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What things are considered rude in Korea?


Korean culture is rich in tradition and customs, and it is important to be aware of what is considered acceptable behavior in different situations. While some of these customs may seem unfamiliar or even strange to outsiders, respecting them is crucial to building relationships and avoiding unintentionally causing offense.

Using Chopsticks

One common practice that foreigners should be aware of is the use of chopsticks. It is considered rude to leave chopsticks standing upright in a bowl of rice, as it resembles the incense sticks used at funerals. Additionally, using chopsticks to point or gesture is considered impolite.


Bowing is an important part of Korean culture, and it is customary to bow when greeting someone for the first time or when thanking someone. The depth and duration of the bow will vary depending on the situation and the level of respect being shown.

Avoiding Direct Eye Contact

In Korean culture, it is considered impolite to make direct eye contact with someone who is older or in a position of authority. Instead, it is more respectful to lower one’s gaze slightly.

Personal Space

Koreans tend to value personal space, and it is important to respect this by not standing too close or invading someone’s personal space. Touching or hugging someone without their consent is also considered rude.

Gift Giving

Gift giving is an important aspect of Korean culture, and it is customary to bring a small gift when visiting someone’s home. However, gifts should be given with both hands and not opened immediately in front of the giver.

Shoes Off Indoors

It is customary to remove one’s shoes before entering a Korean home, as well as some businesses and restaurants. Shoes should be left neatly by the door and not worn indoors.

Avoiding Public Displays of Affection

Public displays of affection, such as kissing or holding hands, are not typically seen in Korean culture and may be considered inappropriate.

Respecting Elders

Respect for elders is highly valued in Korean culture, and it is important to use appropriate titles and honorifics when addressing someone who is older or in a position of authority.

Speaking Loudly

Speaking loudly or aggressively can be seen as confrontational and is generally not well-received in Korean culture. It is important to maintain a calm and respectful tone during conversations.

Drinking Etiquette

Alcohol is often consumed in social situations in Korea, but it is important to be mindful of drinking etiquette. Pouring one’s own drink before offering to pour for others is considered impolite, and it is customary to use both hands when pouring or receiving a drink.

Respecting Customs and Traditions

Overall, respecting Korean customs and traditions is key to building positive relationships with Koreans. While some customs may seem unfamiliar, taking the time to learn about them and follow them can go a long way in showing respect and building trust.

What is considered most disrespectful in Korean culture?

When interacting with others in Korea, it’s important to avoid physical touch like patting or back slapping. Additionally, juniors should not make direct eye contact with seniors as it can be interpreted as impolite or confrontational. Korea is known for its homogeneity in terms of race and language.

What are some examples of rude behavior in Korea?

Behaviors that are considered impolite in your homeland are likely to be impolite in Korea as well. Examples include spitting, shouting, physical violence, using vulgar language, and behaving in a generally unpleasant manner.

What is inappropriate in Korea?

In Korean culture, it is impolite to receive something using only one hand. So, it is recommended to always use both hands when receiving something. Another option is to use your right hand to receive while holding your right wrist with your left hand.

What are not allowed in Korea?

The Republic of Korea has a list of prohibited items for import, including guns, drugs, porn, subversive and treasonous materials, and fake goods. More information on export controls and the list of prohibited items can be found by clicking on the export controls link. Updated as of August 2, 2022.

Is smiling rude in Korea?

In Korean culture, a smile can represent not only happiness or amusement but also embarrassment or shame. For instance, a Korean individual may smile when they have made an error. Conversely, sneezing is viewed as impolite in Korea.

What is to be embarrassing in Korean?

Feeling awkward or uncomfortable in a situation.

Hierarchy and Formality

Hierarchy and formality are important concepts in Korean culture. People are expected to show respect to those who are older or of higher social status. This is often reflected in the language used. There are different levels of formality in Korean, and the appropriate level to use depends on the relationship between the speakers. When speaking to someone who is older or of higher social status, it is important to use more formal language and honorifics.

Meal Etiquette

When dining in Korea, there are certain etiquette rules to follow. Before eating, it is customary for everyone at the table to say “jal meokkesseumnida,” which means “let’s eat well.” It is also polite to wait for the oldest person or the person of highest status at the table to start eating before beginning to eat yourself. When using chopsticks, it is considered rude to lick them or leave them standing upright in a bowl of food.

Respect for Authority

Koreans have a deep respect for authority, whether it be government officials, teachers, or parents. It is important to show deference to those in positions of authority and to avoid criticizing them publicly. Protests and demonstrations are not as common in Korea as they are in some other countries due to this cultural value.

Gender Roles

Traditional gender roles still play a significant role in Korean society. Men are often expected to be the breadwinners and women are expected to take care of the home and family. However, these roles are slowly changing as more women enter the workforce and challenge traditional gender norms.

Socializing with Koreans

Socializing with Koreans can be a great way to learn about their culture and build relationships. However, it is important to respect their customs and traditions while doing so. Koreans are generally warm and welcoming to foreigners, but it is important to avoid making assumptions or stereotypes about their culture. Asking questions and showing genuine interest can go a long way in building positive relationships.

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