South Korean etiquette standards have evolved over time, and many of them differ from what is observed in most other nations.
While Koreans often tolerate any cultural gaffes made by foreigners, it is far better to be prepared so that you can make the best impression possible. You will not only be honoring the group, but you will also boost your chances of being invited out again in the future.
Here are some rules to make your traveling experience in Korea even better:
- Shake a Korean’s hands with both hands. Koreans have an age-based social hierarchy, therefore shaking hands with someone older than you with only one hand is considered insulting. So, just shake with two hands to be safe.
Receiving things with two hands is significant in Japanese culture as well. This modest gesture would go a long way.
- Ask a Korean how they would like to be called. Calling someone by their first name is considered disrespectful in Korean culture, especially if the person you’re speaking with is older than you.
- Always share food. Koreans have a unique notion of sharing known as Jeong, which essentially implies the bond between people in their community. If you do not share it, you will be perceived as greedy, which means you will have little or no Jeong.
- Write your name in red. It is considered taboo to write someone’s name in red ink. The history of the reason is disputed and unclear, but most Koreans consider it insulting and unfortunate.
- Blow your nose in public. You can’t help yourself sometimes and it’s inevitable, but Koreans don’t blow their noses on the subway, in restaurants, or in class!
- Pour your own drink.
- Siting in priority seats. Even if no one is seated in that place, it is considered impolite in Korean culture for anyone to sit there.
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