Travelling can be a daunting but incredible experience. It should be something you should be able to cherish and enjoy all your life. Korea is a prosperous, beautiful and dynamic country, one that all should plan to visit at least once. Good Korean language schools in Singapore will inform you of the absolute basics, but we are taking a closer look today. However, it is crucial to keep local traditions and customs in mind to avoid any unwanted hiccups when travelling in Korea. Here are a few crucial customs you must always keep in mind.
For Koreans, Kimchi is culture
Distinctive, strong and defiant, Kimchi embodies Korean culture. Koreans consume Kimchi with every meal. Whilst the pickled dish of sliced cabbages, red chilli sauce and anchovy paste might be a bit hard for foreigners to digest, scoffing it down would earn you immense respect from the locals while leaving it uneaten may draw some disapproving stares.
Koreans sit down and often sleep on their floor; many of them cannot stand a dirty floor. Koreans consider walking into a home with your shoes on as a sign of utter disrespect.
“Bap meogeosseoyo?” or “have you eaten rice” is a very common greeting in Korea. That is how deeply ingrained rice is in Korean culture! Koreans consume rice in almost every meal they have. Unlike many of their neighbours, Koreans usually eat rice with spoons instead of chopsticks. If you eat rice with chopsticks, take special care to ensure that you do not leave your chopsticks sticking straight out of the bowl. This resembles the way rice is offered to the dead in Korea and you might end up offending some Koreans.
Soju is the national alcoholic beverage. It is a clear drink, which resembles vodka and is drunk out of shot glasses. Alcohol is often served with food in Korea. Koreans drink boisterously, whilst shouting geonbae! (cheers).
Do keep in mind that Koreans have a drinking etiquette. You must never pour your own drink. If you are pouring for an elder than you should put your free hand to your heart or your pouring hand to show respect.
The Korean Crowd Seldom Smiles
Even though their faces might suggest to the contrary, Koreans are a group of warm and friendly people. You meet feel that the entire street is scowling at you, discouraging you from talking; however, try mixing in with the crowd by using the traditional bow as an icebreaker, the natives will receive you warmly.
While not overtly presented, Koreans are fiercely nationalistic. Koreans take extreme pride in their culture, values and nation. They do not hesitate to display all this nationalism when it comes to international sporting events and at other festivals. This particularly boils down to Japan and their immediate neighbour, North Korea. Whilst the former invaded and colonised Korea in the first half of the 20th century, the latter is an archrival. Therefore, take special care to call “The Sea of Japan” as the “East Sea”, for this is what the Koreans call the body of water between Korea and Japan. Moreover, avoid any disagreements over the possession of “Dokdo Islands”, which the Japanese call “Takeshima”- Koreans believe that these belong only to the Korean people.