Travel Info

Some cultural etiquette to learn before your first trip to South Korea – part 2

Etiquette in South Korea is a massive 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 Western tourists 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. Use one hand to receive/give.

Objects, gifts, and food should always be offered or received using two hands. It is a great show of respect and humility toward South Korean to do such things.

Not doing so won’t grant you mean stares as a simple tourist but if you want to settle long-term it is always nice to be considerate of such custom to help you fit in more.

Bowing is also an important part of paying respect in Korean culture. Whenever saying hello, thank you, or simply greeting someone, bending forward is also a great plus that will make you fit in among locals even faster.

  1. Forgetting about the age difference.

In South Korea, your age is a great determinant of your “rank” among others. It can be a cultural shock for anyone coming from a Western country, but this is very common in Asia. When you’re younger, you should always pay extra attention to your words and actions, especially towards your elders. etiquette

Because as you probably know, the Korean language has various degrees of politeness according to the level of respect you want to address your locator, hence the importance of knowing someone’s age. etiquette

Respect should always be shown to those who are older than you. Of course, the same way goes for anyone older than you but, it’s in the following parts you will be able to understand the difference age makes.

  1. Start eating before the elders.

Another difference can be noted in the food culture; younger people in South Korea shouldn’t start eating before their elders. It can be viewed as disrespectful, especially in a work context. Your superiors might disregard this at first but in the long term, it always makes a better impression on you. Be mindful of your surroundings and dine in timely order!

  1. Throw away toilet paper in the bowl.

An interesting fact: you can flush toilet paper in the toilet bowl but watch out for the sign that might say otherwise. Asian toilets are known to have low water pressure and get blocked more easily than toilets in other countries.

So, to prevent the toilet pipes from getting blocked and having to embarrassingly call the plumber for an intervention, better throw away your used paper in the bin! etiquette

  1. Mix all the different types of trash.

South Korea is known to have a very effective system for handling waste and trash. The system put in place here is a way to reduce general waste as much as possible and maximize recycling. Hence general waste, food waste, and recycling matters must be separated into different bins to be better collected. etiquette

When visiting South Korea, it can be useful to know the differences to avoid making mistakes and dispose of trash accordingly. etiquette


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