Getting Glasses and Contacts

Sometime in the first few months we were in Korea we walked into a glasses shop with the intent of getting new glasses – and were completely ignored.

This is really rare in Korea where any store will basically assign someone to follow you around. It’s really, really irritating. If you move something to look at it, they move it back immediately. If they speak English they will tell you about anything you even look at. If you’re looking at soap they will tell you “oh yes, soap. It’s very good. Smells like X. Try it. See? Smells good…” You move onto a shampoo and it starts all over again. This can even happen in large stores. Lotte Mart, a Wal-Mart equivalent has employees who hang out everywhere to force products into your hands. If you look at some laundry soap they’ll bring you a more expensive or a double pack and force it into your hand.

So to be outright ignored was different. We obviously weren’t welcome. So we left.

Only recently have we gotten the bravery to try again. Also 2 new eye doctors opened up and we discovered yet another. Thats right, there are 5 within a 4 block radius of each other. So this time we had lots options.

We started with the one closest to us – it opened pretty recently. The 2 employees immediately cared if we were there or not but didn’t speak English so they didn’t bother us. We looked at their glasses for a while and decided they were way too expensive for the flimsy quality.

We tried one more before we found the one we should have gone to from the beginning. I’m pretty sure it’s owned by the family of my students. My coteacher recommended it to me and even called her students’ parents to check if they spoke English. They said no but said we were more than welcome to get glasses from them. I’m pretty sure this was their shop.

So we walked in and try to communicate that we wanted new glasses. They had to start with one person so I went for it. Spoiler: Chris never gets glasses – he didn’t like any of the frames they offered.

They lead me to the back to do an eye test. Then I have to communicate I’m wearing contacts. That interested them very much (why do I want glasses and contacts?). I had to take my contacts out and then finally we got down to the tests. We did one then he pulled out his phone.

There is a brand new phone app that everyone is really excited about. Basically you speak into it and it translates what you said into English. The future is now, people.

Chris’s coworkers have been testing it endlessly on it because it’s just so darn cool. So the eye doc whipped out his phone and spoke into it. He handed it to me to read the translation.

Your glasses are giving you comfortable, now?

Then he pushed it into my face. “Speak” he said with a smile.

“Umm, yes.” I told his phone. He understood that and was disappointed we weren’t using the cool app.

He asked it another question and gave it back to me

So why are you need new glasses yet?

I tried to speak into it that these glasses were over 8 years old and also that I wanted new ones. The sentence was far too long for the app but I think it was communicated.

His only chance to convince me to leave (you’re current glasses are fine) meant we were going to go through with it and he would have to endure the foreigner. This was fine – he really was very friendly- it was worth a try, though.

For the eye test he has maybe never met someone with such bad vision. He showed me what I thought was just a gray line. “Read” he said. I just had to raise my arms in an incredible display of I-dunno. There’s nothing there. Turns out there were numbers there but I couldn’t see them at all.

So we had to keep doing this until he had a vague idea of my prescription.

Then he put a bunch of glass lenses into a pair of industrial test-glasses and put them on my face for me.

His phone told me:

In the outside take walk around look for glasses

Okay… So I walked around and realized how terrible the prescription was. Everything was crazy with depth perception and I was really dizzy. He handed me the phone.

“It’s not good” I told it.

He pulled one lens out of the top and put another one in. I’ve never done anything like this at an eye doctors before. The only problem is how dizzy you can get having your prescription changed so suddenly while you’re walking around.

We did this for a long time trying to communicate how bad the depth perception was with dramatic gestures. Finally it was between one and two. His phone told me:

The better of which is the one or two thief 

And I told him “1” was better even though that made no real sense.

So we had my prescription. All of the glasses were locked up so it was actually up to him to choose which color and frame size worked best for my face. Which was actually kinda cool. He was really nice about it and Chris got his own phone (which of course has this app on it) to explain I wasn’t going to wear small round glasses. They made me look like the Nazi in Indiana Jones

“I am, haha, not thirsty”

We finally got some new frames and were all set. Except I also needed contacts which blew his mind. Why on earth would I want or need both. He asked which brand. Acuvue contacts somehow translated to

Are you wearing the school uniform now?

Which made both of us laugh. He got me the contacts and then had us sit down for about 15 minutes while he grounded and shaped the glasses lenses right there. That’s right. It wasn’t a “we’ll call you in 2 weeks when your glasses arrive.” It was “I’m sorry 15 minutes is such a long wait.” Amazing.

We had read about plenty of people who get glasses in Korea for about $20. Depending on how bad your vision is. Our total came to $155 (but that’s with contacts)

  • Glasses frame: $40
  • Lenses: $60 ($30 for each eye)
  • Contacts (2 boxes): $55 ($27 for one box of contacts!!)
  • Vision Test: Free

As an added note he gave me a free contact solution and let me pick a case.


 And here are the glasses:



One thought on “Getting Glasses and Contacts”

  1. I was just wandering about this since I’m on my last pair of contacts and was thinking to just get more once I’m in Korea. Your blog is always appreciated!

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