You may have a slight clue about what one shouldn’t be doing when in South Korea, perhaps learned firsthand from your TV screen aka K-pop drama. But learning more about what cultural mistakes to avoid during your trip to South Korea will bring extra confidence when interacting with locals during your holiday. Ready to find out what NOT to do when in South Korea? Here are three things should pay attention to.
Drinking etiquette is a big thing in South Korea. And if you happen to be in a restaurant with someone much older than you or an Ahjussi/ Ahjumma, it’s best that you obliged when he/she offers you a shot of soju or other beverage. This is considered an offering of friendship and respect so refusing the drink is similar to rejecting friendship. However, if you can’t drink alcohol, simply replace it with water or other soft drink because it’s the gesture that matters rather than the drink itself.
The proper way to drink a shot in front of an elder or senior is to turn your head to the side of back away as a sign of respect. Even if it’s just a few difference in age gap, this is a common ritual when going out drinking with friends and family.
If you want to master the etiquette in Korea and impress everyone, simply be more attentive to everyone else by pouring drinks to their cups. After everyone has their fill, you can then pour one for yourself or maybe you will have someone else pour it back for you out of respect. Also, make sure you start pouring from the eldest one in the group then shifting it to others.
When you’re out for a group meal in a restaurant, make sure to let the oldest person to have the first taking out of the dish served before you do. Respect to elders has always been the main theme of etiquette when in South Korea. Unless if you’re out eating with your closest friends, it’s best to be patient and let the seniors lead the way to opening a meal.
The sharing culture is also another important one for South Koreans. It’s a way of showing love to the society by being generous to others. So if you happen to have snacks in your hands, make an effort to offer it to your group of friends as a way of good attitude.
The “two hands” culture probably is the simplest but one of the most important manners to master with South Koreans. When giving or taking, make sure to get in a habit of always using both hands or you’ll be considered as rude. This is also the rule when you want to pour a drink to someone, especially of higher rank or a senior, to show respect and good attitude.
Especially the elders’! Never ever pat or touch someone else’s shoulder or head to greet them or as a way of joking, because you are being disrespectful. It is best to keep your hands to yourself with South Koreans, including someone older or even opposite sex, or you’ll be considered as having feelings or simply, impolite.
When in a public transport or a restaurant, do remember to lower your voice because South Koreans do not appreciate loud noises. In fact, they are known to shush or remind you to keep it down. Our best advice? Simply talk in normal volume and you won’t be bothering anyone’s comfort.
Still in doubt when traveling to South Korea? Make sure you come prepared with a local guide such as our photographers who not only know all the best ways to interact with South Koreans, but also the best places to visit for that perfect holiday in South Korea.