Tips to Navigate Korean Etiquette

Like most countries, South Korea has a distinct set of social and cultural rules that they observe in daily life. We ask our Korean tutor, Hyechong Chung, to pick out some important etiquette rules to remember when travelling to Korea.

Greetings

안녕하세요 [an neyong ha se you] means hello. It is spoken whenever meeting or greeting anyone. However, there is a difference. When greeting someone elder or to show respect, it is polite and common to lean your upper body slightly forward with your head down also. The deeper the bow the more respect you show.

Dining

If you are the youngest at the table it is not polite to start eating before the elder person lifts their spoon from the table.  It is rude for a younger to start eating first unless the permission is given. In Korea, showing respect to elders is one of the strongest traditions although it is weakening among younger generations. However this etiquette still remains even at family meal time.

Drinking

In contrary, when drinking it is customary that a younger person offers to fill the glass of an elder person first, and in return you will raise your glass to be filled by them. When doing this you should hold your glass with both hands or with the left hand touching your right wrist. This is also performed when shaking hands with an older person who is higher than you in hierarchy. Age and hierarchy are very important in Korea. This is why the Koreans do no call their parents and boss by name.

Manors

You may often hear a Korean say ‘별거  아니예요[byelgeu  aniyeyo]’ which means ‘it’s nothing or nothing good’ which could be said when they give you a present. Please do not take it literally. This is just how we express  ‘you are welcome’. They would rather choose to humble the actions or themselves in order to show appreciation.

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Like most countries, South Korea has a distinct set of social and cultural rules that they observe in daily life. We ask our Korean tutor, Hyechong Chung, to pick out some important etiquette rules to remember when travelling to Korea.


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