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What should you not do in Korea?


Korea is a beautiful country with a rich culture and history. However, like any other country, there are certain things that you should avoid doing to avoid offending the locals or causing any inconvenience. In this article, we will discuss some of the things that you should not do in Korea.

Don’t Ignore Bowing Etiquette

One of the most important things to remember when in Korea is to bow when greeting someone. It is a sign of respect and is also a way to show gratitude. When bowing, it is important to keep your back straight, your hands at your sides, and your eyes down.

Don’t Be Too Loud

Koreans tend to be quiet and reserved, so it is important to keep your voice down when in public places. This includes restaurants, parks, and on public transportation. Talking loudly on your phone or with friends can be seen as rude and disruptive.

Don’t Wear Shoes Indoors

In Korea, it is customary to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home or a traditional Korean restaurant. This is because Koreans consider shoes to be dirty and carrying germs from outside. So, make sure to wear clean socks or bring slippers with you.

Don’t Blow Your Nose in Public

Blowing your nose in public is considered gross and impolite in Korea. If you need to blow your nose, it is best to do so in private or in a restroom. Also, never leave used tissues lying around as this is seen as unhygienic.

Don’t Refuse Food or Drink Offered by an Elder

In Korea, respecting elders is very important. If an elder offers you food or drink, it is considered impolite to refuse. Even if you are full or don’t like the food or drink, it is best to accept it as a sign of respect.

Don’t Show Public Displays of Affection

Koreans tend to be conservative when it comes to public displays of affection. Kissing, hugging, or holding hands in public can be seen as inappropriate and uncomfortable for some Koreans. It is best to keep physical contact to a minimum in public.

Don’t Forget to Cover Your Mouth When Coughing or Sneezing

Covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing is a basic etiquette rule in Korea. This is because Koreans value cleanliness and hygiene, especially in public spaces. Always use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your mouth and nose.

Don’t Be Late

Being on time is very important in Korea, especially for business meetings and appointments. If you are running late, it is important to call or message the person you are meeting to let them know. Being on time shows respect and consideration for the other person’s time.

Don’t Wear Revealing Clothing in Traditional Places

Koreans tend to be conservative when it comes to clothing, especially in traditional places such as palaces and temples. Wearing revealing clothing such as shorts, tank tops, or low-cut tops can be seen as disrespectful and inappropriate.

Don’t Forget to Tip

Tipping is not customary in Korea, but it is becoming more common in tourist areas. If you do decide to tip, keep in mind that 10% is considered generous. However, it is not necessary to tip at restaurants, cafes, or bars.

Don’t Take Photos Without Permission

Taking photos without permission can be considered rude and invasive in Korea. Before taking photos of people or places, make sure to ask for permission first. This shows respect for the people and their privacy.

Don’t Insult Korean Culture or People

Lastly, it is important to remember to be respectful of Korean culture and people. Avoid making negative comments about Korea or its customs, as this can be seen as disrespectful and offensive. Instead, try to learn and appreciate the beauty of Korean culture and its people.


In conclusion, Korea is a beautiful country with a rich culture and history. However, it is important to remember these do’s and don’ts to avoid offending locals or causing any inconvenience. By following these basic etiquette rules, you can show respect for Korean culture and its people.

What things are not allowed in South Korea?

The Republic of Korea does not allow the import of firearms, drugs, pornography, subversive or treasonous materials or counterfeit goods. For more detailed information on what items are subject to export controls and restrictions, click on the “export controls” link.

What is impolite in Korea?

When interacting with others in Korea, it is important to avoid physical touch such as patting or back slapping. It is also considered impolite or confrontational for juniors to make direct eye contact with seniors. Korea is a highly homogeneous country both racially and linguistically.

What should I be careful of in South Korea?

It is recommended to avoid big gatherings and be cautious when in crowded areas. South Korea is generally a safe place for tourists as the crime rate is comparatively low. However, there may be instances of minor crimes, particularly in major cities like Seoul and Busan, so it’s important to keep an eye on your belongings.

What is illegal to bring to Korea?

Illegal substances like opium, marijuana, and cocaine are not the only items that are prohibited. This also includes items such as medicine, handbags, wallets, stoles, taxidermy, and ivory from animals like elephants, leopards, and alligators, as well as cashier’s checks, overdraft checks, and postal money orders.

Are tattoos allowed in South Korea?

In South Korea, only licensed medical professionals are allowed to operate tattoo parlors according to the law. Unlicensed tattoo artists are prohibited from opening tattoo parlors, but having a tattoo itself is not illegal except for in the army. Those who have served in the military can get tattoos afterwards.

Is staring rude in Korea?

Although not all Koreans with international experience may be aware, it is generally considered impolite to stare at someone in Western cultures. If you find yourself being stared at, you can try listening to music on your iPod to help you relax.

Don’t Smoke in Public Areas

Smoking is prohibited in many public areas in Korea, including restaurants, cafes, and bars. If you need to smoke, it is best to do so in designated smoking areas or outside. Be mindful of those around you and always dispose of your cigarette butts properly.

Don’t Point with Your Feet

In Korean culture, pointing with your feet is considered impolite and disrespectful. It is best to use your hands when pointing or gesturing towards something or someone. If you accidentally point with your feet, apologize immediately and correct your gesture.

Don’t Assume Everyone Speaks English

While many Koreans speak English, it is not a universal language in the country. Don’t assume that everyone you meet will be able to communicate with you in English. It is best to learn some basic Korean phrases before visiting the country to help you navigate and communicate better.

Don’t Haggle Too Much

Haggling over prices is not common practice in Korea, especially in retail stores or markets. While it may be acceptable in some situations, it is important to do so respectfully and without being too aggressive. Remember that bargaining too much can be seen as rude and disrespectful.

Don’t Leave Chopsticks Stuck in Rice

Leaving chopsticks stuck in rice is considered bad luck in Korea as it resembles incense sticks used during funerals. If you need to rest your chopsticks, place them on the side of your plate or on a chopstick rest. And never use chopsticks to point at something or someone.

Don’t Overstay Your Visa

If you are visiting Korea on a tourist visa, make sure to adhere to the length of stay allowed on your visa. Overstaying can result in fines, deportation, or even a ban from entering the country in the future. If you need to extend your stay, make sure to do so before your visa expires.

Don’t Leave Without Trying the Food

Korean food is one of the highlights of visiting the country. Don’t leave without trying some of the delicious dishes such as bulgogi, bibimbap, or kimchi. Be adventurous and try new things, but also be mindful of any dietary restrictions or allergies you may have.

Don’t Forget to Take Off Your Hat Indoors

Taking off your hat when entering a building, especially someone’s home, is a sign of respect in Korea. Hats are considered an outdoor item and should not be worn indoors. Remember to remove your hat before entering any traditional Korean establishments such as palaces or temples.

Don’t Take Public Transportation During Rush Hour

Public transportation can be crowded during rush hour in Korea, especially in major cities like Seoul. If possible, avoid taking the subway or buses during peak hours to avoid long wait times and uncomfortable crowds. Plan ahead and schedule your travel accordingly.

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