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Courtesy in South Korea
Courtesy in South Korea
Korea is a land of strict Confucian hierarchy and etiquette. As a visitor, you will not be expected to know every nuance, but making an effort will certainly be appreciated. Following these rules will impress the locals:
Koreans bow to each other to show their respect when they meet. They may also shake hands. However, with people you know well, quick nod of the head and a simple annyeong haseyo (안녕하세요), meaning "hello," should suffice.
When meeting for the first time, older Koreans will tend to ask about your age, your parents' jobs, your job, and your education level. If you feel uncomfortable about the questions, just provide short answers and discreetly try to change the topic if possible.
When picking something up or taking something from somebody older, always use two hands. If you have to use one hand, you can simply support your right arm with your left hand. Likewise, when shaking hands with somebody older support your right arm with your left hand.
It is customary to take off your shoes in houses and in many traditional restaurants.
Koreans in general have very strong nationalistic views and would view any criticism of their country with varying degrees of hostility. To avoid getting into the bad books of your hosts, it is advisable to praise the country or, at least, to avoid bringing up anything negative about it.
Avoid bringing up the Japanese occupation, Dokdo, the Korean war of the early 1950s and US foreign policy, or engage in other political discussions (unless mentioned to you) as these delicate topics are likely to get you on someone's bad side and can lead to intense debates, use of negative epithets, or even violence.
The Most Frequently Asked Travel Questions about South Korea
Where To Stay & Best Hotels in South Korea - updated Jul 2020
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South Korea Travel Guide from Wikitravel. Many thanks to all Wikitravel contributors. Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0, images are available under various licenses, see each image for details.