- In initiating a greeting, the junior person will bow slightly. The senior person will extend their hand to shake hands. Elderly people are highly valued so greeting them first is expected as is complimenting them on their health.
- Wait to be introduced to another at a gathering; avoid introducing yourself but use a third party if there is someone you want to meet.
- People of the same sex may hold hands, but do not put your arm around another’s shoulder.
- Beckon someone with the palm down and scooping motion toward yourself.
- Blowing your nose in public is considered gauche. Go into another room to blow your nose.
- Cover your mouth when using a toothpick or yawning.
- Intermittent eye contact conveys sincerity and attentiveness.
- At a meal in a home, transfer food from the serving dish to your plate before eating it. Leave some food on your plate to indicate you are finished.
- Do not be surprised if Koreans ask personal questions. They are the most direct of all Asians.
- Modesty is very important to Koreans. Do not enter a home/office until invited to do so and wait to be invited to sit.
- Social chit-chat is very important first to bolster the relationship. If you need something or need to tell something, do so after a bit of chit-chat.
- Saving face is important, so interpreting “No” is done by paying attention to the subtle gestures as the verbal may be what the person thinks you want to hear. If you are unsure, ask if the person would like more information so they can give you more clues.
- As in many Asian homes, remove your shoes when entering.
- Koreans eat a lot of garlic, and smells are significant. Be aware that your eating red meat and drinking a lot of coffee may impact the smells you give off.
- Be careful not to overly admire something as they may feel obligated to give it to you.
- Know the difference between Korean history and the history of other countries in Asia. Confusing their history is insulting.
Principles cited in this blog: Many dos and don’ts to remember in order to be thoughtful.
Application for ISI ministry: We desire to be winsome and thoughtful to our guests from other countries. Learning a few small customs can make a big difference!
Next blog topic: Special announcement
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson