7 Rude Things Not To Do In Korea As A Foreigner

Walking while eating is a big no-no, and there’s a reason why.

Because South Korea receives foreign visitors from all around the world, what’s considered rude in Korea isn’t always the same in overseas cultures. Native Korean Kelsey the Korean shared seven things to watch out for so you won’t be considered the stereotypical rude foreigner.

1. Eating While Walking

Korea is known to have a wide variety of street food but has a couple of unwritten rules on enjoying it properly. Walking around while eating street food is a major no-no because the streets are often packed with people. It’s best to eat at the “little benches at the stall,” with the only exception being when it’s late at night and the streets are empty.

But it’s sort of considered rude to eat while walking because Korea, especially Seoul, is very crowded and you might bump it into someone.

— Kelsey the Korean

2. Fumbling With Chopsticks

Although chopsticks are the go-to utensils offered in Korea, foreigners aren’t forced to use them if they’re not comfortable. Kelsey noted that “most restaurants offer you a fork,” which cuts down on the mess foreigners make when struggling to use chopsticks and how “insulting” they get when saying things like “f*ck chopsticks.

But they just make such a mess, and they drop it everywhere. And they get frustrated.

— Kelsey the Korean

3. Disrespecting Korean Culture

Perfectly connecting to the rude comments about chopsticks, complaining about and mockingly questioning cultural norms is extremely disrespectful to Koreans. Kelsey gave an example of how to politely voice a dislike for something unfamiliar instead of mocking it without the intent to understand and accept different cultures.

You could be like, ‘Oh, this isn’t how we eat in my country, so I don’t really like it. So, I won’t get it next time,’ which is fine.

But if you’re like, ‘Why did you eat that?’ or, ‘Why did you eat that with that? It’s f*cked.’

— Kelsey the Korean

4. Disrespecting Elders

Like many other cultures, Koreans believe in paying the utmost respect to their elders. Using her parents as an example, Kelsey shared a common occurrence where foreigners ask for her parents’ first names to address them. Instead, she explained that they should be called by their last name and warned against saying, “‘That’s so weird.’

In Korea, we never call the elderly by their first name.

— Kelsey the Korean

5. The Foreigner Excuse

Living in a new country where a different language is spoken can cause problems such as taking extra time to figure out the “laundry in Korean” or not knowing “the bus or the exit.” Despite these setbacks, it doesn’t excuse the frequent instances where foreigners are “thirty minutes late with no notification” and use being new to the country as a constant excuse. Koreans can be understanding and forgiving until that’s taken advantage of.

If it’s common sense, like if it’s something plausible, then we understand it too.

But if it’s more than once—which it is for these kinds of people—then it’s a pattern, and we’re not really lenient with these kinds of things.

— Kelsey the Korean

6. Not Returning Money

Borrowing money in Korean culture is a sticky situation, with Kelsey warning, “No Korean people would ever do this if they want to be friends with each other.” Whenever Koreans borrow money from each other or split a check, it’s common for them to “send the money right then and there” before even getting up from the table. Many foreigners don’t do so and forget to pay back the money at all.

You have to pay them the amount you ate because you’re splitting the money with a group of people. But so many of my Korean friends have experienced the same thing [as] me where a lot of foreigner friends don’t do this.

— Kelsey the Korean

7. Being A Lazy Guest

Koreans grow up with the mindset that whenever you go to a party or have dinner at someone’s house, it’s common courtesy “to offer to help clean up or do the dishes.” Because every culture doesn’t follow this unspoken rule, Koreans value it more when foreigners take the initiative to help out.

It’s actually pretty rude for you to just eat dinner every time and not do anything. First time it’s okay just to be treated as a guest. But if you get invited over and over…you will not be invited again.

— Kelsey the Korean

Check out all of the rude things you shouldn’t do as a foreigner here.