Do and don't in South Korea

Are you living in South Korea? We need you to share your experience of the local customs :)

Is it difficult to adjust to the local customs in South Korea?

Could you please share with us a list of the do's and don't's in South Korea?


I wish I had learned more about the customs :(

One thing was the "shake hands" thing. Men usually do, sort of, at least with foreigners.
Women don't normally.

Mh, I really can't think of any....*me bad*


rule number 1, just mind ur own business
rule number 2, of course do not try 2b who u really r...
rule number 3, better not talk korean even if u know basic korean...
rule number 4, yeah. learn it if u want 2 stay here 4 a while
rule number 5, dont worry it is easy 2 find a job !! even if u do not go 4 it, it will come 2 u :)
rule number 6, SAVE MONEY B4 COMING HERE ( i'd say a lot )
rule number 7, make sure u have a contact/friend/relative/whatever... that is IMPORTANT.
rule number 8, find urself different hobbies
rule number 9, enjoy this country as much as u can. althought u r having bad xperiences or whatever, this is real, wicked, funny, cold ( in all ways ), shocking, etc...
rule number 10, kill'em all !! no, just kidding. JUST FIGHT as this territory is starting 2b really really difficult ;)

Hi Nicol.
I'm Neo, Korean, living in Seoul.

Yes, I can understand what you have felt when you have encountered "shake hand" situation.

In my opinion, it might be from Korean traditional philosophy " Confucian Ideas" in Cho-Seon dynasty.
There are several disciplines in Confucian Ideas.
One of them is Nam Yeo Chill Ce Bu Dong Seock, which means Men and Women do not allow to be in the same place after 7 years old.
The social atmosphere of Cho-Seon Dynasy was so traditional and conservative, therefore Women usually didn't allow to meet other people who were men. In other word, women at Cho-Seon dynasty had to be detained in there house. It's very similar to Muslim women's custom.

Hi baal.
I felt ashamed as a Korean when I read your writing.
All Korean are not like that way you have felt.
Anyway, It make me have some sympathy.

of course they r not all the same. is just the feeling that surrounds u...
glad now u have some simpathy.


You should not talk like that in public, you can not respect and enjoy where you at shouldn't be there.
You are there to make money, or student. You are getting something from them. Have some respect.


Hi Niclole,

When man offer there hand you can shake hand. If man just introduce him shelf than you just bow down little bit with smile.
Foreign man introduce him shelf to Korean woman better to bow little bit instead of shaking hands.

If you have any question, let me know I'll answer best I can.


Hi Alex,

This is an old thread but could you please concentrate on the initial topic > Do and don't in South Korea.

Thank you.

Actually Baal's 2,3,4,5,8 and 9 ~ I've found very useful in the right situations... :P  I've lived here over three years...  ;)

A few other things:
When someone is giving a speech, DO NOT look at them in the eyes as if you are "paying attention" ~ You should actually look down to show your respect.
More respect, offer money only with your right hand, and with your left hand between your wrist and elbow.
Also, if you are younger, no matter what the manners or job title, you give space and respect to elders. 

The poster who said above that the women and men are set apart because of old Confucian ways is right about the origin, and "women's rights" here are not seen the same as in most Western countries, so expect some weirdness to be sure as a woman. 

Other odds and ends, don't point the base of your foot at people and try to avoid putting your hands in your pockets around touchy people. 
And again with the handshaking, even men prefer the bow reflexively even among other men for a large part, so go with that as a new default, and you'll win a point every time.

Enjoy!  It's a great country (but totally weird sometimes! but then isn't everywhere somehow~)


Actually, my husband just arrived, and used the little Korean he has learned in a short period of time, and it actually helped him, and they responded well to it.I will arrive in December and i am looking forward to it, so I really would like to hear some real sound advice

No, you're spot on~ That other guy said both things for a reason.  You got it right, it is huge to learn the language and I fully endorse using it as much as possible.  It was a bit of a joke to be honest, because sometimes after learning a lot, a body finds his or herself (in my case, sometimes me) saying the wrong thing and getting in trouble or further from the spot we were trying to get in the first place. 
Absolutely, learn and enjoy the language ~ please forgive the snark... Still trying to figure out which font to use for sarcasm. :P

Get maps..  Korea is a wonderfully diverse place with a lot of interesting things. Hiking here is HUGE.  I always buy the handkerchief from the mountain if it's a big famous one, and the trails are confusingly well built sometimes as well. 

Enjoy your stay. And when you get stared at, it's not lettuce in your teeth, or a pen mark on your face, outside Seoul, lots of folks stare at foreigners on the street as they walk by. Reason being some places still haven't gotten foreigners so much.  A small courteous nod/bow as you walk is enough to bring the moment more normal. 

Be well.

I thought some of his answers were fairly spot on. I don't agree with the language bit. I've been here two years and my Korean is still very basic, nobody has ever questioned me with regards to my poor level. I use it whenever I need to. Having some phrases are essential in Korea. Not a lot of people can speak English or are afraid to do so. If you need to ask 'how much' or give directions to a taxi driver and 90% don't speak English, how do you do this?

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