8. Wearing shoes at someone’s home
For obvious reasons wearing shoes inside someone’s home is very unhygienic. Koreans spend a lot of time cleaning their floors because the Korean lifestyle is usually centred around the floor. Usually dining tables are very low to the ground as traditionally dinner is eaten by sitting on the floor. Even today, most people sleep on the floor, so it is important to keep it hygienic and clean. In Korean houses or apartments the entrance is usually lower than the rest of the home. This design allows for all dirty, wet things to be left in the entrance so that the house stays clean.
9. Eating first at the dinner table
Do you have times where you are so hungry the only thing you can think of is sitting down and start munching down your food? In Korea, unless you are eating with your closest friends, you should not even pick up your chopsticks unless the oldest person at the table picks up his or hers. The oldest person at the tables must eat first and then you are able to start eating. Respect to elders has always been a very strict and important tradition in Korea. Therefore, if you are extremely hungry, I’m afraid you’re going to have to be a little patient until the oldest person lift up their chopsticks.
10. Pouring water for yourself only whilst eating with your friends or family
Yes, that’s right. Pouring water for yourself only will look as though you only care about yourself and think less of others. Before pouring yourself a drink, check everyone’s cups and if they need refilling pour water for them first. Remember to pour water for the oldest one at the table first before others. If you do that, the Koreans will be very impressed and you would make a very good impression of yourself. If you get enough brownie points from the Koreans I’m sure they would want to take you out for dinner next time. Their treat of course =D
11. Not setting up utensils
From a very young age, Korean parents teach and discipline their children dinner etiquettes and traditional customs. This includes them preparing the table before dinner which involves setting up chopsticks, spoons, bowls, side dishes, napkins, pouring water in every cup etc. As foreigners, Koreans don’t really expect you to already know all of the traditional customs, but this is again another chance to make a good impression as well as to become more culturally enriched.
12. Getting up and leaving the table before elders do
If you finish your food early I’m afraid you might have to wait until everybody finishes before leaving the table. If you finish early and wait you might give others the impression you are waiting for them to finish, hence they will eat faster. To avoid this misunderstanding try to keep at a similar pace along with other people so that you don’t finish your meal too early. However if you have kept at a steady pace and finished early, place your chopsticks and spoon on the table and wait until the elder gives you permission to leave the table.
13. Touching an elder or someone at a higher rank than you on the head or shoulder
Especially on the head or shoulders! When Koreans touch someone’s head or shoulders, it is usually to a child or someone younger than them. If you touch a senior on the head or shoulder, it can be very down-grading, impolite and disrespectful. It is as though you are treating them like a child!
For now, I guess you should keep your touchy-feely hands to yourself. Even between friends, touching the opposite sex can be quite an intimate action. Therefore to avoid any misunderstanding avoid free touching in general unless you have the hots for someone. 😉