South Korea Basic Tips – An Intro into Etiquette
I was fortunate to have a very good friend, he’s American but teaching in Korea, give me some pointers on things to consider when visiting South Korea.
If you are planning a visit to South Korea, it is best to learn a few things about the culture and norms of the country not just to strengthen your relationship with your South Korean host but to win new friends as well.
Besides, there are numerous ways in which you can enjoy your trip and make it memorable for yourself as well as your host. Here is what you should do and what is expected of you to avoid when traveling to South Korea.
South Korea Basic Tips – Food and Dining
When traveling to South Korea, do try the local food. Though it may be argued that South Koreans are not as food driven as say, Italians, the street food on food stalls, makeshift restaurants or wagons, and carts can be commonly found by the side of many streets. These can be very tasty. And if you like Kimchi, I would definitely check out my article on the Kimchi Museum.
However, the formal food is usually served in dishes for guests to pick from each. It is impolite to turn down the offer of food or drink. You are expected to accept everything you are offered at the table especially by the elderly.
Koreans like to serve their guests well and would never leave your rice bowl or glass empty. If you are full or don’t want to eat or drink something, take a small bite or sip and leave the rest in your glass or bowl. Sometimes even a tiny bite means more than finishing everything on your plate.
South Korea Basic Tips – Meet New People
South Korea is a classic mixture of thoughts and beliefs. They reflect a unique blend of ancient traditions and modern ideals and values.
In addition, you would find Koreans quite kindhearted and friendly. They find pleasure in helping people learn about their food and customs. On the other hand, some may not like communicating in English, therefore learning a few basic sentences might help you get through.
South Koreans like discussing their economic conditions, international achievements, personal hobbies, health issues, and sports, while national matters like socialism, Korean War, and communism are not the right things to discuss when socializing.
However, from my own experience, if you feel that the situation is relaxed, ask if it is okay to talk about these matters. You may be pleasantly surprised that your host wants to talk about these topics as well.
South Korea Basic Tips – Visiting a Korean Friend
Being on time is considered a polite gesture among Koreans. It is good to present flowers, fruits, or chocolate to your host.
If you bring a gift, make sure that it is not too expensive, especially if your host cannot reciprocate it, as returning the favor is part of their culture. You should avoid gifts in the multiple of four as they are considered unlucky.
Additionally, your gift should be wrapped nicely in red, pink, or yellow paper. While green, black, and white make the worst choice when exchanging gifts. Conversely, if you are offered a gift by your Korean friend, you are expected to accept the gift. It’s nice to give something in return later.
Moreover, it is customary to bid farewell to everyone individually with a bow when leaving. It is good to send a thank you note to your host the following day.
These are just a few but South Korea basic tips, but they’re important. But feel free to ask your host what is okay to talk about. If you really can not eat something, let your host know. They are equally concerned about dishonoring you as well.