With over 12.4 million foreign visitors in 2017 and heightened media during the 2018 Winter Olympics, South Korea has become a major travel destination in the 21st century. In addition to its ancient temples, South Korea is well-known for its hot nightlife, exquisite cuisine, and high-end shopping. People interested in visiting South Korea for the first time should keep these do’s and don’ts in mind to make a good impression with the locals.
Memorize Korean Phrases
Even while traveling around big cities like Seoul, tourists will find it difficult to get around without a basic understanding of the Korean language. While locals don’t expect foreigners to speak fluent Korean, they greatly appreciate the effort to communicate in their native tongue. It will be easier for tourists to make friends with locals if they learn a few key Korean phrases. Here are some of the most useful phrases:
Hello: 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo)
Please: 부탁합니다 (butakamnida)
Thank you. 감사합니다 (gamsahamnida)
Do you speak [language]?: ____를 하십니까? (____reul hasimnikka?)
English: 영어 (yeong-eo)
I don’t understand: 이해가 안 갑니다 (ihaega an gamnida)
Where is the toilet?: 화장실이 어디에 있습니까? (hwajangsiri eodi-e isseumnikka?)
Excuse me: (getting attention) 실례합니다 (shill(y)e hamnida)
I’m sorry: 죄송합니다. (joesonghamnida)
Learn How To Use Chopsticks
Like many other Asian nations, Koreans use chopsticks more often than forks, spoons, and knives. One thing that’s different about Korea, however, is that people tend to use metal chopsticks. People who aren’t already familiar with using chopsticks will find it nearly impossible to keep these slippery steel chopsticks in their hands. It’s best to practice using chopsticks a few weeks before visiting South Korea.
Get A T-Money Card
Anyone traveling to South Korea should invest in a T-Money Card. These reloadable cards can be used on almost all public transport throughout the country including buses, trains, and metros. Travelers can also use T-Money Cards at various convenience stores like 7-Eleven. Purchasing one T-Money card and reloading it can save visitors a great deal of time, money, and aggravation.
Tip At Restaurants Or Hotels
South Korea does not have a tipping culture. Indeed, most Koreans view tipping as a sign of disrespect. Most hotels and restaurants take care of their employees with a gratuity, so don’t worry about leaving a tip when on vacation here.
Don’ts Related To Dining Etiquette
When dining with a group, it’s considered impolite to start eating before the eldest person eats. If a person is offered a drink from an elder person, it’s extremely disrespectful to refuse. Also, it’s important to leave bowls and plates on the table while eating. Unlike in other Asian cultures, it’s considered rude to lift bowls up to your face when eating with a group.
Talk About Politics
Like almost anywhere else in the world, it’s highly advised not to talk about local political issues with Koreans. Particularly sensitive issues include North Korea, American foreign policy, and the era of Japanese rule. If invited to discuss political issues, it’s best to take a neutral stance.