I hope you all are getting through the week smoothly.
In continuance of my etiquette and manners series, I had to include Korea. Korea has certain customs, traditions, and rules of etiquette that have developed over the years, and many of them are different than what occurs in most other countries.
In Western culture, sales associates keep their distance while you are browsing. Not in Korea. Expect to be followed around like you are a shoplifter. Koreans believe the customer is Queen and King, and a salesperson should be available to them at any given moment.
Do not even think about being confrontational if you are having an issue in business or socially. Be diplomatic in handling matters. Koreans place a high priority on harmony. Kibun is a word with no literal English translation; the closest terms are pride, face, mood, feelings, or state of mind. If you hurt someone’s kibun, you hurt their pride, cause them to lose dignity, and lose face. It is essential to maintain a peaceful, comfortable atmosphere at all times, even if it means telling a “white lie.”
People rarely thank one another for gestures of courtesy (e.g., holding open doors), nor do they generally apologize if they bump into one another on the street or subway. However, you should know how to say thank you in Korean (gamsahabnida) upon receiving a gift.
It is insulting for Koreans to be touched by someone with whom they are unfamiliar. This includes posing to take a photo with others. Keep your body within its own personal space; avoid extended or crossed legs, and limit arm movements when explaining something to evade others’ personal space.
Meeting, Greeting, and goodbye
You can shake a person’s hand with two hands the first time you meet him or her. The same applies for receiving something that someone is giving you. If you want to show that you learn Korean customs fast, make sure that you accept items with both hands. That simple act will go a long way. Likewise, if someone bows when shaking your hand, it’s polite to bow in return. It’s definitely safe to bow to someone who is older or of higher rank to you, regardless of whether they offer the gesture first. Koreans place a very high value on age.
Korean women do not always shake hands and may slightly nod instead of a full bow.
Don’t forget to bow when individuals depart.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Part II.
Sending wanderlust vibes! 💋
Photo credit: Vogue