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How do Koreans greet strangers?


Koreans have a unique way of greeting strangers that may seem different from other cultures. Understanding how Koreans greet strangers is essential, especially for those who are planning to visit or live in Korea.

The Importance of Greetings in Korean Culture

Greetings play a significant role in Korean culture, as they reflect respect, politeness, and social harmony. Koreans believe that a proper greeting can set the tone for any interaction and can create a positive impression.


Bowing is a common way of greeting in Korea. It is a sign of respect and appreciation. The depth of the bow depends on the age, social status, and relationship with the person being greeted.


Handshakes are also becoming more common in Korea, especially in business settings. However, it is still not as prevalent as bowing.

Eye Contact

Eye contact is crucial when greeting someone in Korea. Avoiding eye contact may be interpreted as disrespect or lack of interest.

Verbal Greetings

Verbal greetings such as 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo) or 안녕 (annyeong) are commonly used when greeting strangers. These phrases mean “hello” or “hi” in English.

Title Usage

Using titles such as 씨 (ssi) or 선생님 (seonsaengnim) when addressing someone shows respect in Korean culture. 씨 (ssi) is used for someone who is the same age or younger, while 선생님 (seonsaengnim) is used for someone who is older or has a higher social status.

Gift Giving

Gift giving is a common practice in Korea when meeting someone for the first time. It is a sign of respect and appreciation. Gifts such as fruit, snacks, or flowers are appropriate.

Body Language

Body language is also essential when greeting someone in Korea. Maintaining good posture, avoiding slouching, and keeping your hands at your side are all signs of respect.

Cultural Differences

Koreans may greet strangers differently depending on their cultural background. For example, Koreans may bow more deeply to Japanese people because of their history and cultural ties.

Mistakes to Avoid

Some common mistakes to avoid when greeting Koreans include not bowing properly, not making eye contact, and not using proper titles.


In conclusion, understanding how Koreans greet strangers is crucial for anyone interacting with Korean culture. By following these guidelines, you can show respect and create a positive impression when meeting someone for the first time in Korea.

How do people react to strangers in South Korea?

On busy streets, people anticipate encounters with strangers and are not concerned when their personal space is breached, so they do not apologize. Additionally, instead of using their index finger, people typically use their entire hand when pointing.

Is it rude to smile at strangers in Korea?

In bars, it is common for people to strike up conversations with strangers, but in Korean culture, it is not typical to greet or smile at strangers passing by. If a Korean were to make eye contact with a stranger and initiate a greeting or smile, the stranger may either ignore, be confused, or have a look of unfamiliarity on their face. This cultural difference is notable.

What do Koreans find offensive?

When interacting in Korea, it is important to avoid physical contact such as touching, patting or back slapping. Direct eye contact between younger and older individuals should also be avoided as it may be considered disrespectful or confrontational. Korea is known for its homogenous population in terms of race and language.

Is eye contact rude in Korea?

In Korean culture, it is considered impolite to maintain eye contact while conversing, particularly if someone of higher status or age is scolding or reprimanding you. Unlike some other cultures where eye contact is an important aspect of non-verbal communication, it does not hold the same significance in Korean culture.

What is considered flirting in Korea?

In Korean culture, flirting is similar to what you may see in Korean dramas. People use endearing and charming phrases to win over the person they are interested in, as well as showcase their playful and cute side through aegyo, or acting cute.

Is it rude to hug in Korean?

In Korea, it is considered impolite to hug someone you don’t know, and it can make the other person feel uncomfortable, especially in public. Physical closeness is usually reserved for close friends and family. Once you have established a friendship with someone in Korea, you can decide on your own boundaries.

It’s also important to note that the level of formality in greetings may vary depending on the situation. For example, in a business setting, it’s more common to use formal language and titles. In a casual setting, informal language and gestures may be more appropriate.

When meeting someone for the first time, it’s also a good idea to wait for them to initiate the greeting. This shows respect for their personal space and allows them to feel comfortable in the interaction.

It’s worth noting that physical touch is not as common in Korean greetings as it may be in other cultures. Hugging or kissing on the cheek is not a typical way of greeting someone, especially if they are a stranger.

Finally, it’s important to approach every interaction with an open mind and willingness to learn. Cultural differences should be embraced and celebrated, not judged or dismissed. By showing respect and interest in Korean culture, you can create meaningful connections and experiences.

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