Saturday, June 21, 2014

Etiquette for Visiting South Korea

Every country has its proverbial “dos and don’ts.” Korea is no different.

Koreans are, in general, a friendly, understanding people, especially when it comes to foreign visitors. Accordingly, they’ll give foreigners a pass on many cultural faux pas committed out of ignorance rather than malice. That said, etiquette is an expression of respect, so you’ll want to equip yourself with at least a basic knowledge of Korean social protocol lest you unintentionally offend anyone.


As is the case in other East Asian nations, the bow is the typical greeting. There are different kinds of bow for different occasions, and a comprehensive explanation would be beyond the scope of this piece. Common, every-day greeting bows may be as little as a slight bob, although in general, the elder the recipient (or the higher the status), the deeper the bow. It is best to bow from the waste, legs straight and hands to the side. Men often follow a bow with a handshake: be sure to support your right hand with your left as you shake. Bows are given when greeting and departing.

If you’re at a gathering, it is considered better form to be introduced by a third party than to introduce oneself, although this depends on the situation.

As a K-Pop (Korean Pop Music) star, Psy just goes by one name: "Psy" 


In Korean names, the family name comes first, followed by the given name. As a general rule, never address a Korean by their given name unless invited to first. This is especially so for those senior in age and/or rank. With those of equal or lower rank, it’s best to use a professional title (or Mr., Mrs., Miss) and a last name, while for those of senior rank, use the professional title only.

In Public

If you’re in public, try to keep your voice down, especially if you’re speaking your own language. If you’re on your cell phone, be courteous to those around you and moderate your volume accordingly. Likewise, if you’re listening to music, make sure only you can hear it.

Public displays of affection tend to be frowned upon, too, although this is changing slightly with younger Koreans. Kissing, for example, is a no-go. Physical contact with people you don’t know well should be avoided, although in crowded public spaces like subways and buses, some degree of physical contact is unavoidable.

If you are in public, try to avoid blowing your nose.


Take off your shoes before entering a Korean home! You’ll sometimes find a closet for your shoes near the door; if not, just leave them in the space by the entrance. You’ll often be provided with slippers to wear around the house, too.

Traditionally, the “shoes off” rule was universal in all buildings, private and public. This is no longer the case, but you find other places where you must remove your shoes. Some restaurants require diners to remove their shoes and sit cross-legged at low tables. If you are visiting a Buddhist temple, remove your shoes before entering any of the buildings. Korean inns require you to take off your shoes before entering your room as well.
"From preparation to drinking, tea was traditionally regarded in Korea less as a beverage and more as an experience. The sound of the hot water as it is carefully poured, the sight of varyingly clear and colored liquids filling empty cups, the unique aromas that are created by different mixtures of ingredients, the hands that extend with poise to bring the tea to the taster’s lips, and the first appreciative and slow sip -- the experience is described as one that appeals to all five senses." From
The "darye" is a traditional form of tea ceremony practiced in Korea. Darye literally refers to "day tea rite" or "etiquette for tea." The darye tradition among Korean people is over a thousand years old. The chief element of the darye is the ease and naturalness of enjoying tea within a formal setting. These tea ceremonies are now being revived throughout Korea, as a way of finding harmony and relaxation in the fast-paced and ever growing Korean culture, while continuing in the long tradition of intangible Korean art. 

Eating & Drinking

Eating and drinking constitute an important part of Korean culture (as they probably do in much of the rest of the world). Accordingly, there’s a good deal of etiquette involved.

The typical Korean meal consists of rice, soup and side dishes. Soups, stews and side dishes are usually served in communal dishes. Don’t pick around the dishes looking for the choicest parts, or pick off what you don’t like. The rice bowl is usually left on the table. Chew with your mouth closed, and try not to make too much noise. It is always best to allow the more senior at the table to take the first bite. Oh, and when you’re finished, place the chopsticks and spoon in their original position: do not leave them in the rice bowl.

Drinking has it own rules of etiquette. Firstly, never pour your own drink --- let someone else pour for you. If you are drinking with someone more senior to you, pour his or her drink first. When both pouring and receiving, be sure to hold the bottle/glass with two hands. As you might expect at this point, the most senior of your party should drink first. If you are junior, it is considered good manners to turn your head to the side away from your senior as you drink.

  Main article source ~ Visit Seoul - Korean Etiquette | Official Seoul City Tourism