Korea is a country with a rich history and established cultural values. Koreans are extremely proud of their history, customs, and values. They might not expect one to act in accordance with those customs and values while in a foreign country but they certainly expect one to adhere to them while in Korea. If you’re planning to visit Korea, it might be a good idea to educate yourself about the dos and don’ts of the culture they cherish and maybe even take Korean courses in Singapore.
We have compiled for you a list of actions that are frowned upon in Korea. Keep reading for more info!
- Shaking With Only One Hand
It might be a custom in Westernised countries to shake with only one hand but that isn’t the case in Korea. The only people who can shake with one hand are those who are older than you or senior to you in rank in some way, be it an official work rank or seniority at school. It is highly advisable to shake hands with Koreans using both your hands.
- Entering A Home With Shoes On
In most East Asian countries, the floor has nearly the same sanctity as a dining table in the West. This is because their dining tables are only a little higher than the floor and they go to great pains to keep their floor clean. So, take off your shoes before entering a Korean home.
- Don’t Start Eating First At The Dining Table
It is considered very rude to start eating before anyone else, especially if there are elders present at the dining table. Let them start before you eat.
- Beware Of Only Pouring Drinks For Yourself
If you want water when eating with Koreans, don’t only pour it for yourself but pour for others too. Reciprocity is practiced and if you pour for someone else they will pour for you too.
- Refrain From Touching An Elder On The Shoulder
Only elders have the right to touch or pat youngers on the shoulder or head. If you pat an elder on the shoulder it will be considered as humiliating to that person.
- Abstain From Talking Loudly On Public Transport
Koreans believe in maintaining the public order, which includes low noise levels on trains and public transport. Not much noise will usually be heard on public transport. It is only natural that they will expect you to speak softly too. You should speak in a low voice while on public transport.
- Expecting Fluent English
Many Koreans don’t speak English fluently. While they don’t expect you to speak Korean, you shouldn’t judge them for not knowing your language either.
If you go to a stall or a store be informed that if they are displaying prices it means they are fixed. Don’t try to bargain as it is frowned upon. You can negotiate if there are no prices on display.
- Calling By Names
Koreans don’t like to be called by their first names unless they give you permission to do so. Ask someone how they would want to be addressed. If someone tells you his name is Mr. Sung, call him Mr. Sung and not just Sung or by his first name.
- Giving Tips
It is normal in other countries to tip in a restaurant or while riding a taxi. It is not in Korea. Nobody expects you to tip and if you do you might get a pleasant reply of “No, Thank You”.
While it is impossible to be totally familiar with the culture of any new country, it is always helpful to make yourself aware of some cultural taboos that are frowned upon in order to make your travel pleasant.