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Who pays in Korean culture?


Korean culture has a unique set of customs and traditions, and one aspect that often confuses outsiders is the concept of who pays for various activities. From dining out to gift-giving, there are different expectations and social norms that dictate who should foot the bill. In this article, we will explore the intricacies of paying in Korean culture.

History and Background

To understand the current practices of paying in Korean culture, it is essential to look at the historical context. In the past, Confucianism heavily influenced Korean society, and this philosophy emphasized hierarchy and respect for elders. The older generation was expected to take care of their younger counterparts, which included financial support. However, as society evolved and modernized, these beliefs shifted, leading to new customs.

Dining Out

One of the most common situations where paying becomes an issue is when dining out. In Korean culture, there is a strong emphasis on communal eating, where everyone shares dishes. However, it is also common for one person to take charge of ordering and paying for the meal. This person is usually the oldest or most senior member present. If someone invites you out to eat in Korea, it is customary to offer to pay, but the host will often refuse your offer.


Another scenario where paying can cause confusion is when giving gifts. Gifts are an important part of Korean culture and are given on many occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, and holidays. However, there are specific rules around who should give what type of gift and how much money should be spent. In general, it is expected that the giver will pay for the gift entirely.

Drinking Culture

Korean drinking culture is infamous for its intensity, and when alcohol is involved, paying can become a complex issue. It is often the case that one person will take charge of ordering drinks and paying for them. However, it is also expected that everyone will contribute to the drinking session by buying rounds or pouring drinks for others.

Business Culture

In Korean business culture, paying is a significant aspect of building relationships and showing respect. It is customary to offer gifts or pay for meals when conducting business, and this gesture can go a long way in establishing trust and rapport.

Family Culture

Family is essential in Korean culture, and there are specific expectations around who should pay for various expenses. In general, parents are expected to provide financial support for their children until they are economically independent. However, there is also a cultural expectation that children will take care of their aging parents in return.

Wedding Culture

Weddings are significant events in Korean culture, and there are specific customs around who should pay for what. Traditionally, the groom’s family would bear most of the wedding expenses, but this has shifted in modern times. Now, both families typically contribute to the costs of the wedding.

Travel Culture

When traveling with others in Korea, paying can become complicated. It is common for one person to take charge of booking and paying for accommodation and transportation. However, it is also customary for everyone to contribute financially to the trip.

Generational Differences

As with any culture, generational differences can impact how people approach paying in Korean society. Younger generations may be more inclined to split bills or share expenses equally, while older generations may adhere more strictly to traditional customs.

Cultural Sensitivity

As an outsider in Korean culture, it is essential to be respectful and aware of the customs surrounding paying. When dining out or conducting business, it is always best to offer to pay, but be prepared to have your offer refused. Additionally, it is important to research and understand the customs around gifting and weddings to avoid any cultural faux pas.


Paying in Korean culture is a complex issue that is steeped in tradition and social norms. From dining out to gift-giving, there are specific expectations around who should pay for various expenses. Understanding these customs is essential for anyone hoping to navigate Korean society with ease and respect.

Who pays for food in the Korean culture?

In Korea, it is not common to “go Dutch,” meaning splitting the bill evenly. Instead, when a group goes out, one person pays for the meal and the others take turns paying for subsequent rounds. Typically, the oldest person or the person in charge pays for the first bill, and the others will argue and compete to pay for it.

Who pays on a date in Korean culture?

While societal norms are evolving and younger individuals tend to split expenses, particularly for restaurant outings, it remains an implicit expectation that the man should cover the cost on the initial date and possibly subsequent ones. This custom continues to persist.

Who pays for wedding in Korean culture?

In Korea, it is traditional for the wedding expenses, including venue and food costs, to be paid for by the groom’s family. The bride’s family typically pays for her dress and any other small expenses related to the wedding.

Do guys pay for dates in Korea?

Traditionally, it’s believed that men are responsible for paying for the first date and all future dates. It’s not customary for the other person to offer to pay on subsequent dates as long as the couple remains together.

Is there a no tipping culture in Korea?

In South Korea, it is not customary to tip in bars and restaurants, which is different from most European and American cultures. Instead, exceptional service is expected without the expectation of additional payment. Tipping can be seen as impolite and discouraged in South Korea.

How do Koreans pay respect?

Demonstrating respect involves various actions, such as showing deference to those older than oneself by seeking their opinion and lowering one’s gaze. Additionally, when interacting with objects, gifts, and food, it is customary to offer and receive them with two hands.

Gender Roles

In Korean culture, gender roles also play a role in paying. Traditionally, men were expected to pay for dates and other social outings. However, as society has evolved, this expectation has shifted, and it is now more common for couples to split expenses. Despite this, some older generations may still hold onto traditional beliefs around gender roles and paying.


Tipping is not a common practice in Korea, and it is not expected in most situations. In fact, leaving a tip at a restaurant or hotel may be seen as strange or even disrespectful. Instead, good service is often rewarded with a simple thank you or compliment.

Payment Methods

In modern Korea, cash is still widely used, but many people also rely on digital payment methods such as credit cards or mobile payment apps. When dining out or shopping, it is common to split the bill using these digital payment methods rather than exchanging cash.


Bargaining is not a common practice in Korea, and haggling over prices may be seen as rude or inappropriate. However, there are some markets and street vendors where bargaining is expected, so it’s important to be aware of the situation before attempting to negotiate a price.


Paying in Korean culture is a multifaceted issue that involves tradition, social norms, and gender roles. It’s important to be aware of these customs when navigating social situations in Korea, whether it’s dining out, giving gifts, or conducting business. By understanding and respecting these practices, visitors can show their appreciation for Korean culture and build stronger relationships with their hosts.

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