• Indonesia!

    Indonesia: Lombok. Go Now!

    Indonesia
    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

  • Nepal!

    Nepal: Phewa Lake. Go Now!

    Nepal
    This landlocked country mixes the cultures of the Indian sub-continent with the high Himalayas. Explore Nepal!

  • Mongolia!

    Mongolia: Desert. Go Now!

    Mongolia
    This vast country has a culture that spans past and present... a nomadic life shifting to a modern & sedentary society. Begin Your Journey!

  • Qatar!

    Qatar: Dhows in Doha Bay. Go Now!

    Qatar
    Although little more than a deserted peninsula, Qatar has a thriving culture based on technology and immigration, with Doha (pictured) taking the lead. Explore Qatar!

  • Kyrgyzstan!

    Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Mountains. Go Now!

    Kyrgyzstan
    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

Social Life in North Korea

WARNING: North Korea is unstable, please read this travel warning before going!

Behavior

Behaviorally, the most important thing to note is to avoid anything the government will see as provocative, like South Korean flags or anti-communist slogans on shirts. In fact the best course of action is to avoid any clothing with any words or pictures as, even though these may not be offensive, the government may decide it is and put you on the next flight out of the country. On this same note, saying anything that could in any way be taken as an insult on the Korean people, government, or, most importantly, leadership will also put you on the next flight out of the country at best and in jail as a foreign spy at worst.

You must be very respectful and courteous of local customs and traditions as the people and government are very proud of their history, food, language, and culture. This begins and ends with being quiet, respectful, and modest, and standing out in North Korea is never a good idea so try to blend in. When in doubt say nothing. When greeting people, the junior person in the group must bow to show respect, as the senior person in the group may reciprocate respect by offering his or her hand to shake. Always assume you are the junior person and bow to show others respect. If you do shake hands, shake with your right hand and grab the other person's right arm with your left hand to show additional respect.

Unlike many Far East countries, where saving "face" is important, in North Korea if you insult a person instead of them feeling shamed, you are expelled from the country and the person you may have inadvertently offended may be sent to jail for being the recipient of your comment so be weary of what you say. Also remember that if you're on a tour and make any insulting comments or ask unwelcomed questions your tour guide may be punished or even imprisoned for your lack of understanding so keep your opinions to yourself until you leave the country. Fortunately, this tour guide will also help you navigate the complicated social requirements and laws so take their advice to heart and always follow their advice and rules.

Dress

The traditional dress in North Korea is called choson-ot (which simply means "Korean clothing") and has existed for hundreds, if not thousands of years. This clothing is very simple in style and design, but is often quite colorful. For women the top was generally a long-sleeved blouse called a jeogori, with a jacket and a large skirt called a chima. For men the top shirt is also called a jeogori, but men traditionally wore pants called baji, which are very loose-fitting. Historically, the color of a person's clothes indicated their social status as commoners generally wore white, but for special occasions numerous colors were worn.

Today the traditional clothing of North Korea rarely seen outside the "Mass Games," which are essentially just a giant performance for the country's leadership to pat itself on the back. More commonly today, the people wear western-styled clothes, much of which is simple with no design pattern, other than for specific uses, like military uniforms. The clothing is generally dark in color and simple enough so no one stands out from anyone else.

As a visitor to North Korea, you must be aware of the many odd restrictions in the country, both in the way of dress as well as in numerous other areas. The first dress restriction, if that's the correct word, is that men are expected to keep their hair no longer than a couple inches in length so be sure to get a close haircut before arriving. For women, pants were outlawed as long skirts are the cultural norm so visitors may want to purchase a few of those prior to arrival (although this rule seems to have changed in recent years). Most importantly, don's wear anything that can be perceived as offensive to the government or people. Since the government can decide something is wrong or offensive at any time, try to avoid wearing anything with any words or pictures on it. In general, most foreigners are only allowed into the country with a government-issued tour guide; check with your tour company before arrival for an updated list of dress restrictions in the country or you stay may be very short.

This page was last updated: November, 2013