Korean Etiquette

A Basic Guide for Foreigners
 Annyeong haseyo. Jeoneun Lee Eun Ae imnida. Hello, my name
is Lee Eun Ae.
 . I’ll be teaching you a few of the basics in Korean
etiquette. As you may already know Korea is one of the most
polite countries in the world. Therefore if you’re new to the
country it would be handy if you knew a few of the rules and
customs so as to avoid accidently offending anyone. ^^
 When meeting new people it is traditional for you to bow
and greet them with ‘annyeong haseyo’ . Men will also
accompany the bow with a handshake, resting their right
forearm over their left. (Women do not shake hands). When
greeting elders it is expected for you to bow low – showing
respect to their elders.
 There are various types of bows in Korea:
 Ban-jeol: is the half-bow which elders (or those of a higher status)
do in response to someone younger.
 Pyong-jeol: or the ordinary bow which is exchanged between friends
and those on a similar status.
 Keun-jeol: is the deep bow which is performed during celebrations
and other formal occassions.
 To perform the deep bow. First, you
need to stand straight with your hands
resting just over your naval. Men have their
left hand over their right and women vice
 The second step is to raise your hands (still
clasped over each other) to chest level.
 The next step is different for both genders.
 Men: need to place both hands on the
ground and lower themselves.
 Women: keep hands in position and lower
themselves to the ground, left knee first.
 Men: bow placing your head on the ground.
 Women: bend your body at 45° angle.
 After holding that position for a moment, it’s
time to stand up again. This time right leg first.
 Women need to keep their hands in the same
 Stand up, back to the first position you
were in.
 And bow one more time.
 And that’s all to the keun-jeol.
 In Korea it is considered rude to refer to someone by their
given name. When introduced, Koreans usually give their
family name first followed by the given name. For example,
my name is Lee Eun Ae (family name, given name) so you
would refer to me as Lee-ssi or Miss Lee. Generally though,
tend to refer to each other by their professional
 In Korea, sharing dinner is an important part of the culture so
you must keep in mind certain customs.
 You should let your host choose your seat for you.
 Do not eat or drink until the oldest person has started eating.
 You do not pour your own drinks when out to dinner but you
can offer to pour someone else’s drinks. (Note: often the
youngest at the table pours for everyone else.)
 Do not eat or drink until the oldest person has started eating.
 The polite way to pass or accept food is to use your right hand
while your left hand supports your forearm/wrist.
 When offered a second helping it is polite to refuse first, the host
will usually offer again and then it’s okay to accept more.
 During the meal and at the end, do not cross or rest your
chopsticks on your plate and do not point the chopsticks at anyone.
(Place them on the chopstick rest when you are finished).
 A general rule of thumb, when out if you’re not sure what to do:
follow what everyone else is doing.
 It is okay to arrive at your host’s house up to 30 minutes late
without informing them. (Though it’s always best to be on time).
 Make sure to take your shoes off when you enter your host’s
 It is the custom to bring a gift. (see gift-giving slide)
 Before you eat it is polite to say Jalmukesumneda (I will eat well)
and Masegaemugusuyo (I ate well) to show thanks.
 T The next day you should send a thank you note to the host.
 This is actually an important part of Korean culture. It’s a pretty safe
bet to say that if you are going somewhere, it may be a good idea to take a
gift with you.
 When receiving a gift, it is polite to refuse a couple of times first
before accepting.
 You should always reciprocate a gift with something of equal value –
here it is important to add that you should avoid giving expensive gifts.
 Offer and receive gifts with both hands.
 Wrap gifts nicely, bright colours are preferred. Yellow, red or green
stripes are traditionally used to wrap gifts.
 Recommended gifts are fruit, cakes, small mementos, liquor (for men),
 Do not under any circumstances give knives or scissors (this symbolises
cutting off a relationship), anything with red writing (this symbolizes
death), gifts in sets of four (this is considered unlucky.) or expensive gifts
(as the reciever will feel obligated to give something of equal value back)
 Never touch, or pat a Korean who isn’t a friend or relative.
 Try to avoid using such language like ‘fellow’, ‘guy’, ‘this man’
etc , such language is considered demeaning.
 When given a compliment don’t say ‘thank you’ try to be
 Don’t talk about politics.
 And don’t talk about Korean culture/ customs/ etc to Koreans.
 I hope that helped you a little. ^^
 Annyeong-hi ga-seyo

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