By Yerin Kim |Staff Writer|
When you open the door, a Korean student in front of you doesn’t hold the door without saying sorry.
When you make eye contact with a Korean student inside an elevator, you smile and say “hi,” but she avoids eye contact, smiling awkwardly.
Would you think Koreans are rude?
Korean etiquette is quite different from American. It is not common in Korea to hold the door open for a stranger, offer greetings with a smile when you make eye contact with strangers, or say “bless you” when someone sneezes.
When you bump into people in Korea, you won’t hear “excuse me” or “sorry” from them. It is not because Koreans are rude, but they mutually understand that everyone is busy and in a hurry, especially in the condensed city of Seoul.
“How old are you?” is a pretty common question in Korea when you meet someone for the first time, since the age of others determines how to interact with them.
Depending on age, Koreans have to use specific words, salutations and greeting styles. When you meet someone older than you in Korea, you should bow to show respect. Handshakes are not common, but only offered in formal meetings.
American greetings are relatively informal. When meeting someone, they say “hi” or “how are you?” while waving hands.
While Americans fist-bump and high-five between friends, Koreans usually wave and nod briefly.
When saying good-bye, don’t get offended if Koreans reject your hug; hugging in Korea is usually reserved for couples or family.
Korean table manners also reflect the tendency to be respectful to the elder.
Don’t eat first till the eldest person starts eating. Don’t get up from the table until others finish their meals.
When you are invited to dinner, finish all of your own food to express thankfulness to the host.
Blowing your nose at the table is impolite, as well as sniffling.
Koreans share their food. Each person orders their own meal, places it in the middle of the table, and shares together. Paying separately is not common. The eldest or those who have higher social status usually treat the younger people.
Don’t give a tip at restaurants; we don’t have tip culture. You should call the server, saying “excuse me.” It is not rude, but necessary to notify that you are ready to order food, unlike American servers who come to you.
While Korean etiquette and manners seem more strict and formal, they hang out with friends freely.
Watching movies, traveling, shopping, and going to amusement parks are some of the activities to get along with friends like Americans.
Koreans hang out at night frequently; the cities never sleep in Korea.
Even if it’s two in the morning when you go out, many people drink on the street or in bars, appreciating band performances on main streets, or chatting with friends in the café for the whole night.
The streets of the cities in Korea become food markets. Many street vendors serve mouthwatering food cheaply in makeshift plastic tents or trucks.
There is a delivery service for almost every food—not just pizza—regardless of the time or place. 24/7, everywhere.
With these thoughts in mind, particularly in America where many of us come from different cultures, there might be a reason for someone’s odd behavior; inversely, you might seem odd to them.