Korean manners vs Western manners

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How different from your country can living in Korea be? What manners should you learn before traveling to South Korea?

Translation by Laura Fino and Angie Salavarria.

Each country is characterized by its culture, which is made up of a group of manners and codes of ethics. Knowing about these elements before traveling could save you misunderstandings, and facilitate your adaptation to a different culture, or it could simply enrich our knowledge. For this reason, I will explain some of the most common manners of  South Korean culture that can be considered strange to the cultures of the rest of the world.

One of the great differences can be seen when entering a Korean house. In many parts of the world, the first reaction is to greet people, while in Korea it’s different. Anyone who enters must remove their shoes first, as there is a belief that shoes bring negative energies from the outside.

For this reason, special shoes are used to walk at home. Today, this custom has become popular worldwide due to its guarantee of hygiene and prevention against the spread of COVID-19.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

One of the most striking manners of South Korea happens at the table, where respect for the elderly is crucial. But what does it have to do with eating? A lot, since the older person at the table takes the first bite, before that no one can eat.

While in other parts of the world it is not customary to wait for the elderly to start eating, with all the guests sitting at the table is enough.

Following the manners at the table, it is important not to lift dishes, as it is considered rude. Dishes should always remain on the table. You should also receive any object with both hands from an older adult, or you can stretch your arm so that it holds the other´s forearm.

Photo by Jakub Kapusnak on Unsplash

Not many countries have a dress code, usually each person can dress as they want. However, in Korea, when women wear a low-necked blouse at the moment of  greeting, in their reverence they should place their hand on their chest to show modesty.

In addition, when wearing very short dresses, it is common to put a blanket on your legs at the time of sitting, so that people cannot see the underwear.

For many countries, greeting with a kiss on the cheek is traditional or common, because it shows appreciation to the other person. However, in Korea, this is not normal. Instead, is used to making a small bow or leaning forward to show respect. In this sense, kissing or hugging in public can be disrespectful.

With these facts, we can realize how important and interesting manners are in different parts of the world, especially in Korea. In effect, these costumes reveal the way of thinking of its population and transcendence of its history.

I hope you have learned new things, useful to share with friends and for your preparation that will take you on your new adventure in Korea.

Written by: Marcela Rodriguez

Edited by: Adamaris Llampara


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