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Gestures : Korea

Gesture among Korean

  1. Among themselves, bowing is the traditional form for both greeting and departing.
  2. Western and Korean male friends usually greet with both a slight bow and shaking hands. When shaking hands, both hands are sometimes used. Women usually do not shake hands, especially with men, but usually just nod slightly. The senior person offers to shake hands first, but the junior person bows first. However, shake hands with a light grip and perhaps with eyes averted.
  3. Avoid hugging and kissing when greeting.
  4. Prolonged direct eye contact is considered impolite and even intimidating.
  5. Business cards are traded respectfully. Keep the card on the table in front of you as just one small gesture of respect.
  6. When saying good-bye, the traditional gesture is the bow, but the younger generation has adopted the western custom of waving good-bye by moving their arm side-to-side.
Korean Gestures

Korean Gestures

  1. Generally speaking, the Koreans are not a touch-oriented society (especially true for visitors.) So avoid touching or any prolonged form of body contact.
  2. Public displays of affection are very rare. On the other hand, you may note people of the same sex walking hand-in-hand, which is simply a gesture of friendship.
  3. Don’t worry about a bit of pushing in stores or when groups board public buses or trains. Apologies are neither offered nor expected.
Korean Gestures

Korean Gestures

  1. The open hand or the middle finger is used for pointing.
  2. To beckon someone, the palm faces downward and the fingers are moved in a scratching motion. Using the arm and hand up, palm toward the face is used only for calling dogs and children.
  1. Respect is always shown to elderly people, so it is appropriate to rise when a person– especially an elderly man enters the room or giving up a seat on a subway. However, an elder may not give up a seat for a young boy.
  2. Men generally have priority in Korea: Go through a door first, walk ahead of women, and women may help them on with their coats.
  3. Among the Koreans, laughter is used to disguise many emotions: anger, frustration, and fear.
  4. Loud talking or laughing is usually avoided. Koreans, especially women, will cover their mouths laughing, resulting in giggling rather than wide open-mouth laughing.
  5. Periods of silence are common and accepted, even during dinners.
  6. Correct posture is important, especially when seated. Don’t slouch or put your feet on desks or chairs. Try to maintain a balanced posture, stand or sit erectly or squarely. When seated have both feet squarely on the ground with arms in the lap or on the armrests. Crossing the legs at the knees or ankles is the preferred form rather than with one ankle over the other knee.
  7. When walking in public, keep to the left side of the walkway and stairway.
Korean Self-touch

Korean Self-touch

  1. It is considered impolite to enter a room without knocking first. However, Koreans may not wait for you to come to the door and open it. They may knock and then enter.
  2. When walking in public places, direct eye contact is uncommon in the larger cities. However, visitors may be the subject of much curiosity and therefore you may notice some stares.
  3. Blowing you nose in public is considered rude, especially at a meal. Paper tissues are used for blowing the nose and then discarded.
  4. When entering a private home, it is usually customary to remove your shoes.
  5. Spitting (except for young women) and burping in public is acceptable.


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