etiquette you must know before arrive Korea
Koreans have their own set of social
rules that they follow. If you understand these rules, you will
give good impressions and making friends. Here are some tips you
Korea is one of the most homogeneous countries in the world, racially
and linguistically. It has its own culture, language, dress and
cuisine, separate and distinct from its neighboring countries.
Hard work, filial piety and modesty are characteristics esteemed
by Koreans. They are proud of their traditional culture and their
modern economic success. Education is highly valued as the path
to status, money and success.
The bow is the traditional
Korean greeting, although it is often accompanied by a handshake
among men. To show respect when shaking hands, support your right
forearm with your left hand.
Korean women usually nod slightly and will
not shake hands with Western men. Western women may offer their
hand to a Korean man.
Bow when departing.
Younger people wave (move their arm from
side to side).
It is considered
very impolite to address a Korean with his or her given name.
Address Koreans using appropriate professional titles until specifically
invited by your host or colleagues to use their given names.
Foreigner should address a Korean with Mr.,
Mrs., Miss + family name; however, never address a high-ranking
person or superior in this manner.
Korean names are the opposite of Western
names with the family name first, followed by the two-part given
name. The first of the two given names is shared by everyone of
the same generation in the family, and the second is the individual's
given name. Example: Lee (Family) + Dong (Shared Given) + Sung
(Given). Dong Sung is the individual's given name. Address him
as Mr. Lee or Lee Sonsaengnim (which means "teacher"). Dining and Entertainment
Do not pour your own drink, but
do offer to pour others'. It is common to trade and fill each
other's cup. To refuse is an insult. Women pour men's drinks,
but never another woman's drink. A woman may pour her own drink.
Leave some drink in your glass if you don't want a refill.
Always allow your host to seat you. The seat of honor is the seat
looking at the front door. If you are seated in the seat of honor,
it is polite to protest slightly.
Koreans do not like to talk a lot during dinner. Periods of silence
are common and appreciated at a dinner.
It is polite to pass or accept food or drink with your right hand
while your left hand supports your forearm/wrist.
The person who invites pays the bill for everyone. However, it
is polite to offer to pay. When two people are dining, usually
the younger person pays for the older person.
Prepare to sing a solo number after dinner, no matter what kind
of voice you have. Any song is acceptable, as long as you sing
After dinner, the host may invite his guests to go drinking. Don't
refuse this invitation. Dress
dress well, and you should dress accordingly to show respect for
them. A formal suit and tie is almost always appropriate. Koreans
dress up for city activities, especially in Seoul.
Women dress modestly. Prepare to sit on the floor; avoid straight,
Gift giving is very common in Korea. Offer and receive a gift
with both hands. Wrapped gifts are never opened in the presence
of the giver.
Wrap your gift nicely. Bright colors are preferred for wrapping
gifts. Yellow and red or green stripes are a traditional Korean
wrapping paper design. Avoid wrapping gifts in dark colors or
Always bring a small gift for the hostess when invited to someone's
home. Give: small gift, candy, cakes, cookies, flowers, fruit.
Do not give liquor to a woman.
It is common to exchange gifts at the first meeting.
Give: liquor (good quality scotch), fruit, desk accessories, small
mementos, gifts from France or Italy (which often indicate status).
Do not give: expensive gifts (Koreans will feel obligated to reciprocate
with a gift of equal value), knives or scissors (they signify
"cutting off" a relationship), green headwear, gifts
with red writing (denotes death) or gifts in a set of four (denotes
Koreans are not
Chinese. They are distinct from other Asians in food, language
Expect Koreans to ask personal questions. This is viewed
as showing a polite interest in your life.
Deny a compliment. Don't say "thank you." It
is impolite and shows a lack of humility.
Never expect Koreans to admit to not knowing an answer
when questioned. They may give an incorrect answer or an answer
they think you would like to hear to make you feel good or to
Don't talk about Koreans or their customs or culture within
earshot of a Korean, even if you are saying good things. Do not
talk about politics.
Especially for Women
women may have difficulty doing business in Korea. Although women
are becoming more accepted in the Korean businessplace, Korean
men generally prefer to negotiate with men.
Korean women seldom shake hands. A Western woman can offer
her hand to a Korean man, but should not to a Korean woman.
Foreign women should always act elegant, refined and very
"feminine.” Laughing and loud talking are frowned upon.
a Korean name in Red!
If you do, it means they are dead.
This is not recommended if you are trying to make friends. Another
ritual reserved for the dead is to leave the chopsticks sticking
out of a bowl of rice. Doing this at the table is disrespectful.
Never blow your nose at the table, only in the bathroom. If your
nose is running from eating all that spicy kimchi, simply wipe.
Do not drink from your soup bowl.
Adapted from material compiled by Window
on the World, a cross-cultural training and consulting firm.