When we moved into our apartment it was completely empty. Completely. The kitchen has doors that close over it so you can’t even see a kitchen initially. When we first walked in, there was no bed, both rooms were empty, and even the kitchen appeared to be missing.
Since then, the schools bought our table, bed, bedding and a tv as they are required to do by our contracts. Everything else has to be furnished by ourselves.We’ve bought many things, mostly variations of bookshelves. One-cubed bookshelves serve as our bedside tables. Another bookshelf is tipped over and our TV sits on it – its an entertainment center. We were even going to buy another bookshelf for our microwave.
We had a long list of things we want/need. A desk might be nice – at least somewhere to sit our computers down on. A microwave stand would be awesome – our kitchen is very tiny and another shelf to put the microwave, kettle and rice cooker would be exciting. The thing we wanted/needed the most was a couch. Since we got the TV we have been folding our comforter into 4ths and just making a pillow fort to sit on. It was better than sitting on the floor.
We’ve looked online – both at Daejeon people selling their used furniture and looked at buying new furniture off of websites like GMarket or Interpark. Both had some decent looking couches that were around $200. Seemed pretty good. We recently got our ARC cards -so we’re legal and can buy more things online. Also we have our bank accounts set up – but no cards. We were going to just buy the furniture and ship it to ourselves when we decided to just go try to find furniture in the area. This is ridiculous, we thought. There are huge apartment complexes, 25 stories high and 10-20 buildings. There are so many people here that need furniture – there has got to be a furniture store somewhere.
So we walked around and tried to find one – nothing in the proper downtown area of Gwanpyong. Then we tried this little hidden area behind our house, the stop lights just blink and the town essentially fades away. Its like where the sidewalk ends – where the city just sort of ends. We walked around here for a while and had basically given up when Chris shouts “chairs!” Sure enough there are some chairs sitting outside of a shop. Could just be a chair shop but we go see anyway. It ends up being a real, proper furniture store. We find everything we could ever want or need. The owners, a husband-wife-team just let us walk around for a while. They follow us and just watch us but they don’t try to help. We find a really cool microwave stand, bookshelves, entertainment centers, couches. Everything we have wanted. We decide it’s time to get serious.
You have to realize that here are two people who almost never went out to eat in Germany because they didn’t want to speak the language or make mistakes. But here, we just rage into a furniture store without even a rudimentary knowledge of the numbers and decide, that somehow, we are going to make this work.
I find a receipt and a pen and draw ₩ ? – how much? She writes the number down for me. She writes a few more prices down and points at all the different prices. They are $100-$200. A little pricy. She starts telling us in Korean about the different features of the microwave stands – some pull out, some have drawers, some have shelves, etc. The whole time she demonstrates all the different things they do. We’re interested in a few so I draw a truck on the receipt. – Do you deliver?
She doesn’t initially understand so Chris gets his ARC card out – it has our entire address on the back. Between pointing at the truck drawing and the address it’s pretty well understood that we need it to come to us. She gets excited and pulls us back to a 10lb book full of ever piece of furniture ever made. She starts flipping through it and showing us even more options. Her husband joins in and they excitedly demonstrate the features with charades and pointing. Well if the book is so easy to flip through, we want to see the couches. We know “sofa” because it is just “So-pa” in Korean so we ask to see the sofa pages in the book. They pull us over to where their display couches are -“sam! sam?” do you want a couch that sits three?
Forgetting the number for 2 completely, Chris and I link arms to demonstrate we are but two humble souls who need a two-seater. It is well understood so we go back to the magazine to look at couches. They show us some pretty intense ones – black and white leather, ones that fold down. We finally get a chance to flip through it ourselves and we find some cheaper ones and ones with fabric. They understand we like these more – colors are discussed by pointing at various objects in the room of the correct color; size is communicated by a tape measure that they extend or retract to show us the exact size of couch we would be buying. Only problem is they are all $600+. On the receipt I write 300,000 won or cheaper (basically an arrow pointing down – see bottom of the picture). Somehow, a gray couch we really liked that was $630 jumps down to $290. They communicate this by typing the number into a calculator and point at the couch. Really? Did we just negotiate that price or whats happening here?
More than half off for the couch we really want is too good of an offer to pass up. We want/need a couch, these guys are really nice and awesome. We’ll take it! We’re all excited. But they aren’t going to let us forget about the microway stand. It’s communicated with charades and a calculator that it will be discounted somewhat if we buy it with the couch. Sure, lets do it. They write up an order form, we just hand the ARC card over with our address and give them Chris’s new cell phone so they can see the number, too. (like they’re going to call it though). The wife makes us coffee and just smiles at us. This worked out very well for everyone.
The final price comes to $500 for the couch and microwave stand. A little expensive until we gesture at our card vs cash. If we pay in cash it will only be $30 deposit now and $420 later. So another discount – just for paying in cash. Like we have another option, we don’t have a Korean debit card.
What would’ve been $830 in furniture we wouldn’t have purchased suddenly became $450 and that includes the delivery and set up.
He writes our slip out and shows us “5:00 – 5:30” then points at the clock. What, like, today? We just pointed at stuff in a catalogue and you guys can get it to us in 40 minutes?! We double check by pointing at a calendar for a while, they don’t understand the problem – we’re just surprised. So we have less than an hour to get $400 in cash, walk home and push all our clothes/bags out of the way.
The ATMs run out of $50s really fast so we had to get $400 in tens. Then the ATMs don’t have money envelopes but basically paper barf-bags. So we literally had a sack of money. We rush home and throw all our things in the bedroom and shut the door. Just in time for him to ring the bell. We try to buzz him in – it doesn’t work. Chris goes down to find them and let them in but somehow they find their own way in.
Within 5 minutes we have a couch and microwave counter. Everything is set up. We hand him the $400 in tens, he doesn’t even count it but folds it in half and shoves it in his pocket. Done.
In just 2 hours we somehow managed to get ourselves some necessary furniture, we saved a bunch of money and it was delivered. All very unexpected.
In terms of money – we don’t regret spending that much on furniture. Our house and schools are so nice that we would love to be here for a few years. After which we’ll sell the couch or ship it to the next place. This is possibly “forever” furniture.
Our first adult purchase -we have never owned furniture and we accomplished it without saying a word .