Published in FEATURES  


Whether you’re travelling to Korea for business or pleasure, showing your respect for Korean culture and traditions is important. Here are eight super nice things you can do for your friends in Korea to make a really good first impression that’ll last!

Buy Presents

Korean culture puts a lot of emphasis on the giving and receiving of presents. It’s customary to bring gifts when you’re visiting a Korean person’s home. So. it would be a really nice gesture if you brought a present to your host family in Korea. If you’re coming to Korea on business, a small present would also be greatly appreciated. The good thing is presents in Korea aren’t necessarily expected to be expensive! A thoughtful gift that is inexpensive (usually a food or snack of some sort) will do wonders for making a good first impression on Koreans.

Eat a Lot

This one might sound weird, but more traditional/older Koreans like to see people eat well. This is more of a Korean grandparent thing (for those who grew up in a generation that didn’t have a lot of food), but younger parents also value this as well. With that in mind, if you’re a younger person going out to eat with older Koreans, one way to show your gratitude is to eat a lot. Don’t be afraid to ask for more rice or more banchan (side dishes). It’ll put a smile on their faces because you’re eating like a champ! Overeating FTW (For the win) !

Let Koreans Pay

If you’re going out with Korean friends or a Korean host family, many will feel the need to buy you a meal. If you’re a special guest visiting Korea, many Korean hosts will gladly pay for or invite you over for dinner. Buying other people meals or cooking for others are a few food-centered ways Koreans show their hospitality. So don’t fight over the check, and let your Korean hosts pay for the meal. It will let them keep face, and you’ll get a delicious Korean meal out of it. Everyone wins!

Offer to Pay for Something Else

After eating your fantastic Korean meal and saying thank you to your Korean hosts, a nice gesture would be to get coffee, drinks or ice-cream for a second round (이차 – icha). Hanging out with Koreans usually entails several “rounds.” Meals, coffee, dessert, noraebang (karaoke), bars and many other things Koreans do to hang out are all considered rounds, and many groups of Korean friends pay in rounds (of course, some Koreans go dutch too). If your friends are paying for each other, offer to pay for the next round to be awesome and make lots of Korean friends at the same time

Get Up on the Subway or Bus

 Subway etiquette in Korea says you should get up for the elderly, pregnant, injured and children. So if you’re sitting in a seat and you see an elderly Korean grandmother get on, be an awesome Seoul subway rider and stand up. Giving up your seat is one of the nicest gestures you can do for fellow Korea commuters, but it is also something that is translatable across the world. A very Korean way to be generous would be to get up for little children. Kids can have a hard time standing on a moving subway or bus, so getting up for cute little Korean kids is another way you can be really nice.

Let Them Practice English (or other languages)

Some Koreans study a language their whole life but never have the chance to use it in real life. That’s why so many people jump at the chance to speak English (insert any other language here) when they meet a native speaker! If people are constantly replying to you in your native language, even if you speak Korean, that might be a sign that they want to practice speaking your language. Just like how you want to practice your Korean, they want to practice the languages they’ve been learning. Be an awesome friend to Koreans studying your language. Speak back to them in your language and let them have the chance to practice with a native speaker. For some, it’ll be the first time ever, and that’s a nice honor to have, isn’t it? 

Help the Elderly

 Respect for the elderly is a Confucian belief that Koreans live by even today. You will always see younger Korean people helping the elderly with heavy things and crossing the street even if they are total strangers. So one way to be a helpful person in Korea is to help the elderly when you can. The most common way to assist a senior in need is to help carry heavy things. Helping someone to the top of the stairs will also show a lot of care and respect. And in Korea, that basically means you’re uber awesome. Tip: You can refer to any senior as grandmother (할머니 – halmeoni) or grandfather (할아버지 – halabeoji) respectively, even if they’re not your grandparents.

Bring Whatever You’re Having

 This is typical for Korean offices and schools. One way Koreans try to show kindness is to bring officemates or classmates some food, snacks or drinks while they’re out. On the way back to the office, if you’re in the mood for ice cream, a really Korean thing to do that is ultra nice would be to get everyone else ice cream too. It’s not too expensive, and it’s a really common way Koreans try to be nice. Some things to bring back to the office or classroom are: ice cream, beverages, bread (as snacks), coffee, etc. Remember, sharing is caring!


Author Bio : Keith Kim runs Seoulistic.com, a Korea culture and travel blog that provides local insider knowledge of the best things to see and do while in Korea. Visit Seoulistic.com for more information to travel Korea like a local and to learn more about Korean culture from the inside.

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