As you can imagine, each culture has its own set of good manner practices. We’re constantly striving to have good manners in South Korea, even if we’re still learning. Since our culture is very different, there is a lot to learn. Below you will find some do’s and don’ts related to manners in Korea.
DO Accept Things with Two Hands
In the Korean culture, it’s considered rude if you accept things with one hand. While you shouldn’t stress about accepting every single thing with both hands, it’s especially important to accept money with both of your hands. You should also pay for things by presenting your cash or credit card with both hands. This is one thing that I need to continue to work on, because I do forget.
DON’T Use Incorrect Hand Gestures
If you want to have good manners in South Korea, it’s important that you use hand gestures correctly. You shouldn’t wave someone over to get them to come to you. This is especially true with taxi drivers. Koreans view this as rude because they tend to use this type of gesture when interacting with pets.
Instead, you should point your hand downwards and wave towards your wrist. This is the polite way to hail a cab in Korea.
DO Bow When Greeting or Leaving
In Western countries, we shake hands when meeting someone. While Koreans do shake hands, it’s more common practice to bow. You should bow when meeting someone for the first time. You should also bow when leaving!
When it comes to bowing in Korea, you should also bow even when you’re not meeting someone for the first time because it shows respect. I think of it as a greeting. Every time that I see my principles at my schools, I bow to show that I respect them. When I’m walking around the school grounds, most students bow to me, because they want to show their respect.
When greeting people that you don’t know very well in passing, it’s acceptable to slightly tilt your head down when saying 안녕하세요 “Annyeonghaseyo” (Hello, or “Are you well?”).
DO Remove Shoes Before Entering a Home
If you plan to visit a friend’s home, you want to make sure that you don’t have bad manners. One of the most important things to remember is that you should take off your shoes before walking into a home. Once you walk into an apartment, you will see a space where you can take off your shoes and leave them for later. You can then enter the home by stepping up on the ledge.
It’s also good manners in South Korea to take off your shoes before entering a school. Schools have slippers available for you to wear throughout the building. While this took some getting used to, I kind of like it because I don’t have to worry about whether my shoes match my outfit! 🙂
Some restaurants also require you to remove your shoes. You will notice right away by the piles of shoes at the entrance way and the floor seating. If you’re sitting on the floor rather than eating at a table with chairs, you will be removing your shoes.
We hope that this guide helped you better understand how to have good manners in South Korea. We’re constantly learning more about the culture throughout this experience, so I’m sure we will have additional helpful tips to share in the future.