Korean Culture is based off of a Confucius ideology. The culture believes in respect for their ancestors, age, and seniority. This way of life supports: harmony, authority, the importance of family, friendship, ancestors, and tradition.
Religion and Beliefs (Most common):
Rules with using a Name in a conversation:
- In western culture we are okay with using first names… but in Eastern culture you are expected to use their professional title or Mr., Mrs, etc. unless given permission. Respect is a big deal in Korea, and you do not want to offend someone by using the wrong name or Title in a conversation. Always show up most respect as you would hope for them to do the same when talking to you.
The Family Dynamic:
- Your family will be a big part of everything you do in life
- Arranged marriages are common: if you lose face (honor) your family will struggle to keep their family name going in the future. As we know ancestors are very important to Koreans, and if the line dies… you dishonored your ancestors.
- The eldest son will gain the most responsibilities for taking care of the parents as they get older, and make sure the family stays in line once the father passes away.
- Kibun: pride, face, mood, feelings or the state of mind.
- In Korea it is frowned upon to mess up harmony around you.
- If you hurt someones Kibun you hurt their pride, cause them to lose dignity, and lose face. Koreans focus heavily on the principle of harmony. It is extremely important to maintain a peaceful atmosphere even if it means telling a white lie to do so. When you are around people you must be constantly aware of others Kibuns as well as yours.
- Nunchi: the ability to read a persons body language to determine a persons kibun.
- Due to social harmony being such a major role in Korean culture gaining the Nunchi skill will be vital! Practice this skill by learning different body language ques and you will be good to go when you are in Korea!
Meeting and Greeting’s
- Bowing is the traditional way to greet in Korea it shows respect to the person you are speaking to (this is still practiced today)
- Handshakes are often seen among men after bowing
- If you are going to shake someones hand your left hand should support your right forearm when shaking hands
- Korean women do not always shake hands and may slightly nod instead of a full bow
- ALWAYS bow to individuals when departing.
- Korean Meals are based on: Rice, vegetables, and meat
- Kimchi is a dish that is eaten with most meals this dish is made up of a variety of vegtables that are fermented for a period of time. Kimchi can be stored for long periods of time. In some parts of Korea the longer it has been fermented the better it taste. It has a unique taste and is packed with many vitamins.
- Banchan are side dishes when you eat Korean food you will find a wide variety of Banchan with your main dish.
- When Koreans eat they use Spoons for their rice and typically metal chopsticks for other dishes. Metal chop sticks have been used for many centuries originally the royal family used them to detect if food was poisoned. Also, when you pick up food from the bowl that is being shared especially if it is banchan you want to use chop sticks. Chop sticks will prevent the food from going bad as fast… Korean food can last for many weeks if you use chopsticks because it will spread less bacteria than a spoon or fork!
- Food in Korea is much cheaper than most foods you might be a custom to eating. In Korea eating healthy is a way of life even their sweet treats are made up of healthy things such as sweetened rice and red bean. At first you might raise your eye brow at the idea of a healthy sweet treat BUT you will be greatly surprised at how sweet it really is… what a sugar rush!
Many cultures come together through meals together this is where you will learn a lot about a persons culture! Make sure to remember these tips in order to show respect and your willingness to accept their culture!
- Always be seated by your host if you are given a chance to be the Seat of honor (facing the front door) politely slightly object this will show the host you are thankful but you don’t want to be seen as someone who is better than others. Think of this as wanting to keep the harmony in the room (everyone is equally respected or being belittled).
- As we can recall from earlier topics Elders are always put first. Elders will be served first.
- Don’t pour your own drink and if you don’t want more just leave your drink partly full. Note: Koreans don’t like direct refusal.
- Socializing happens after everyone is done eating.
- Don’t leave a tip if there is a “no tipping” sign
- The most important thing of them all NEVER put your chop sticks straight up or in your food when not using them! This is used only for rituals such as funerals.
Things NOT To Do In Korea
- Do not wear shoes in a place of worship or in peoples homes (if you are in someones home take your shoes off at the door).
- Do not put your feet on furniture.
- Do not eat or drink in public places while walking. You are more likely to litter or spill something which will mess up yours or someone else’s kibun (a big no no).
- Do not use red ink this represents death
- Avoid the number 4 it is considered bad luck.
- Do not stand to close to someone you just met stay an arms length away.