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What things are rude in Korea?


Korean culture is rich in tradition and etiquette. Though it is an open and welcoming culture, there are certain things that are considered rude or inappropriate. Understanding these customs can help visitors to Korea avoid unintentionally offending their hosts.

Not Removing Shoes Indoors

Shoes are considered dirty and are not allowed inside Korean homes. Visitors should remove their shoes before entering a home or traditional Korean restaurant. Failing to do so is considered disrespectful.

Using One Hand to Offer or Receive Items

In Korea, it is considered impolite to use only one hand to offer or receive items. Using both hands shows respect and is a sign of good manners.

Not Bowing Properly

Bowing is a common gesture of respect in Korea. It is important to bow properly, with the head slightly lowered and hands at the sides. A shallow bow can be seen as insincere, while a deep bow can be seen as overly subservient.

Leaving Chopsticks Stuck in Rice

Leaving chopsticks stuck upright in rice is considered bad luck and reminiscent of ancestral offerings at funerals. It is best to rest chopsticks on the side of the bowl when not in use.

Sitting Cross-Legged in Public

Sitting with legs crossed is seen as impolite, especially in public places such as trains or buses. It is better to keep both feet on the ground when sitting.

Blowing Nose in Public

Blowing one’s nose in public is considered impolite in Korea, especially at the dining table. If necessary, it is best to excuse oneself and use a restroom.

Bodily Contact Between Opposite Sexes

Physical contact between opposite sexes, even among friends, is generally avoided in Korea. Kissing or hugging in public is considered inappropriate.

Eating Before Elders

It is customary to wait for elders to begin eating before starting oneself. This shows respect for one’s elders and is considered good manners.

Not Covering Mouth When Coughing or Sneezing

Covering one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing is considered basic hygiene and good manners. Failing to do so can be seen as disrespectful and unsanitary.

Speaking Loudly in Public Places

Koreans tend to speak softly in public places, and speaking loudly or shouting is considered impolite. Visitors should try to keep their voices down in public areas.

Avoiding Eye Contact

Avoiding eye contact is a sign of respect in Korea, especially when speaking with elders. It is important to show deference by keeping one’s eyes lowered.


Korean culture is unique and complex, and visitors should make an effort to understand its customs and etiquette. By following these guidelines, visitors can show respect for the culture and avoid unintentionally offending their hosts.

What do Koreans find offensive?

In Korea, it is considered impolite or confrontational for juniors to make direct eye contact with seniors and physical contact such as touching, patting or back slapping should be avoided during social interactions. Korea is known for its homogeneity in terms of language and race.

What are some examples of rude behavior in Korea?

Actions that are considered impolite in your home country are likely to be seen as impolite in Korea. Behaviors such as spitting, yelling, physical violence, using foul language, and generally being unpleasant are all considered unacceptable in Korean culture.

What is inappropriate in Korea?

In Korea, it is considered impolite to use only one hand when accepting something. As a result, when receiving something, it is advisable to grasp it with both hands. Alternatively, one hand may be used to receive while the other hand holds the wrist.

Is it rude to yawn in Korea?

It is considered impolite to have physical contact with others. Blowing one’s nose in public, as well as yawning or coughing without covering the mouth, is considered rude. Similarly, using toothpicks without covering the mouth is also considered impolite.

Is red offensive in Korea?

Following the Korean War, the color red became associated with communism and received a negative connotation. However, since the 2002 World Cup, it has been recognized as a symbol of passion and unity, promoting social cohesion.

How do Koreans apologize?

Korean language has different levels of formality, with formal language used for elders and a more casual tone used among close friends. When apologizing, there are two main words in Korean: 미안 (mi-ahn) and 죄송 (joe-song), both meaning “sorry,” but with the latter being the more formal option.

Gift Giving

Gift giving is an important part of Korean culture, especially for special occasions such as weddings or holidays. When giving a gift, it is customary to present it with both hands and to wrap it neatly in colorful paper. It is also important to avoid giving gifts in sets of four, as the number four is associated with death in Korea.

Respect for Elders

Respect for elders is deeply ingrained in Korean culture. It is common to use honorific language when speaking to someone older or in a higher position. When greeting an elder, it is also customary to bow slightly and use the appropriate title or honorific.

Table Manners

Korean table manners are formal and follow strict rules. It is important to wait for the oldest person at the table to start eating before beginning oneself. Additionally, it is considered impolite to speak while chewing or with one’s mouth full. It is also customary to pour drinks for others before pouring for oneself.

Personal Space

Koreans tend to value personal space and may feel uncomfortable with close physical contact from strangers or acquaintances. It is important to respect personal boundaries and not invade someone’s space without permission.


Tipping is not customary in Korea, as service charges are often included in the bill. It is also considered rude to leave money on the table after a meal, as it can be seen as implying that the server needs the extra money.


Apologizing is considered an important part of communication in Korea. Even if one is not at fault, apologizing can be seen as a sign of respect and a way to maintain social harmony. It is also important to apologize quickly if one has made a mistake or offended someone.

Public Displays of Affection

Public displays of affection, such as holding hands or kissing, are generally not common or accepted in Korea. Couples may show affection in private, but it is important to be mindful of cultural norms in public spaces.


Overall, understanding Korean culture and etiquette can greatly enhance one’s experience when visiting or interacting with Koreans. By showing respect for customs and traditions, visitors can build positive relationships and avoid unintentionally offending others.

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