Foreigner’s Guide to Being Sick in Korea

With less than 48 hours left of 2016, it doesn’t surprise me that I’d get sick one last time before bigger and better things happen in what we all know will be better times ahead. This is now the third time I’ve gotten sick this year and while it hasn’t happened in a while now I thought I’d make the best of it and relay some of my experiences. *Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this is just some friendly advice based on experience 🙂

The first time I got really sick, I had a cough that wouldn’t go away. It lasted for almost three months until it turned into full blown bronchitis and a severe sinus infection. At that point I went straight to the hospital and got stocked up on meds. The second time I was sick, it was the same as the first time but less severe. Since then, I’ve really tried to take care of myself first and to avoid getting sick in the first place, and here is my checklist. Yay!

1 ) Get as much rest as humanly possible. This was a hard one for me earlier in the year as I was juggling a stressful full time job along with a million other priorities and sleeping just a regular amount each night was hard. I’ve since made it a priority to NOT FEEL GUILTY about getting enough sleep. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy. It means you’re taking care of yourself and your health and it’s so so important. Take the time to rest, and also minimize stress.

2 ) Stock up on healthy and easy to find drinks and remedies, like: yuja tea 유자차, omija tea 오미자차, chinese date tea 대추차, and red ginseng anything 홍삼. Yuja and chinese date tea can be found in most markets. Convenience stores always carry red ginseng drinks (if you have a gluten allergy be sure to check the ingredients of these.) If you have a porridge place called 본죽 near you, they carry concentrated omija which you can make into hot tea although you can sometimes find it elsewhere too. These all have great benefits in Chinese medicine and are said to be good for colds, sore throats, and for helping boost your immune system. More info here.


Omija and homemade Yuja tea from my friend’s MIL 🙂


3 ) Order in porridge. If you didn’t already know, porridge in Korean is Juk 죽. People often eat porridge when they are sick as it’s said to be very healthy for you. It’s kind of the Korean equivalent to chicken soup. It’s super easy to order in with basic Korean and apps like Yogiyo. Juk is naturally gluten free as it’s only made from rice. Options include things like:

호박죽 – pumpkin porridge

팥죽 – red bean porridge

야채죽 – vegetable porridge

흑임자죽 – black sesame porridge

버섯죽 – mushroom porridge

Of course there are many others, if you eat meat you can have 삼계죽 which is made with chicken and ginseng, and is the porridge version of 삼계탕.


4 ) Get yourself some masks. And no, I don’t mean face masks I mean the white ones you wear over your nose and mouth. These are worn not only to prevent yourself from getting sick, but to prevent others from getting sick. Hurray for preventing the spread! These are cheap and are sold everywhere, including obviously pharmacies and convenience stores.

5 ) Hit up your local Sauna. There is usually one in every neighbourhood so you hopefully won’t have to go too far (just search for 사우나 on Naver.) I love going to the sauna on a regular day, but I particularly like going when I’m sick because it helps to soothe any sore aches and I feel like it helps soothe sore throats and coughs. According to this article, stimulating the skin at a sauna can have amazing health benefits so if you haven’t done it yet, get a scrub down! In my experience they are usually around 15,000won. Not only will your skin feel soft and smooth but you’ll get some health benefits too.

I hope you don’t get sick this season but if you do that some of this comes in handy 🙂

Erin xo

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