Tips for Travelling to Korea

Want to explore other countries by travelling to Korea? We'll provide you with useful tips to remember.

Korea is one of Asia’s cultural and economic leaders, with so much to offer tourists around the world. The country has a yearly ten million visitors to experience the combination of modern and ancient history in Seoul, enjoy the jagged beach spots in Busan, or go to Jeju Island to witness the soaring mountains and volcanic landscapes.

If you plan on going to this beautiful country, there are some basic things that you should know so that you can have a wonderful vacation.

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Etiquettes to Observe When Eating in Korea

travelling to korea

Every nation has its own set of table manners, which are all because of culture and religion. If you are in Korea, you must know the table manners that they observe to show respect towards their values.

Don’t Eat Ahead

You should know that elders get to sit first before the others during meals. They also get to eat first before you start enjoying your sumptuous food, which is why Koreans do not hesitate to ask your age early on and give them the information on where your place should be. Knowing your age will also provide them with an assurance that they will not disrespect or make you uncomfortable.

Don’t Lift Your Bowl

Koreans do not want you to lift your bowl to eat your food, unlike in many other Asian countries. Try to keep your bowl or plate on the table and use your spoon to consume your rice instead of using the chopsticks.

Korean dishes are delicious, don’t be tempted to lift your bowl to slurp up the marvelous soup.

Don’t Refuse Any Offered Drink

You should remember to pour drinks for others first and wait for someone else to pour drinks into your glass, which applies especially when you are drinking alcoholic beverages. If you notice that an elder empties his glass, you should offer to fill it up as a respectful gesture. There will be a case wherein the elder will provide you with a drink, do not refuse to take it. 

You should also remember to hold your cup with both hands if someone else will pour the drink into your cup, to prevent spilling the beverage. If you are the one to pour, hold the bottle with two hands to avoid spilling also. You can also put your other hand below your pouring arm, or near your elbow if you are receiving it. All options are acceptable, and you are showing respect.

Don’t Stick Your Chopsticks Into the Rice

Koreans find it rude if you stick your chopsticks directly into your bowl full of rice. The reason for this gesture is that it resembles what is happening during the Korean funeral rites. 

You should place your chopsticks on top of your bowl or beside the bowl. Their chopsticks often come with a small glass or a ceramic object to put your chopsticks down. You can also rest the end of your chopsticks on the edge of your bowl or plate so it would not touch the surface of the table. After eating, you should place your utensils back on the table to signify that you are finished eating. Some Koreans will put their utensils back on the plate or inside the bowl.

After using your napkin, place them on top of the table, folded, telling the host that you are done eating, and you had a great time.

Don’t Finish Ahead of the Others

You have to observe your eating pace. Try to finish your food, only after the older individuals are done with their eating, and be sure that there is nothing left on your plate, which falls under their rank conditions, and you should abide by this ruling. Take note that Koreans are very particular with punctuality.

Don’t Overextend Your Arms to Reach

Koreans cook very delicious food that is irresistible not to taste. If you are seated far from the dish that you wanted, avoid extending your arms to reach the food. It is considered rude when your elbow passes the edge of the table. You can ask somebody to pass the food for you. 

Do Consider Rankings

Koreans give importance to rankings, and it shows how they are seated during meals. If you are in Korea for a business trip, you should know that the person with lower ranks or positions takes the seat near the door. You should also remember that the elders sit first then after the others. Rankings refer to social status as well as in a professional industry.

Do Eat Along With The Others

This gesture applies to how fast or slows you eat your food. You should observe the eating pace of the other people you are eating with, whether they are slow eaters or fast eaters. You must match the speed on how others eat their food. The locals might think that you do not enjoy the food that you ate.

Do Inform Them That You Will Eat Well

You have to remember that before you eat your meal, you should let your Korean hosts know that you are anticipating a great meal and that you will be eating well. You may say “Jal Meok Ge Sseum Nida” in Korean, which means “I will eat well.” A way of complimenting the chef that you are lucky to eat their food.

Do Know About Big and Small Plates

Koreans are fond of serving dishes on one big platter for all those who are going to eat. You should use the small plate for eating, even if it is tempting to eat from the large plate. Start eating when your food is served on your plate.

Do Practice Utensil Etiquette

Koreans are very particular with specific utensil etiquette. They would appreciate it if you follow their ways towards using their utensils. Holding the spoon and chopsticks, you should use different hands in keeping them and do not use them at the same time. 

Do Use a Clean Spoon for Getting Food

Koreans serve big platters of food for sharing. Make sure that you use a clean serving spoon in getting food from the big plate, which prevents getting your old food from the handled spoon getting mixed with your side dish.

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What to Know When Drinking With a Korean

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Koreans consider drinking alcohol as part of their work culture. You can buy cheap alcoholic beverages anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day. Most of their convenience stores are selling liquor, and you can find these stores everywhere. 

Don’t Pour Your Drink In Your Glass

When you are drinking with some of your Korean friends, never pour your drink. You can let your friends do it for you, while you hold your glass with two hands.

Don’t Let Their Shot Glass Empty if You are Younger

Koreans give so much respect for older people. If you notice that there is someone older than you at the table, try to make sure that their glass is never empty. Use your two hands when pouring the liquor. 

Don’t Give In to Peer Pressure

Your Korean friends will try to force you to drink some more. You can just smile back at them and tell them you had enough for the night.

Do Turn Your Head Away

You must look away from your boss after you clink glasses and begin to finish your sho, which is an opportunity to make a face before you go back to the table.

Do Raise Your Glass According to Age

Raise your glass but not higher than your seniors. This way, you are showing respect with the older people and those who have more top ranks.

Do Finish Your Shot

The statement says it all to show your appreciation and respect for the Koreans during drinking sessions.

Do Maintain Your Pace

The longer the drinking session in Korea, the better. Conserve your energy and maintain the right pacing.

Practices to Observe When Visiting a Korean Home

If your Korean friend invites you to their house, you must know some Korean traditions about how to act when in their homes. 

Do Remove Your Footwear Before Going In the House

Most Asian cultures observe this type of practice when going to another person’s house. Koreans also do this practice, and so should you if you are in the country. Removing the footwear before entering a house is a sign of respect to that Korean home. 

Do Learn Some Korean Phrases and Sentences

It is better that you learn basic Korean phrases and sentences to help you communicate with the locals. Learning their language is also a sign of respect and appreciation of their culture. If you know some Korean language, it would be easier for the other family members of the house you visit to understand.

Do Observe Jondaemal

Jondaemal or the formal way of talking to Korea’s seniors, strangers, and elders. You should also know banmal, which is the informal way of communicating with individuals younger than you.

Don’t Forget About Kimchi

Korea is always associated with kimchi. Koreans make delicious foods, and they usually serve kimchi during meals. Most dishes in Korea are spicy; that’s why they love making kimchi. As Korea’s national dish, it is almost present at all times during meals.

Don’t Forget About Table Manners

As mentioned above, you should always practice table manners when in Korea. It is one way of showing respect to their culture and their people as well.

Now that we’ve covered the dos and don’ts of travelling to Korea, we’ll tackle the common myths associated with this beautiful country. 

You May Need an Interpreter When Travelling to Korea

The Truth: Most travelers who have been to Korea already will say there is no need for an interpreter during your visit there. There are some Koreans who know and understand the English language. You can also find your way in Korea by downloading apps that will guide your routes and language. When travelling to Korea, you may not need an interpreter but you will find it useful to learn a few phrases. 

Knowing Korean is Necessary

travelling to korea

The Truth: Travelling to Korea with Korean language knowledge is not necessary unless you are prolonging your stay there. Communication can be comfortable with Koreans because some of them can speak and understand English. As part of their tourism programs, travelers will find an adept guide to where they are going, and what activities they can do.

But having a little knowledge about the Korean language is a plus, especially if you are on a business trip. You would be able to understand and express yourself with the locals.

Korea Provinces are Not Worthy to Visit

travelling to korea

The Truth: Korea is one of the top destinations in the world to visit. The country has many developed cities where you can find shops and restaurants that offer world-class services. But if you want to experience their traditions, culture, and festivities, travelling to Korea is more than their modern cities. Their culture is one of the most exotic in the world, with plenty of tourist destinations to experience.

There are No Year-Round Festivals to Experience in Korea

travelling to korea

The Truth: Korea is full of festivities that tourists should experience. Pink and white cherry blossoms make the country into a mystical place for a short time during spring. Another event that tourists must experience is Buddha’s Birthday, a major holiday in Korea that happens in May. The festival features lantern parades and holds shows in some local temples. During fall, Koreans commemorate their Thanksgiving version during Chuseok to honor their ancestors. There are countless activities all year round that Korea offers.

Hiring a Tour Guide for Travelling to Korea Is a Must

The Truth: As suggested by most tourists who went to Korea already, you don’t need a tour guide when visiting the country. You can travel by yourself and get around the country with no problem just as long as you are prepared to communicate with the locals. 

A tour guide can be practical if you are in a bigger group of tourists. Hiring a tour guide can make you save money since they can help with difficulties with communication in Korea, and they know which places to go for a beautiful experience.

You can obtain any information about Korea that you can get before starting to travel. You must be prepared with everything necessary so that you won’t get into any trouble while travelling to Korea. Lastly, you should enjoy your trip and be safe always.


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