4 Worth-Knowing Do's/Don'ts in South Korea

Like any other countries in the Universe, South Korea has also its own "standard" when it comes to lifestyle. While Southeast Asian countries have generally similar traditions and culture, the land of the calm morning has also some strange practices that may appear unique to foreigners and expatriates alike.

If in the future you get the chance to work or visit South Korea, you may like to check out the following Do's and Don'ts and learn it by heart.

1. When dining in a fast food, don't you ever leave your table with all those food wastes.

Fastfoods here in South Korea like Lotteria is self-service. From ordering, to getting your orders, to waste disposal, you have to do it all by yourself. Don't wait for a staff to serve you your food or clean up your mess because nobody would do it for you. When you order your food, you will be given this cute buzzer. If this buzzer will activate, that means your food is now ready and you have to go to the counter and get your own food.

After you finished your food, you must dispose your food waste "properly", and when I say properly, you must separate the plastic, the food left overs and the biodegradable ones. You can't just sit there, wait for your order, eat your food and leave. Here in South Korea, you just pay and work for your food when eating in the fast foods.

2. Don't you ever dare sit in the specially designated seat in the train or in the bus.

In every public transportation here in South Korea, oldies, disabled, pregnant women and kids have always a special spot. Even if the seat is empty, do not take it or you will get some scolding from "halmonies" like her:

Korean seniors can scold the young ones even in the public, so please, for God sake, avoid competing with them.

3. Do always take the right lane of stairs and escalators.

Stairs and elevators don't have really a standard when it comes to using it, but not here. Almost every staircase has this encrypted signage that reminds people to always take the right lane. The purpose of this is to avoid bumping with whoever is going against your direction because they too will take the right lane.

The same is true with the escalators, albeit it's always one way, you must stay always in the right lane to give way for those who are in hurry.

When I was still new here in South Korea, I was standing in the wrong lane of the escalator and I was a little bit humiliated when this "ahjumma" behind me shoved me and I was told to always stay on the right. But of course, retaliation is not an option. This could be a little bit of a culture shock to us but yes, somebody older than you can  just shove you out of their way minus the "Excuse me". For us, it's rude, but for them, it is not a big deal, so you must just have to swallow and accept it.

4. Do acknowledge your host before and after you eat.

If somebody serves you food, you must say "Siksahaseyo" before you eat which means "Let's eat" or something similar to that. And after you eat, you must say "Chal Mogotssumnida" which means "Thanks for the delicious meal" or something similar to that. It is not really required to do that but if you don't want to appear rude in the Korean cuisine, you should do that.

And the list of do's and don'ts continue, but for now, I can only provide you these four basic and important reminders. You may violate these rules, but if you want to gain respect from the nationals, it would be good if you can follow the standards.


  1. It's really nice to know these facts. At least now I have an idea. You know I've been asking you about Korea :)

  2. Effort! but easy to learn and adapt..
    Hey we do have our own ways in doing things too..
    Its should be out of respect to know these before hand prior to a visit.

  3. i will recommend this post to my sister because shes on vacation right now in there! thanks for sharing this!

  4. I also recognize the similar pattern on the being on the right part of the escalator in Taiwan, HK and Singapore. I also like the self service. At the end of the day, it lowers down the cost of food if the expenses on cleaning is reduced.

  5. I think number 1 and 3 rule is implied here but not the "clean your own food waste" thing. I tend to just leave the plate behind and they'll take care of it. But I always stay on the right side of the escalator. I really have to take note of these things. :D

  6. This means Koreans know what is the rich value of discipline and order to avoid confusion and even accidents.

  7. Koreans sure do know how to stay disciplined. This is the first time I have heard of those rules. I'll keep these in mind whenever I get the chance to visit Korea.

  8. I'm taking notes here :) I guess those with Chinese ancestry follow these kinds of norms. When I was in Taiwan, eventhough it was a rush hour and lots of people going around, you'll still see them follow a pattern, like to always stay right and give people in a rush an access to the left side. I think its admirable coz there's peace and order.

  9. Hmm, I've seen a similar practice in Ikea in SG when it comes to cleaning after oneself after eating. Another similarity is to leave the designated seats alone although you mostly get glares and not scoldings. The thing about the stairs is also similar although people stay at the left side so people in a hurry could use the right side. And about the expressions before and after eating, there's some similar in Japanese... So I guess we Asians are really not so different from each other. :)

  10. The Koreans are known for their discipline and definitely seen in this post. Sana, Pinoys also adapt these set of standards.

  11. I hope these good practices will be implemented in our country too.

  12. Oh, I dream of flying to Korea one day, not because of the Korean craze, but because I think Korea is such a beautiful country. :)

  13. How I wish I could visit Korea someday! Pero parang mas possible pa ang Japan ngayon for me to visit kesa Korea. Hopefully, someday, madaanan ko ang Korea. :D

  14. I don't do number three, especially when I'm with my son. If someone asks us to move, he replies with "If you wanna walk, use the stairs." The person would apologize. Or if I were the one on the left side, I pretend not to understand Korean ;p


Post a Comment