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How to behave in Korea?


Korea is a fascinating country with a rich culture and history. As a visitor or expat, it’s important to understand the local customs and traditions to avoid causing offense. In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide on how to behave in Korea.

Respectful Behavior

Koreans place a high value on respect and hierarchy, so it’s important to show deference to those in positions of authority. Bowing is a common way to show respect, and it’s customary to use honorifics when addressing people older or more senior than you. Avoid being overly familiar or using informal language until you’ve established a close relationship with someone.

Cultural Etiquette

Korea has specific customs and traditions that may differ from what you’re used to. For example, removing your shoes before entering a home or temple is expected, and it’s considered rude to blow your nose in public. It’s also important to be aware of the concept of “saving face” and avoid causing embarrassment or shame to others.

Dining Etiquette

Korean cuisine is delicious, but there are specific dining etiquette rules to follow. It’s customary to wait until the eldest person at the table starts eating before you begin, and it’s polite to offer food or drinks to others before serving yourself. Chopsticks are the primary utensil, and it’s important not to stick them vertically in your food or cross them on the table.

Socializing with Koreans

Koreans are generally friendly and welcoming, but it can take time to build relationships. Avoid being too direct or confrontational in social situations, as this can cause discomfort. Instead, try to engage in polite small talk and show interest in others’ lives.

Public Transportation

Korea’s public transportation system is efficient and affordable, but there are some etiquette rules to follow. Avoid talking loudly on your phone or listening to music without headphones, and give up your seat to elderly or disabled passengers. When exiting a subway car, wait until those inside have left before entering.

Personal Appearance

Koreans place a high value on appearance and grooming, so it’s important to make an effort with your own appearance. Dress modestly and conservatively, especially when visiting temples or other religious sites. Avoid showing too much skin or wearing revealing clothing.

Gift Giving

Gift giving is an important part of Korean culture, especially in business settings. When giving a gift, it’s important to wrap it neatly and present it with both hands. Avoid giving items in sets of four, as this is considered unlucky. It’s also customary to decline a gift at least once before accepting it.

Nightlife Etiquette

Korea has a vibrant nightlife scene, but there are some rules to follow when partying. It’s important not to get too drunk or rowdy in public, as this can cause offense. It’s also polite to buy drinks for others in your group and avoid leaving the table alone.

Business Etiquette

If you’re doing business in Korea, it’s important to understand the local customs and etiquette. Korean businesspeople value punctuality and respect for hierarchy, so arrive on time for meetings and defer to those in positions of authority. It’s also important to build relationships over time rather than rushing into business deals.

Religious Etiquette

Korea has a strong religious heritage, with Buddhism and Christianity being the most prominent faiths. When visiting temples or churches, dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering. It’s also polite to bow or kneel when appropriate and avoid taking photos of religious artifacts or ceremonies.


By following these guidelines on how to behave in Korea, you’ll be able to navigate the country’s customs and traditions with ease. Remember to show respect, be polite, and take an interest in local culture. With a little effort, you’ll be able to build meaningful relationships and enjoy all that Korea has to offer.

How do Korean people behave?

Koreans value punctuality and efficiency, and may seem impatient in some situations. It is customary to use both hands or the right hand to give and receive items.

What are the don’ts in Korea?

It is important to avoid comparing Korean culture or language to Japanese culture or language. Korea should be recognized for its unique qualities and differences from other East Asian cultures. Also, it is best to avoid showing anger or distress in situations of strong emotions.

What is considered polite in Korea?

In etiquette, it is considered courteous to use your right hand to offer or receive food and drinks while your left hand supports your forearm or wrist. The person who extends the invitation typically covers the expenses for everyone, but it is polite to offer to pay. In a two-person dining situation, generally the younger individual pays for the elder.

What is Korean attitude?

Koreans value traits such as diligence, hard work, filial piety, and humbleness. They take pride in their distinct traditional culture and their rapid economic growth. Education is highly emphasized in Korean society.

How to act like a Korean girl?

Koreans are known for their strong work ethic, humility, education, and pride. It’s important to adopt a positive attitude and focus on personal growth, while also being kind, polite, and refined. Avoid negative thinking and treat yourself and others with respect. Let your unique personality shine through.

Why can’t you wear jeans in Korea?

Wearing blue jeans and other Western clothing, such as T-shirts, skirts, and suits, is prohibited in North Korea because they are seen as symbols of American imperialism. Instead, citizens are required to wear traditional Korean clothing, such as hanboks.

Language Etiquette

While English is widely spoken in major cities, it’s always appreciated when visitors make an effort to speak Korean. Learn a few basic phrases like “hello” (annyeonghaseyo), “thank you” (gamsahamnida), and “excuse me” (sillyehamnida). When addressing someone, use their title and family name, such as “Director Kim” or “Ms. Lee.”

Tipping Etiquette

Tipping is not common in Korea, especially in restaurants where service charges are included in the bill. However, if you receive exceptional service or want to show appreciation, you can leave a small amount of cash on the table. In other service industries like taxis or hair salons, rounding up the bill is enough.

Gestures to Avoid

Some gestures that are considered harmless in other cultures can be offensive in Korea. For example, pointing with your finger is impolite, so it’s better to gesture with your whole hand instead. Avoid making the “OK” sign by forming a circle with your thumb and index finger, as this is considered vulgar.


Koreans value punctuality and being late for meetings or appointments can be seen as disrespectful. Make sure to arrive on time or a few minutes early, especially for business meetings. If you’re running late, let the other party know as soon as possible and offer an apology.

Personal Space

Koreans tend to have a smaller personal space than some Western cultures, so it’s not uncommon for people to stand close together while talking. However, touching or hugging someone you’ve just met is not appropriate. It’s also important to respect others’ personal space on public transportation by not standing too close or leaning on them.

Gender Roles

Korean society has traditionally been hierarchical and patriarchal, with men holding more power and authority than women. While this is changing, there are still some gender roles to be aware of. For example, it’s polite for men to let women go first and to hold doors open for them. However, avoid making assumptions about someone’s abilities or interests based on their gender.

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