Updated date:

10 Things You Should Never Do In South Korea


Maya is fascinated by cultural etiquette and likes knowing how to make a good impression wherever she goes!

Are you planning a visit to south korea? You are probably excited about exploring all the country and enjoy your time to the fullest, but, you might want to remind yourself that it is going to be different from your country.

South Korea has certain traditions, customs and rules of etiquette that are different than what occurs in most of the countries around the world.

Of course most of South koreans accept some of the cultural mistakes that visitors make, as they are unfamiliar with the culture of a country that they are visiting for the first time, but we all know that is much better to be informed so you can avoid being in an awkward or embarrassing situation, or both.

And here you have 10 things you should never do in South Korea for a better experience on your trip.

Let’s start!

1. Don’t Use One Hand to Receive And Give Things.

Wheter you are giving a gift or receiving it or even just shaking hands with another person, to show your respect you need to do these things with both hands.

2. Don’t Pick A Random Seat On Public Transportation.

If you sit at certain spots at public transportations in South Korea, you might get yelled at or receive some harsh looks, whether it is on the subway or the bus there are certain areas marked off for pregnant women, eldery and disabled people, and just sitting on one of these seats can be seen as rude and offensive.

3. Don’t Leave Your Chopsticks Stuck In Rice.

Never do it, it's very frowned upon.

Never do it, it's very frowned upon.

you've probably heard about this. Chopsticks that are placed upright resembles the incense burnt at funerals, and bringing up death at the dinner table is definitely not a good idea. Never ever do this!

4. Don’t Assume You Can Call People By Their First Name.

In South Korea the way you adress people you are meeting is based on the social hierarchy, and you shouldn’t call people by their first names until you are well versed in the culture and be sure it is appropriate to do so.

The safest way to handle this one is asking the person you are meeting how he or she would like to be called the first time you meet.

5. Don’t Forguet To Take Off Your Shoes When Entering Someone’s House.

This practice is very common among most asian countries. In korea if you enter someone’s home or even restaurants in some cases, you will need to take off your shoes first. This is very important since if you forguet to take off your shoes when you have to, korean people might stare at you disappointingly as it is considered a bad manner.

6. Don’t Write Names In Red Ink.

This is a no. But why? Koreans find it offensive and unluky when you write someone’s name in red ink, that’s because is a bad signal, as dead people’s names are written in red ink in family registers and funeral banners.

If you want to demostrate the right korean etiquette, avoid giving a bad impression or ruining the moment, be conscious of the colors that you are using.

7. Don’t Start Eating Before The Elders.

Want to avoid making a bad impression at the dinner table in South Korea? Before you start eating, you have to take a look at your eating companion, unless you are the oldest person at the table, you have to wait for the elders to start eating before you do, that’s because eating before the eldery is considered rude.

You are also not allowed to leave the table before your elders finish eating. Yes in South Korea the elderly are highly respected!

8. Don’t Wear Revealing Clothes.

Although things are chanching, there are some styles of clothing that are not really looked upon in South Korea.

It is totally fine to show as much as legs as you want, you might have noticed that a lot of korean women love wearing mini skirts.

However, exposed shoulders, barebacks,or plunging necklines are considered indecent, these pieces of clothing will get you negative attention especially from old korean ladies.

9. Don’t Speak Loudly In Public.

This aplies especially if you are using plublic tranport as it is considered rude when you speak too loudly, in Korea, they vallue personal space a lot, so if you are in a public space try to be considerate and always be mindful of other people.

10. Don’t Blow Your Nose In Front Of Others.

It’s difficult to not blow your nose when you really have to. For koreans the act of blowing your nose is quite unpleasant to hear.

However, the noises of someone constantly sniffling and inhaling through a runny nose are not nearly as offensive or annoying.

So try to avoid blowing your nose as much as possible when you are in public spaces such as subway, restaurant or any other public spaces. Most of people in Korea will go to the bathroom so they can finally blow their nose.

South Korea is a country like all the countries around the world, it has its traditions, customs, etiquette, and that is what makes it unique and attractive to foreigners. But it’s also important to remember to have fun! Either way, the whole goal is to just have as much fun as possible on your trip.


Maya K (author) from Spain on May 06, 2021:

Mr. Happy

Yes, actually tattoos are not very socially accepted in Japan, and it's the same thing in South Korea, it's generally considered that people with tattoos are individuals who violate social norms, gangsters, or juvenile delinquents. But it's still not illegal as there are quite a few people with tattoos in South Korea. Although if a person that has a tattoo appears on tv, his/her tattoo must be covered. That's where we can see that even if tattoos are not illegal, they're not fully accepted by the South Korean society, especially older people.

And for the cannabis, well, it's actually illegal, South Koreans are prohibited from using drugs, even if they're in a country where it's legal. The Korean government regulary reminds its citizens of this prohibition.

And, thank you so much, I corrected the typo.

Glad you liked the article. :)

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on May 06, 2021:

How about tattoos? I know they are not very socially accepted in Japan.

Also, a good friend of mine told me not to mail him any cannabis because it's a bad thing there, to say the very least. He teaches English in Daejeon, South Korea. So, I have to keep that in mind. Haha!!

Great article! Thanks for sharing. (Lastly, there's a typo on "Don’t Star Eating Before The Elders." Probably wanted to say "start", not "star".)

All the best!

Related Articles