's like that even when it's not christmas season) and the shops showed no sign of closing for the night. Evidently some places never close, others close at 4:30 am and open again at 10:30am. I guess going out all night isn't restricted to partying and drinking here... You learn something new every day!

To get to Dongdaemun, you can take line 2 or 4 to Dongdaemun Stadium Station, or line 4 or 1 to Dongdaemun Station. This is a fun alternative to partying all night on a Friday or Saturday night! Though it might be more expencive... haha...


  1. Bartering! Perfect for you, miss cheapo. Yes, I follow your blog, I just have never commented. It's always cool to read what you've been up to. Anyway...did you send my b day present? haha. If not it's ok. I miss shopping. My...the tables have turned.

    I can't believe YOU were able to find shoes. Is it because Korean women have small feet?

  2. I'm not a native speaker of Korean (I'm learning it just like you are) but here are a few corrections:

    더무 비싸요 --> should be 너무, not 더무

    오바! 더무 비싸요 --> I think it's spelled 오빠 (with the double ㅂ), and again 너무 rather than 더무

    학상 --> I think it's spelled 학생, not 학상

    Good luck with the Korean class!

  3. Thanks.. I suck at spelling in English, I duno how I'm expected to spell in Korean... thanks for the corrections... 더무 was a typo.. the others I'll try to remember from now on. Thanks for the correction. 감사합니다!!