For many of us, visiting Korea is on our bucket list of places to visit or even live, with the dream of learning the language, eating delicious food, making new friends, and maybe even seeing our favorite idols in concert. YouTuber Rachel Kim is letting us in on common mistakes foreigners make when they’re in Korea so that we can all show our love for Korea in a respectful way.
1. You don’t have to drink to make friends in Korea.
You don’t have to drink to make friends in Korea or drink every single soju shot people offer you. Although it’s nice of you to want to be polite and considerate of the other person’s feelings, you don’t have to make yourself sick trying to make other people happy.
Anyone who makes you drink more than you want is a jerk. Anyone who makes you feel bad or puts you down because you didn’t drink as much is a jerk.
2. Don’t refuse a soju shot.
We know, this sounds a little contradictory. But, Rachel explains that Koreans always make sure everyone’s glass is filled because it’s just good manners in Korea. You can take the soju shot, but just not drink it so your glass won’t be empty! Refusing it straight up might make the other person feel like you don’t want to be their friend because the offer is intended as a sign of friendship.
3. Put utensils down for your company and/or fill their water.
When you’re at a restaurant, it’s a nice thing to put the utensils down or filling the water glass of the person/people you’re with, particularly if you’re on a date or with someone older than you.
4. Don’t start eating before other people, particularly elders.
This is actually part of the table manners point above, but it deserved its own line. If you’re out with friends, particularly someone older than you, don’t just dig into your food no matter how hungry you might be! It’s considered good manners to wait until the other person starts eating, particularly if they’re older than you. If you’re not sure who is older, Rachel advises saying, “Let’s dig in!” That way, you can start eating together.
If you want to make a good impression wait for the other person to start or suggest them to go ahead. Usually, we wait until the oldest person at the table to have their first bite.
5. Don’t just call people by their first names.
In Korea, they rarely call people by their first name unless you’re the same age and close to them. The best thing you can do is to ask what the other person would prefer to be called.
6. Learn the correct body language.
Rachel laments seeing people press their hands together, doing a slight bow, as they greet people in Korea. The praying hands gesture is actually rooted in Buddhism, and although Koreans enjoy religious freedom, they aren’t a Buddhist country.
…Making this gesture as a sign of respect. But is it really? Is it really a sign of being respectful to Korea? I don’t think so, this is not even a Korean gesture. This is from Buddhism.
If you want to show respect, I believe learning about the culture should come first.
Did you learn anything from Rachel’s tips on mistakes to avoid in Korea?