Before going to an unfamiliar country, you need to know about its culture. Especially if you are going to Asia where the society still follows certain traditions and has a hierarchical structure. One of these traditional countries is South Korea with its frightening characteristics and unusual taboos.
So before you fill your belly with kimchi and then hit up a BTS concert, you’ll need to get acquainted with some South Korean “no-no’s” first. Here’s the list of bizarre cultural faux pas and downright illegal bans of South Korea so that you won’t spoil your trip to the land of morning freshness.
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Don’t tip at restaurants 0:29
Don’t play with chopsticks 0:54
Don’t leave food on your plate 1:24
Stay away from the number 4 2:08
Don’t give gifts to your teacher 3:08
Don’t let your tattoos show 3:59
Don’t wear plunging necklines 4:41
Don’t make too much eye contact 5:31
Be careful when taking photos in public 6:17
Don’t get into arguments, especially with elders 7:00
Don’t blow your nose in public 8:02
Toilet talk isn’t taboo 8:41
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– Restaurant and café employees get paid really well, so tipping is seen as an incredibly rude gesture and a jab at their dignity.
– Holding the sticks vertically and sticking them vertically into rice are associated with death in South Korea because it resembles the incense sticks stuck in the sand at funerals.
– When visiting someone’s home in South Korea, it’s impolite to refuse refreshments and even more offensive if you don’t finish what’s been served.
– You might feel uneasy about the number 13, but a lot of countries in East Asia have the same attitude, only with the number 4.
– The age-old tradition of giving gifts to teachers for Teachers Day on May 15 was made illegal in South Korea back in September of 2016. The law prohibits teachers from receiving gifts from students or their parents.
– Many East Asian countries don’t like tattoos, and they’ve even managed to encode this into their laws. In South Korea, it’s illegal for tattoo artists to practice their work, and only licensed medical doctors are legally allowed to ink people.
– A lot of women there will stick to high necklines or wear layers under low-cut tops just to err on the side of caution. However, the attitude towards miniskirts is drastically different!
– It’s important to avoid looking directly into someone’s eyes if they’re older than you or they have a higher position (like your boss).
– If you’re out and about in the streets of Seoul (or anywhere in the country for that matter), never take photographs with strangers in the frame. It might land you a fine or a night spent at the police station.
– You might well be a rocket scientist, but in South Korea, you have to listen to your elders, especially if they’re rocket scientists, too. No, just kidding about that last part.
– You know it’s polite to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, but take extra precaution when it comes to blowing your nose in Korea.
– Now, this might come as a surprise given all the other things on this list, but talking about your #1 and #2 is totally normal in Korea! And I’m not just talking about between family, friends, or partners – even colleagues will go into great detail about their bodily functions!
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