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Travel, Teach, Live in Korea

Good Manners Information for Tourists Visiting Korea
By:Cathleen Calkins

Korea is a popular destination for tourists because it is rich in history. Korean traditions define relationships and are based on ethical teachings outlined by Confucius, a Chinese philosopher. In Korea, family and family members are considered more important than the individual. Because of these traditions, Korean culture assumes that one person enjoys a higher status than another in every situation. Respect and obedience is given to the person of higher status. In return, the person with higher status protects the person of lower status.

Social Customs
Koreans are formal and greet each other by bowing. Bowing is first initiated by the person of lower status, while a handshake is initiated by the senior person. Always wait to be introduced at social events, and do not touch anyone who is not your friend or relative.

Gift Giving
Gift giving is an important aspect of Korean life. Gifts are typically reciprocated and therefore should not be expensive. Gifts should be wrapped in colors that represent happiness or demonstrate royal colors, such as pink, yellow or red. Accept gifts with both hands. If invited to a dinner party, take fruit, chocolate or flowers for the hostess. If you receive a gift, do not open it until you have returned to your hotel room.

Korean society is formal and strict table manners are observed. The oldest person is served first and signals the beginning of the eating process. While spoons are typical for soups and rice, chopsticks are used for all other foods. Never point chopsticks or use them to pierce food. Place chopsticks on the table parallel to each other to indicate you are finished eating. When invited to a person's home, arrive on time. Finally, it is customary to send a note of thanks the day following a dinner or hosted event.

Public Transportation
Traveling in Korea is easy and modern. Because of this, transportation options are often crowded, and pushing and cutting lines are common practices. Avoid arguments by holding firm to your space and always give your seat to elderly individuals. This demonstrates respect.

Koreans are very proud of their heritage and culture. Because of this, it is acceptable to ask if you are unsure of customs or etiquette. Rely on common sense to navigate social situations. As a foreigner, you will be forgiven if your mistake is sincere.

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