Do’s and Don’ts in South Korea
1.) Don’t forget to take a bow.
Start introductions with a traditional bow and firm handshake.
2.) Don’t take a seat on the first half of the bus.
Koreans take into consideration elderly folks and them priority when it comes to public transportation, especially in trains. Senior citizens, pregnant women, and people with disabilities have a seat reserved for them at all times in the front of bus. However, during off peak hours where seats are abundant, anyone can sit there, but to avoid having to get up again before you stop, it’s best to just sit comfortable at the back.
3.) Don’t leave your shoes on!
Koreans are more floor and mat oriented, whenever you dine-out or enter a home, it is respectful to remove your shoes.
4.) No tipping!
Korea is not a ‘tipping country” as it is considered a rude gesture, so be careful not to cause offense.
5.) Don’t take table manners for granted:
- Don’t make noises with spoon or chopsticks hitting the rice bowl or other food containers.
- Don’t hold the rice bowl or soup bowl in your hands during the meals.
- Don’t poke around the rice or side dishes with the spoon.
- Don’t pick out what you don’t like or shake off seasonings.
- Don’t leave any trace of food on the spoon while eating.
- During meals, unwanted parts such as bones are discreetly discarded by wrapping them in tissue paper so that others won’t see them. Don’t leave them on the table.
- Eat the rice and side dishes from one side.
- Don’t point with your chopsticks.
- Don’t hold a glass with one hand.
- Don’t reach across the table for distant food- ask a nearby person to pass it to you.
- Use an individual plate for dishes served for a crowd, and also for sauces such as soy sauce & vinegar, or sweet & sour hot pepper soybean paste.
- Try to keep pace with others by eating not too fast or too slow. When having a meal with the elderly, wait for them to put the spoon and chopsticks on the table at the end of the meal.
- At the end of the meal, pour sungnyung (boiled water in the rice cooker or scorched-rice tea) into the rice bowl and drink.
- After a meal, put the spoon and chopsticks on the same spot where they were placed first, and put a used napkins on the table (fold slightly for bigger pieces of napkins).
1.) Do mind your hand gestures.
It is polite to pass or accept anything with your right hand while your left hand supports your forearm or wrist. Also, do mind your hands when calling somebody with palms open because it is found to be offensive, the same goes for pointing with your index finger. The reason behind it is, because it is the way dogs or other animals are called.
2.) Do accept gifts.
It is okay to refuse a couple times first before you accept the gift. However, not accepting the gift at all is considered offensive.
3.) Do remember that escalators have fast lanes.
If you are not in a hurry, you are to stay on the right side of the escalator, and for those who would like to walk up the escalator (the fast lane) should keep left.
4.) Do remember some train rules.
The flow of traffic goes as follows, people disembarking goes out first, while would be passengers stay on the side, then the flow reverses allowing people to embark. Simple and organized.
5.) Be equipped with a few Korean words to use during your travel:
“Thank you”- Gamsahabnida (Gam-sahb-nida)
“Sorry” – Joesonghabnida
“Hello” – Annyeonghaseo
“Water Please” – Mul Hasibsio (Mul Hasip-syo)
“Good Bye!” – Annyeong (An-yong)
“Excuse me.”- Sillyehabnida (Shlem-nida)