So after 2ish years, I've finally given in and figured out how to shop in Korea.
This is not to say that I've purchased nothing for the past 2 years, but it's been pretty close. In fact, outside of things I immediately ingested, books and gifts are probably the only physical object I've purchased in Korea since finalizing my home decor with a kimchi pot to use as a table next to the recliner I ordered.
It's pretty easy to not buy stuff. I pretty much hate going shopping so I never go to malls and previously there was just enough barrier to entry to online shopping that I never bothered with it. (granted, even creating a new account on a website is often sufficient to overcome my desire to shop). But recently, some things have changed and I've been compelled to get rid of some money.
Last weekend's trip to Jeju was what kicked it off. I was flying in and meeting up w/ some friends who were already on the island for work. Since they were there with a group, it made sense for me to pick up the rental car and go meet them. Armed with a once-renewed-but-still-unused international driver's license, I tried to line up a rental using this new fangled internet technology.
Aside: (I am still loathe to use the phone in this country. The person at the rental car place can probably communicate well enough in English to rent me a car. Hell, I can probably communicate in Korean well enough to reserve a car. This does not matter. I have some mental block against calling any business here. Tried it with a pizza place once. Must've got the area code wrong or something (they don't print it since everyone else knows what the area code should be). It took a while to explain that I wanted a pizza delivered to me at which point the guy who answered then explained he did not work for a pizza place and would not be making one for me.)
Anyway, my car rental reservation attempt ended up failing. Some message popped up that I'd need to call the place to continue. So I had the Global Help Desk people at work call (since my last rant about them there has been turnover in their office and the new guy is more useful). He also had some difficulty. A few places were all booked up. One had a car, but wouldn't rent to a foreigner. The confused/embarassed reaction from the GHD guy was great. Seems a bit odd that the guy in charge of dealing w/ foreigner issues would be unaware that there are still some institutional barriers for foreigners here. Eventually he did a find a place that had cars and deemed my money acceptable, so that was nice.
But I digress. After the car, I was looking into booking a flight over the Chuseok. The US sites I usually use were doing the annoying 'show a flight' then make it disappear when you actually try to book it. Happens a lot on the US sites with Asian airlines. Really annoying. I decided I'd give a Korean site a try. It's more hassle, but flights are available and cheaper. A victory for me.
Having waded this far into the world of handing out my credit card number to websites I can only partially understand, I decided to try and order some movies. I've got a list of a few Korean movies I've been wanting to see, but have been too lazy to actually seek out a place to purchase them. My previous attempt to order things online (namely, my recliner and a spare mattress for when my family came) had not worked. Figuring out the order form and registration process had been more hassle than just having a coworker place the order and giving them money.
I think the Gmarket site (big online retailer) has become much more foreigner friendly. The english forms now make sense and I was able to navigate the insane active-x browser plugins that all Korean websites are required to have. So I was able to order a couple movies. Even better, I think I paid for them using the points I'd been unknowingly accruing w/ my credit card (my credit card turns beer and chicken I buy into fake money for me to use!).
So now there's all sorts of stuff I can do. Rent cars, buy plane tickets, use a credit card, order stuff. And it only took 2 years!
Though, I should probably wait until I actually have any of these things in hand before I proclaim my new procurement prowess...