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The Basics of Korean Etiquette





Driven by cutting-edge technologies and trends, Seoul is one of the most fast-paced and high-tech cities in the world. As progressive as Koreans are, many still retain traditional and Confucian values. Korean culture and customs are deeply rooted infamily values,respect,and obedience toward people regarded as having higher status, rank, or age, including parents, teachers, older siblings, and older co-workers. People who are treated as having “seniority” in return have more responsibilities and obligations to their so-called"juniors."In addition to upholding the value of family, Koreans also place high importance on status and dignity, while every action of an individual is said to reflect back on one’s family, company, and country.


Common Korean Etiquette


While most Koreans understand that foreigners committing minor social faux pas do not mean disrespect, following basic Korean etiquette can help you make a better impression, while promoting a more positive interaction with them. On that note, here area few helpful tips to get you by!

General Etiquette

1) Take your shoes off at the door when entering any residence, temple, or guesthouse.
2) Greet people you meet with a short bow—essentially a nod—and soft handshake using both hands.
3) Give and receive any object using both hands.
*4) Tipping is not customary in Korea, however, some people may receive it while some may refuse. Just go with the flow!


Dining Etiquette

1) Start your meal once the eldest at the table begins eating.
2) Avoid touching food with your fingers, except when wrapping food in lettuce/cabbage.
3) Refrain from leaving your chopsticks or spoon sticking up from your bowl of rice, and use a spoon to eat rice.
4) Place chopsticks and spoon back in their original position at the end of the meal.


Conversation Etiquette

1) Refrain from pointing.
2) Wait until the person has finished speaking to understand the meaning, especially when speaking in Korean.
3) Always remember to be respectful as you would anywhere else and have a good time!


Basic Korean Phrases


Three Quick Tips:

1) Avoid indicating others as "you" in Korean and find an indirect gesture to use or simply face someone when you talk.

2) Enunciate sounds more "tightly" yet "softer" than you do in English. For example:

안녕하세요? → [an·nyeong·ha·se·yo] → Phonetic romanization: [ahn·nyawng·hah·seh·yoh]
Simply think of adding an "h" in some of the vowel sounds to round them out better!

3) Try and remain formal with your speaking at first, no matter what! Different culture, different rules.

Helpful Korean Expressions GROUP A - English, Korean, Pronunciation
English Korean Pronunciation
Hello. / How are you? 안녕하세요? [an·nyeong·ha·se·yo]
Nice to meet you. 반갑습니다. [ban·gap·seum·ni·da]
What is your name? (F) 성함이 어떻게 되세요? / (IF) 이름이 어떻게 돼요? (F) [seong·ham·i·eo·tteo·ke·doe·se·yo?] / (IF) [i·reum·i·eo·tteo·ke·doe·yo?]
My name is _____ . _____ 이라고 합니다. [(Your name) + i·ra·go·ham·ni·da]

Helpful Korean Expressions GROUP B - English, Korean, Pronunciation
English Korean Pronunciation
Thank you. 감사합니다. [kam·sa·ham·ni·da]
I’m Sorry. / I apologize. 1. 미안합니다., 2. 죄송합니다. 1. [mi·an·ham·ni·da], 2. [choé·song·ham·ni·da]
Excuse me. 실례합니다. [shil·lye·ham·ni·da]
Yes. / No. 네. / 아닙니다. [ne] / [a·nim·ni·da]
How much is it? 얼마예요? [eol·ma·ye·yo]

Helpful Korean Expressions GROUP C - English, Korean, Pronunciation
English Korean Pronunciation
It’s okay. 괜찮습니다. [kwaen·chan·seum·ni·da]
I don’t know. 잘 모릅니다. [jal·mo·reum·ni·da]
I’m lost. 길 잃었습니다. [gil·i·reot·seum·ni·da]
Please help me. / Could you help me? 도와 주세요. / 잠깐 도와 주시겠어요? [do·wa·ju·se·yo] / [jam·kkan·do·wa·ju·shi·ge·seo·yo?]