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What to avoid in South Korea?


South Korea is a beautiful country, known for its technological advancements, rich culture, and delicious cuisine. However, like any other country, there are certain things that you should avoid to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. In this article, we will discuss the top things to avoid in South Korea.

Avoid touching people’s heads

In South Korea, touching someone’s head is considered extremely disrespectful. It is believed that the head is the most sacred part of the body and should not be touched by anyone except family members or close friends. Therefore, it’s important to avoid touching people’s heads to avoid offending them.

Avoid showing the bottom of your feet

In South Korean culture, showing the bottom of your feet is considered rude. It is believed that the feet are the dirtiest part of the body and should not be shown to others. Therefore, it’s important to avoid sitting with your legs crossed or pointing your feet towards someone.

Avoid wearing revealing clothes

South Korean culture places a high value on modesty and respectability. Therefore, it’s important to avoid wearing revealing clothes, especially when visiting religious sites or attending formal events. It’s best to dress conservatively and cover your shoulders and knees.

Avoid discussing politics

Politics can be a sensitive topic in South Korea. Therefore, it’s important to avoid discussing politics unless you’re well-versed in the subject matter. Additionally, it’s best to avoid criticizing the South Korean government or leaders as this can be seen as disrespectful.

Avoid using chopsticks incorrectly

Chopsticks are an important part of South Korean culture and are used for eating most meals. However, using chopsticks incorrectly can be seen as disrespectful. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to use chopsticks properly before visiting South Korea.

Avoid talking loudly in public

In South Korea, it’s important to be mindful of your volume when speaking in public. Talking loudly or shouting is considered rude and can be seen as a sign of disrespect. It’s best to speak in a soft and respectful tone.

Avoid placing chopsticks vertically in rice

Placing chopsticks vertically in a bowl of rice is considered taboo in South Korean culture. It’s believed that this action resembles the incense sticks that are used at funerals, and therefore, it’s seen as a sign of bad luck. It’s best to place your chopsticks horizontally on your plate when not in use.

Avoid tipping

Tipping is not a common practice in South Korea. In fact, it’s considered rude to tip for services as it can be seen as an insult to the person’s profession. Therefore, it’s best to avoid tipping during your stay in South Korea.

Avoid showing public displays of affection

Public displays of affection are generally frowned upon in South Korean culture. It’s considered inappropriate to kiss or hug in public, especially in front of elders or children. Therefore, it’s best to keep your displays of affection private.

Avoid using your left hand

In South Korean culture, the left hand is considered unclean as it’s traditionally used for cleaning oneself after using the bathroom. Therefore, it’s important to avoid using your left hand when eating or passing objects to others.

Avoid smoking in public

Smoking is allowed in some areas in South Korea, but it’s important to be mindful of your surroundings when lighting up. It’s considered disrespectful to smoke in crowded areas, such as sidewalks or public parks. Therefore, it’s best to smoke in designated smoking areas or private spaces.

Avoid being late

In South Korean culture, punctuality is highly valued. Therefore, it’s important to be on time for meetings, appointments, and social gatherings. Being late can be seen as disrespectful and can damage your reputation.


South Korea is a beautiful country with a rich culture and history, but it’s important to be mindful of the customs and traditions of the country. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable trip to South Korea.

What are the don’ts in Korea?

It is important not to compare the Korean culture or language to that of Japan, as Korea should be recognized for its individuality and unique characteristics within East Asian cultures. It is also important to remain calm and avoid showing anger or distress during emotional situations.

Are tattoos allowed in South Korea?

In South Korea, only medical professionals with licenses are allowed to open tattoo shops, while those without medical degrees cannot. However, having a tattoo is not illegal except for in the military, where it is prohibited. Individuals can get tattoos once they have completed their military service.

Can you wear leggings in Korea?

If you wear leggings in public in Korea, you may attract unwanted attention. Wearing leggings to work or school may also result in people staring at you and perceiving your attire as inappropriate.

Is it safe to drink water in South Korea?

In Korea, the tap water is safe to drink, meaning it is potable.

How do you show respect to Koreans?

It is important to display respect towards those who are older than you by deferring to their opinions, waiting for their input, and lowering your gaze when they are present. Additionally, it is customary to offer and receive objects, gifts, and food with both hands, and to remove your hat when indoors as a sign of respect.

Is Seoul safe for American tourists?

Visitors to South Korea can generally feel secure, as it is a safe country. However, crimes are more likely to happen in urban areas, tourist attractions, and busy markets. To stay safe, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and take common safety measures. This information was last updated on January 26, 2023.

Avoid refusing food or drinks

In South Korean culture, offering food or drinks is a way of showing hospitality and respect. Refusing food or drinks can be seen as rude or disrespectful. Therefore, it’s best to accept what’s offered, even if you don’t plan on consuming it all.

Avoid interrupting others

Interrupting others while they’re speaking is considered impolite in South Korean culture. It’s important to let the person finish speaking before responding. Interrupting can be seen as a sign of disrespect and can damage relationships.

Avoid pointing with your finger

Pointing with your finger is considered impolite in South Korean culture. It’s best to use an open hand or nod your head in the direction you’re referring to. Pointing with your finger can be seen as aggressive or disrespectful.

Avoid using informal language

In South Korea, formal language is used when speaking to elders or people in positions of authority. Using informal language can be seen as disrespectful or rude. Therefore, it’s important to use polite language when speaking with others.

Avoid being overly affectionate with pets

Pets are becoming more popular in South Korea, but being overly affectionate with them can be seen as strange or disrespectful. It’s best to approach pets calmly and respectfully, especially if they’re not your own.

Avoid discussing North Korea

North Korea is a sensitive topic in South Korea, and discussing it can make some people uncomfortable. It’s best to avoid bringing up the topic unless the other person initiates the conversation.

Avoid using your phone at inappropriate times

Using your phone during meetings or social gatherings can be seen as disrespectful in South Korean culture. It’s best to put your phone on silent and avoid checking it unless it’s necessary.

Avoid ignoring elders

Respecting elders is an important part of South Korean culture. Ignoring or disrespecting elders can be seen as rude or offensive. It’s important to show respect and deference to elders, even if you don’t agree with their opinions or beliefs.

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