• Indonesia!

    Indonesia: Lombok. Go Now!

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

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    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!

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    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!

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    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 South Korea

Behavior

The Koreans are very well aware of the world around them as well as the differences in opinions and behaviors. Because of this they are quite understanding of various cultures and foreigners so odd behaviors are generally accepted, but not encouraged.

In fact, the South Koreans expect all tourists to be respectful and courteous of local customs and traditions as they are very proud of their history, food, language, and culture. This begins and ends with being quiet, respectful, and modest.

The South Korean people are proud and insulting them or putting a person down in anyway can be very offensive as the person will feel "shamed." Additionally, turning down an invitation or offer may be received as an insult to the inviter; in fact saying "no" in general can be insulting and most Koreans will say "yes" even if they don't mean or want that. Due to this, the South Koreans will rarely give you critical advice, insult you, or put you in a situation in which an answer is immediately needed in fear of "shaming" you. This is especially true in business. Turning down a business offer or even an invitation to a meal or event may unknowingly be an insult and could force your contact to feel so shamed that he will actually leave his job; if all hope is lost on a business deal, allow your Korean counterpart to gracefully exit the situation so he can save "face."

When greeting people in business, follow the local's lead. In general, the junior person in a meeting must bow to show respect, as the senior partner may reciprocate respect by offering his or her hand to shake. If you do shake hands, shake with your right hand and grab the other person's right arm with your left hand to show respect. Despite these local traditions, many Koreans take great pride in adapting to foreign customs and may insist on following European etiquette. Allow them to take the lead and follow suite.

Dress

The traditional dress in South Korea is called hanbok (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 is 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 South Korea is still popular for special occasions, but western-styled clothes are more common for everyday wear and among the younger generation they may wear exclusively western-styled clothes. As a visitor to South Korea, you can wear nearly anything, but dressing more conservatively is appreciated and in business, dress is somewhat formal and punctuality is demanded. Shorts and short-sleeved shirts are acceptable in South Korea since there is no particular religious rule that forbids them, but it is rare to see shorts in most situations and wearing them may lead to some odd looks, but no real offense. This conservative nature extends to the beaches, where nakedness and women going topless is restricted, even if you're only sunbathing face down.

This page was last updated: November, 2013