since I am stuck in Japan with my friend’s Japanese laptop (my laptop can’t connect to the internet and there’s no adapter yet T_T), I will first choose topics to write about which doesn’t require much pictures and editing.

SO, living in Seoul for about 3 years now, of course I’ve noticed more and more and from my mistakes, I learned even better.

this was my list of DO NOTs for when I first came here:

1. wear shorts which are quite short (esp when it ain’t summer), you’d find people talking about you around =S.
2. take your own sweet time in taking pictures. always do it fast. taking more than a few shots and the ajumma’s (aunties) will start to grumble.
3. you hold your chopsticks with your right hand. but you also hold your spoon with your right hand. get what I mean?
4. share food in commercialised places like Itaewon, Insadong etc. (means order a set for every person) they might probably slam your food onto the table and spoil your mood.
5. order one person’s BBQ meat because the usual minimum is TWO person.
6. pour your own drink if you’re not alone.
7. drink facing somebody elder. always turn to the side.
8. take photographs of artsy stuff which are for sale. do it secretly =X.
9. laugh at a Korean’s English. they are pretty sensitive on that. always respect them as they are trying very hard.

and I can say that it is still pretty much THE general etiquette. the ones that I’ve noticed after living here is that..

– it would be nice to say jal meok-eos-seum-ni-da after eating. it shows respect. and jal-meok-gess-seum-ni-da before eating.
– when dining in a small place, it would be nice to greet the vendors with a smile and saying annyeonghaseyo!
– say su-go-ha-se-yo upon leaving the shop/cab to show manners.
– praise their country. never diss it. they are extreme nationalists. even if they say they hate Korea.
– you shouldn’t refuse an alcoholic offer from someone older. it will piss them off. even if you say no, 2 times is the maximum of saying no. and then you gotta prepare yourself to drink!
– in most places, YOU HAVE TO THROW YOUR TOILET PAPER INTO THE DUSTBIN!! Korea’s sewage system is really bad. since they suddenly bloomed, they didn’t have enough time to fix it I guess so don’t throw them into the bowl!
–  ALWAYS offer the elderly/pregnant/woman with a baby your seat. in the train or bus or any waiting areas.
– put on deodorant if you smell. because Koreans just DO NOT smell. something about their Kimchis probably. in Korea, you should act and wear in a way that you do not OFFEND other people. they are very warm people and they’d care about others a lot. even when they do not need to.
– you can show as much legs as you want, but always cover your cleavage.
– always buy SOMETHING when visiting a friend. and maybe muffins or cakes if you were going to meet up with their parents (even not at home)
– when pouring alcoholic drinks to an older person, make sure the bottle does not touch their up. lift it up slightly.
– it is not rude to dig into other’s soup/food. it’s culture.
– you do not ask an opposite sex out for a friendly outing, they might think otherwise.
– the older person gets the bill/the guy gets the bill and the girl pays for coffee/something cheaper.
– try to show that you are thankful to them by a small gift or note/message
– shaking hands are getting more and more common by bowing when you greet is culture.
– wear stockings (except during summer). they would feel you freezing if you don’t. well I don’t really care =S.
– NEVER eat/drink before the elder does.
– entering the bathing area in a sauna with clothes or lingerie. it’s not hygienic to do so.

common mistakes by foreigners :

x asking for prices for each and everything when not interested to buy (Koreans may get very pissed.)
x treating employees/vendors like you own them. they are not your slave.
x eating with both hands. ONLY use one hand.
x putting cutleries in the bowl. put it on the table. if you are afraid that the table’s dirty then layer a layer of tissue underneath.
x eating with your hands unless you are supposed to. try to see how the Koreans next to you eat.
x accepting cards with one hand. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS accept them/give them with 2 hands.
x speaking LOUDLY in a slow manner. just speak in simple english. they are not deaf. nor dumb.
x if you pull a face, of course they would pull a face too.
x wear like a kpop star. people don’t dress like that on the streets you know =/.
x dress very sloppily. the no.1 Malaysian mistake. don’t be angry if they don’t like you. looking good is courtesy.
x not sitting on the toilet bowl when pee-ing *for girls*. especially people from China since they assume that sitting is dirty. but all Koreans sit. put a layer of tissue or something if you’re afraid of germs. but SIT!

the similarities and differences of Korea and Japan? basically, they are pretty similar in terms of certain superstitions and etiquettes like not sleeping with the fan on (a silly thing called.. fan death. they believe sleeping in an enclosed area with the fan on can kill you. hence all fans have timers) and taking off their shoes at home. but there are differences in courtesy. as much as I love Japan, I noticed that Japanese people do not know how to offer their seat to an older person. they are quite inconsiderate judging by how much they are as a country with supreme manners. on the other hand, staffs in Japan would always welcome you with a smile whereas only half of Korean employees actually make you feel good about shopping in their store. you may even see the differences in foreign (normally Chinese from China) part timers in these two countries. half of them in Korea lazy and have no manners. but most of them have very good manners in Japan. Japan’s very strict on customer service I guess. it’s a good thing. and sigh, looking at Malaysia’s customer service… *shakes head*

everything on this post is based on personal experience and they might differ from person to person =). there are crazy sensitive readers who would make a big fuss about things that they find not true and INSISTs I change my title to “something something in my opinion”. so I am just clarifying it for them before they start dissing me haha.

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Jenny
6 years ago

As a Korean I can definitely relate to the stupid fan death superstition hahaha. Everytime I want to sleep with the fan on my parents + grandparents always insist on leaving the door wide open >:(

Dyan
Dyan
6 years ago

Hi! Wow this is my first time commenting though I’ve been an avid reader of your blog. Please apologize for my manners.
But I just have to say I’m so thankful for everything you’ve written here! You’re awesome, and your writing too! I went backpacking to Seoul earlier this year, on January, and your blog was pretty much one of my guide books. Haha.
I’m planning to visit again in January next year and if you’re still there it’ll be awesome to meet you.
Oh and reading about this post reminded me about the times I took the subway in Seoul; at first I’d sit on any empty seats (except the ones for elderly, pregnant women, etc.) but later on I’d just stand up even if there are empty seats, it’s easier that way.
And yeah I found most Koreans are very keen on helping foreigners, especially when I was asking for directions they’d flip out their phones if they didn’t know and search for it online. I was so grateful back then.
Okay so before you throw me out I’ll stop babbling here.
Anyways just know your posts are awesome and thanks again!
Hope to meet you there!

Fiona
6 years ago

that was a lot of read.. since I’m just secretly reading your blog while in office hope my boss wont find out hahahahahaha)…. I just got confused with this “put on deodorant if you smell. because Koreans just DO NOT smell. something about their Kimchis probably.” do kimchis make you smell??

And for the ‘common mistakes by foreigners mistakes section’ =So you mean you need to look good? cause if you don’t look good they won’t like you? hehehehehehehe

munie86
6 years ago

I love this list!!
Hi Jamie!! ^^ but I thought koreans can smells like kimchi sometimes, I dunno..that’s how I feel when Im in the crowded subway haha.Oh yeah, I notice about the seat in subway ..I hope malaysians have this kind respect like koreans did huhu *shrugs*. btw, is it easy to tell if you look at them and says which one is korean & which one is not? I mean like maybe for you do they can easily tell that you are not korean? haha..ok I hope you understand my question ^_^

hanneebuff
6 years ago

This is definitely an informative post.

I laughed at these DO NOTs.

x wear like a kpop star. people don’t dress like that on the streets you know =/.
– I think young and professional Korean people are fashionistas and choose their clothes well but I don’t think an ordinary Korean can always pull of the Kpop look. hehe!

x dress very sloppily. the no.1 Malaysian mistake. don’t be angry if they don’t like you. looking good is courtesy.
– I agree with this. My friend was trying to apply for a job, in the end they commented on the way she dressed up because she only had one “interview-worthy” clothes and she dressed up the same way on her second interview.

I had to wonder about the shorts vs cleavage tho, and the death by fan thing. Cause living in a tropical country, it’s too expensive to have the airconditioner on so we always use the electric fan.

Rachel
Rachel
6 years ago

I’m heading to Seoul next week so this post was very handy and informative indeed! Did not know many of the etiquettes on this list.. Thank you! 🙂

Lee min Jung
6 years ago

This is super true! haha.. i like your blog so much!
Please visit my blog, and if you dont mind could you follow each other? thank you =)

http://www.tomntins.blogspot.kr

Sarena
Sarena
5 years ago

Hi Jamie!!!

I love this post!! I never thought about the DOs & DONTs everytime i travel! Thank you for posting this & Im sure this helps during my visit to Seoul next month.

Have a nice day!