Travel Info

Cultural cues to learn before your first trip to South Korea

Etiquette in South Korea is a huge part of the culture. Like in any other country, there are some basic customs you should know about to avoid making mistakes on your first travel experience in Asia and especially South Korea.

Some cultural faux pas might not seem like much for any tourists coming from Western countries but, to fit in as best as possible during your travel, we compile for you a top 10 of the most respected Korean customs to follow for a smooth trip.


  1. Speak loudly in public

Like in many Northern Asian countries, being generally obnoxious in public including screaming, shouting, swearing, and speaking loudly, is considered rude.

South Korea is no exception to the rule. Whether on the subway or walking down the streets, being obnoxiously loud in public is seen as being disrespectful.

Of course, some people still do it, but stares from locals will surely tell you you’ve been in the “wrong”. And, who wants to be perceived as the annoyingly loud tourist?


  1. Sit at designated areas when using public transportation

Some simple rules also apply when using public transportation. No one sits in the designated area for the “elders, weak/injured, and pregnant women” unless they fit the description. In many other countries, public transportation also has such specific areas but in South Korea, it is considered rude to sit and take the spot when you are “perfectly fit”. It is considered basic decency to leave a spot for anyone who might need it.


  1. Wear revealing clothes

This unspoken rule can be tricky as nowadays South Korea is evolving, and such customs are more and more left behind with the globalization and westernization of South Korean culture. But it remains true in certain places. It is still considered inappropriate to wear clothes revealing too much skin, especially around the shoulders and chest area. Both women and men are subjected to this rule, especially in traditional and religious settings where respect needs to be shown even more explicitly.


  1. Leave your chopsticks stuck in the rice

It is commonly known that Asian people use chopsticks to eat. Chopsticks are an integrant part of the culture, and some rules surround them as well. From it is considered rude to poke the food, as you would do with a fork, to eat. But adding to that, it is also considered rude to leave your chopsticks in a bowl of rice. Doing so is a sign of bad luck and superstitious people might even tell you to remove them.


  1. Drink while front-facing the elders

South Koreans might be considered the biggest drinkers known in Asia hence having such a strong drinking culture. Many rules come with this subculture such as the act of drinking sideways and/or front-facing your elders.

When you’re younger, it is important to drink sideways to show respect to the elders you might be drinking with. When you’re older, younger people will show respect by not drinking front-facing you and holding their cups using their two hands.


Stay tuned for Part 2, coming out next week!


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