Things in South Korea That Would Surprise a First Time Visitor

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Hey, your next vacation is in South Korea. However, before you load your face with kimchi and attend a BTS performance. You should get familiar with a number of South Korean taboos, ranging from moderately bizarre cultural faux pas to outright illegal bans.

#1 The first thing you need to be aware of is that tips in restaurants are not expected.

Even if the service was exceptional, resist the urge to leave a tip, especially if you’re from a country where it’s customary so tipping is seen as an extremely rude gesture and a slight of their dignity.

#2 Never mess around with your chopsticks.

In Korean culture, there are a number of taboos that surround the use of chopsticks. For instance, if you accidentally poke a hole in your dish with chopsticks, the host or chef may view it as a criticism of their culinary abilities. Because it mimics the incense sticks buried in the sand at funerals, holding the sticks vertically and burying them vertically in rice are symbols of death in South Korea. Who could have foreseen?

#3 Eat everything on your plate.

This one now appears to make sense to the majority of Americans.

I can still hear my mum telling me to complete my meal if I don’t I won’t get dessert. But if you’re from somewhere else, like China, you might be shocked to hear that you can’t leave a little food on your plate to show that you’re full from the host’s delicious lunch. Avoid confusing Korean and Chinese table manners when visiting someone’s home in South Korea if you’re traveling in East Asia. Refusing drinks is rude and unprofessional. If you don’t finish the food that’s been brought to you in cafes and restaurants, the staff may admonish you for doing so.

#4 The Number Four Should Be Avoided.

Although many countries in east Asia, including South Korea, share the same attitude just toward the number 4, you may not feel comfortable with the number 13. The number four is connected with “death” in the culture, and particular word or letter combinations that contain the number four are more feared than others.

It has become superstition because the word for the number in Korean sounds a lot like the phrases for death and the deceased.

Now that we understand their origins, you’ll even get to observe this fear in action. When you enter an elevator or public building, it almost often occurs that floor four and room four are missing. The fourth floor may be a floor with the letter “f” on it. Use of apartment numbers with many occurrences of four, such as 404, may have a negative influence on a property’s value.

#5: Don’t Present Gifts To Your Teachers.

On September 1, 2016, South Korea outlawed the long-standing custom of distributing gifts to teachers on May 15 in honor of Teachers’ Day.

Receiving gifts from pupils or their parents is against the law for teachers. However, it allows paper carnations to be handed out by a student delegate on behalf of the entire class or to past teachers. Be aware that breaching this legislation might result in a fine of up to $25,000 or even a prison sentence if you’re a student in South Korea or plan to enroll in some courses there. If you do give or receive anything, be it a gift or food at the dinner table, always use both hands to show respect

#6, Keep Your Tattoos Covered.

Many East Asian nations disapprove of tattoos and have even found a way to incorporate this into their legal systems. Only licensed medical professionals may legally tattoo people in South Korea; tattoo artists are not permitted to conduct their trade there. Locals will tell you, though, that this prohibition isn’t strictly enforced and that getting a tattoo is still rather simple. You might wish to cover up your tattoos if you’re going on a trip because people with tattoos receive different treatment. It’s advisable to hide your tattoos if you wish to work or conduct business in Korea.

#7, Avoid Plunging Necklines.

The majority of westerners, especially Americans, are quite casual when it comes to attire.

Wear what you like seems to be the prevailing mentality in most western nations, but South Korea has an intriguing perspective on what constitutes too much or not enough exposure. For instance, a plunging neckline is undesirable to wear among Koreans because they believe it to be excessively open. Many women choose to avoid low-cut tops or put layers underneath them when they are out in public. Miniskirts, on the other hand, are viewed very differently. Not only are they acceptable, but they are also often regarded as very stylish. In South Korea, you’ll find a lot of ladies sporting really short skirts, and no one seems to mind.

#8 Avoid Making Excessive Eye Contact.

You’ve probably learned that it’s polite to make eye contact when chatting to someone, as have many other individuals. When it is your moment to speak, it is OK to maintain eye contact as it demonstrates that you are paying attention and that you are confident in what you are saying. Because it is regarded as being overly aggressive, my pun is mocked. When speaking to someone who is older than you or who holds a higher position than you, such as your boss, it is especially vital to avoid making direct eye contact because doing so signals that you are on an equal footing with that person, which would be exceedingly disrespectful in this situation.

#9 Take Care When Taking Public Photos.

If you’re walking through the streets of Seoul or any other city in the nation.

Also, never snap pictures of people you don’t know since you can get fined or spend the night in jail while you try to show the authorities that you had no malicious or offensive intents. Even though the law’s harshest provision prohibits publishing photographs of strangers, even on social media, many Koreans still find it unsettling when strangers take images of them without their knowledge. In terms of privacy, it makes sense to always be polite and ask first.

#10 Avoid Arguments, Especially With Seniors.

No matter how brilliant you are, you must respect your elders in South Korea. If you dispute with an older person, even if they cut in line and you’ve been waiting there for who knows how long, you’ll probably be perceived as being incredibly rude and disrespectful. This is because the social order in this nation is so rigid when it comes to age. If you come into contact with a furious Ajumma—a term that roughly translates to “auntie” in English—but it’s not your relative, just let it go. This is especially advisable. In Korea, these older women are known for their distinctive bright clothing and distinctive appearance. In general, it can be a mistake to engage in any kind of debate with an Ajumma. There’s a chance that you’ll live with regrets. Never argue with number eleven if she says up is down.

#11 Don’t Blow Your Nose In Front Of Others.

You are aware that it is polite to cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, but you need to take extra care when blowing your nose in Korea. Of course, you won’t launch any snot rockets into the street. No, please don’t do that, but even picking up a tissue and wiping your nose in public is seen as exceedingly impolite and low-class, especially at the dinner table and maybe while tucking into some hot Korean food. In no time, you’ll be wiping your runny nose. Just be courteous. Get up and go privately blot your nose or wipe it.

#12 Toilet Talk Isn’t Off Limits.

Given the other items on the list, especially the last one about blowing your nose, this could come as a surprise.

Speaking of your number one and number two is quite acceptable in Korea, and I’m not only referring to conversations between close friends or romantic partners. Even coworkers will discuss their internal organs in considerable detail. There is absolutely no taboo in expressing how things are happening there because it is so perplexing to tourists so yeah, there’s no taboo whatsoever in discussing how everything is going down there. Is it normal, how’s the hue, how’s the consistency—in Seoul, they even created a park devoted to all things bathroom-related.

It’s all just normal biological stuff, so I think I can understand where they’re coming from. Right, okay, enough of that. Do you have any cultural taboos or faux pas in your nation?

Let us know what you think in the comments section.

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hi my name is Ang Ung and i am the Chief editor for Kpops.net
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