Like every country, there are specific acts in Korea that aren’t part of the cultural norm. When foreigners come, culture shock can be very real. YouTuber JAYKEEOUT had a sleepover with three of his foreign friends to list # of the things they’ve learned not to do while in Korea.
1. No Kissing
In places such as France and the Middle East, it’s common to greet friends with a kiss to both of their cheeks. When in Korea, it’s not at all as standard. When Jay asked his friend Mehdi if he’d tried it on a Korean person, he was quick to reject the idea, “No, never. You can never do that.”
2. No Hugging
Continuing the topic of proper Korean greetings, Ilayda confirmed that hugging was just as much as a no-go as kissing on the cheeks. Instead, it’s common to simply wave, “Back in Germany, I always greeted my friends with a hug. But here, I don’t even know that they’re leaving. So, now I’m not used to hugging people anymore.”
3. No Red Writing
This one took Jay’s friends by surprise for being something one wouldn’t typically think too much about. Whenever it comes to writing, it wasn’t wise to write names with red ink. It was an omen of bad things to come, “You shouldn’t write names in red. That’s considered taboo. It means you’re cursing that person.”
4. No Single Trash Bag
While recycling isn’t practiced at all in some countries like Egypt, like Deena revealed, it’s a significant deal in Korea. Every piece of trash is sorted in the correct bag for proper recycling.
Ilayda noted that everything couldn’t be thrown into one bag, “You can’t just throw away stuff in Korea,” while Mehdi explained the difference, “You can’t put food waste into the regular trash bags. But, overseas…”
5. No Pointing
If you notice someone and want to point them out, pointing a finger at them is definitely not the way to go. Jay revealed it’s viewed as disrespectful, “Oh, pointing at people. In Korea, pointing is considered really rude.”
When attempting to get someone’s attention, it wasn’t wise to point or motion them over with their palm facing upward or downward. Instead, it was best to use two open hands.
6. No Rude Drinking
When drinking alcohol in Korea, there’s a standard set of etiquette to follow based on who you are surrounded with. If you’re drinking with someone older, their glass should be raised higher than yours. To be even more polite, you should turn away when you take a drink.
For example, when drinking with an adult. If that person is older than me, my glass should be lower. And when you drink, the older person can just drink like that… But, the younger one covers the glass and turns around. It’s just being polite.
7. No Shoes
The last thing to stay away from was something that many people can relate to across many cultures and homes. There are no shoes allowed to be worn in the house. That’s why slippers are commonly seen for wearing inside homes in Korean dramas. Why is that so?
Jay noted that the floor is multipurpose, “My guess is because we’re used to sitting on the floor. We sit on the floor more than on chairs. This is quite common.”
If you’re planning a trip to Korea or simply wanted to learn more about Korean culture, staying away from doing these will keep you on the straight and narrow. Check them all out here.