don'ts in korea

do’s and don’ts in korea and korean language

If you are planning to visit Korea you must know the do’s and don’ts in Korea. There are a number of cultural rules that might surprise you.  Here’s everything you need to know before going to Korea.

Don’ts in korea

  1. Drinking etiquette–  

There are a surprising number of drinking rules when it comes to Korea but the main one is that if a glass is empty you’re obligated to fill it especially if you’re younger than the person you’re drinking with that means that things can get out of hand pretty quickly so if you don’t want to drink a lot make sure you leave your glass half full.

 In addition, when someone is pouring a glass for you make sure to always receive the glass with two hands to show respect.

And again if the person you’re drinking with is older when you sip from the glass turn your head slightly away from that as another sign of respect. You have to be careful when drinking in Korea because refusing a drink from someone basically means that you don’t want to be friends with them and they’ll take it personally.

  1.  Using chopsticks

The most common mistake people make while using chopsticks in Asia is leaving them sticking upright in a bowl of rice and this act is actually part of many Asian funeral ceremonies and should be avoided.

  1. Seating in train

It sounds obvious to say not to sit in the reserved (elder, pregnant woman) seat. But in some western cultures like America, you can take that seat if there is no older person and then just get up and move if someone comes along. But in Korea, it’s not acceptable.

  1. Don’t talk on trains/public buses-

In most Asian countries, showing respect to those around you is a big deal and you’ll notice that no one carries conversations on trains or public buses. Making a phone call is seen as disrespectful of the personal space of others. so try to keep a low profile.

  1. Don’t leave a tip-

While tipping in Korea isn’t like tipping in other western countries where if you leave a tip it’s actually considered insulting. Tips aren’t expected or required here.

  1. Don’t be afraid to yell at your waiter-

 While it may seem rude in other countries, in Korea the way to get your waiters attention is by yelling. If you want to order more food the only way to get their attention is to either shout at them or use one of the call buttons located on your table.

  1. Don’t get into a fight-

South Korea is one of the safest countries in the world but their legal system is unfairly biased against international visitors and residents begin any altercations with Koreans. It’s best to just walk away as the law is likely to side with the Korean nearly every time.

  1. There’s no such thing as personal space-

 Seoul has a population of over 25 million people so if you hate crowds this is going to be a tough one because of the sheer number of people here being pushed or shoved isn’t considered rude or impolite..

9. Don’t write using red ink

Korea has a very superstitious culture and writing names with red ink is considered to mean that the person will die soon or that you want them to die. So next time you’re writing a birthday card in Korea maybe you hold off on using red.

10. Don’t receive things with one hand

Korea is all about respect and part of that comes from understanding how to give and receive things. Receiving things with two hands shows respect to the person giving you something. That’s why a lot of times when you get changed back from someone, even a cashier, they’ll hold one arm out with the money and then use their other arm to touch that arm to show their respect. So keep in mind whenever receiving anything, always receive it with two hands whether it be a drink, a bill or any other kind of gift.

11. Always share(food)

 Koreans have a special concept of sharing called Jeong, it basically means the connection between people in this society. If you don’t share it, you’ll be seen as greedy which means you have little or no Jeong.  And in order to travel in Korea it’s important to be aware of this aspect of their culture.

12.  Don’t leave food on your plate

When visiting someone’s home in South Korea, it’s impolite/ offensive if you don’t finish what’s been served. But, this one seems pretty logical for most Americans. I can still hear my mom threatening me to clean my plate or I won’t get dessert!

13. Stay away from the number 4

You might feel uneasy about the number 13, but South Korea have the same attitude, only with the number 4. Some combinations of fours are more feared than others. This superstition comes down to the fact that in Korean, the word for the number 4 sounds similar to the words for “disease” and “died.”When you walk into an elevator or public building floor #4 and room #4 are almost always left out. You might see the 4th floor labelled “F” in an elevator instead.

14. Don’t give gifts to your teacher

This age-old tradition of giving gifts to teachers for Teachers Day was made illegal in South Korea.The law prohibits teachers from receiving gifts from students or their parents. However, paper carnations to be given by one student representative on behalf of the whole class or to teachers who don’t teach them anymore.

15.  Don’t let your tattoos show

 Many East Asian countries don’t like tattoos, and they’ve even managed to encode this into their laws. In South Korea, it’s illegal for tattoo artists to practice their work, and only licensed medical doctors are legally allowed to ink people.But you can easily get tattoos in South Korea because this law isn’t enforced heavily.

16. Don’t wear plunging necklines – 

Most people in the west are relaxed with the clothing but Koreans don’t like to show necklines (beauty bones) because it is considered too open in Korea.

17. Don’t make too much eye contact

In other countries making eye contact with someone you’re speaking to is a sign of politeness but in Korea  keeping eye contact is (pardon my pun) looked down upon because it’s considered too bold. It’s important to avoid looking directly into someone’s eyes if they’re older than you or they have a higher position (like your boss).

18. Be careful when taking photos in public – 

Never take photographs with strangers in the frame. It might land you a fine or a night spent at the police station. The strictest part of the law is that you can’t publish pictures of strangers (that includes on social media!), but, still, a lot of Koreans are just uncomfortable with people randomly snapping a pic of them without their knowing.

19. Don’t get into arguments

 Don’t get into arguments, especially with elders. In South Korea, you have to listen to your elders.

20. Don’t blow your nose in public

It’s polite to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, but take extra precautions when it comes to blowing your nose in Korea. Taking a tissue and wiping your nose in public is considered extremely rude in South Korea.

How to make korean negative sentences

There are many ways to say negative commands/ negative statements in Korean. For example don’t go there in Korean are 거기 가지 마십시오, 거기가지 마세요, 거기 가지 마라. 


In negative commands its always 지말다 like – 지 마십시오, 지 마세요, 지마라.

Don’t give up

1 포기하지 마십시오.

2 포기하지 마세요.

3 포기하지 마라.

지 말다 conjugates like

지 마십시오 Official polite

지 말아요 Conversational polite.

지 말아라 Impolite

지 마라 Impolite (shortened form of 말아라)

지 않다

In a negative statement, it’s always 지 않다 like 지 않습니다, 지 않아요. let’s learn all of them with example sentences-

I don’t give up.

나는 포기하지 않습니다.

나는 포기 하지 않아요.

지 않다 conjugates like

지 않습니다 Official polite present

지 않았습니다 Official polite past

지 않을 것입니다 Official polite future

지 않아요 Conversational polite present 

지 않았어요 Conversational polite past

지 않을 것이에요 Conversational polite future

Never in Korean

Never in korean is 절대/ 결코. Never do this is 절대로 하지 마세요. There are many ways to say never in korean. Lets see example-

Never smoke.

절대로 담배를 피우지 마십시오.

절대로 담배를 피우지 마세요.

절대로 담배를 피우지 마라.

결코 담배를 피우지 마십시오

결코 담배를 피우지 마세요

결코 담배를 피우지 마라 

I never smoke

나는 절대로 담배를 피우지 않아요.

나는 결코 담배를 피우지 않아요.

는 절대로 담배를 피우지 않습니다.

나는 절대로 담배를 피우지 않아 요.

나는 결코 담배를 피우지 않습니다.

What are Korean manners and etiquettes?

Bowing while meeting and departing is a good manner of Korean traditional greeting, addressing Koreans with their professional title is good manners. You shouldn’t just call them by their given name, it’s impolite. You should avoid touching, patting or back-slapping a Korean.

How do you say rude in Korean?

There are many ways to say rude in Korean. They are 무례한, 예의 없는, 버릇없는. 버릇이 왜 이렇게 없어 means that was rude.

Is staring rude in Korea?

Staring is considered rude by Korean is a myth that staring is a Korean cultural norm.

Is burping rude in Korean?

Burping and blowing your nose while dining with others is considered rude and impolite in Korea. But some Koreans think that burping after a meal means you enjoyed the food.

What not to wear in Korea?

You shouldn’t wear a dress with a low neckline in front (cleavage) in Korea, a cloth that shows the back of a woman is also not preferable in Korea. At funerals, white coats are not preferred.

What is considered rude in Korea?

Drinking front facing with elders, crossing legs while sitting with others, eating before elders, using one hand while receiving/giving gifts, talking loudly in public etc are considered rude in Korea.

Is tipping rude in Korea?

Tipping in Korea is not considered good manners. Waiters might feel offended if you give tips in South Korea.

Is pointing rude in Korea?

Yes, it’s rude if you point at someone with your finger in Korean culture. It’s rude to point in Korean is 손가락으로 그렇게 가리키는 건 무례한 짓이야!

don'ts in korea
don’ts in korea