8 Ways to Make a Good Impression in Korea – Seoulistic

8 Ways to Make a Good Impression in Korea

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If you’re traveling to Korea for business or for pleasure, and you are going to meet some Korean people, don’t you want to make a good impression? Here are 8 super nice things you can do for your friends in Korea to make a really good first impression that’ll last!


Buy Presents

Korean culture puts a lot of emphasis on the giving and receiving of presents. It’s customary to bring gifts when you’re visiting a Korean person’s home. So it would be a really nice gesture if you brought a present to your host family in Korea. If you’re coming to Korea on business, a small present would also be super appreciated. The great thing is presents in Korea aren’t necessarily expected to be expensive! A thoughtful gift that is inexpensive (usually a food or snack of some sort) will do wonders for making a good first impression on Koreans.



Eat a Lot

This one might sound weird, but more traditional/older Koreans like to see people eat well. This is more of a Korean grandparent thing (for those who grew up in a generation that didn’t have a lot of food), but younger parents also tend to value this as well. So if you’re a younger person going out to eat with older Koreans, one way to show your gratitude is to eat a lot. Don’t be afraid to ask for more rice or more banchan (side dishes). It’ll put a smile on their face because you’re eating like a champ! Overeating ftw!



Let Koreans Pay

If you’re going out with Korean friends or a Korean host family, many will feel the need to buy you dinner. If you’re a special guest visiting Korea, many Korean hosts will gladly pay for dinner or invite you over for dinner. Buying other people meals or cooking for others are a few food-centered ways Koreans show their hospitality. So don’t fight over the check, and let your Korean hosts pay for the meal. It will let them keep face, and you’ll get a delicious Korean meal out of it. Everyone wins!

If you don’t want to pay the Korean way, find out why you might look cheap.



Offer to Pay for Something Else

After eating your fantastic Korean meal and saying thank you to your Korean hosts, a nice gesture would be to get coffee, drinks or ice-cream for round 2 (이차 – icha). Hanging out with Koreans usually entails several “rounds.” Meals, coffee, dessert, noraebang, bars and many other things Koreans do to hang out are all considered rounds, and many groups of Korean friends pay in rounds (of course, some Koreans go dutch, too). If your friends are paying for each other, offer to pay for the next round to be awesome and make lots of Korean friends at the same time 🙂

 Read more about hanging out the way Koreans do here!


Get Up on the Subway or Bus

Subway etiquette in Korea says you should get up for the elderly, pregnant, injured and children. So if you’re sitting in a seat and you see an elderly Korean grandmother get on, be an awesome Seoul subway rider and stand up. Giving up your seat is a one of the nicest gestures you can do for fellow Korea commuters. But that’s something that is translatable across the world. A very Korean way to be nice would be to get up for little children. Kids can have a hard time standing on a moving subway or bus, so getting up for cute little Korean kids is another way you can be really nice.



Let Them Practice English (or other language)

Some Koreans study a language their whole life but never have the chance to use it in real life. That’s why so many people jump at the chance to speak English (insert other language here) when they meet a native speaker! If someone is constantly replying to you in your native language, even if you speak Korean, that might be a sign that they want to practice speaking your language. Be an awesome friend to Koreans studying your language. Speak back to them in your language and let them have the chance to practice with a native speaker. For some, it’ll be the first time ever, and that’s a nice honor to have, isn’t it? 🙂



Help the Elderly

Respect for the elderly is a Confucian concept that Koreans live by even today. You will always see younger Korean people helping the elderly with heavy things and crossing the street even if they are total strangers. So one way to be an awesome person in Korea is to help the elderly when you can. The most common way to assist a senior in need is to help carry heavy things. Even helping someone to the top of the stairs will show a lot of care and respect. And in Korea, that basically means you’re uber awesome.

Tip: You can refer to any senior as grandmother (할머니 – halmeoni) or grandfather (할아버지 – halabeoji) respectively, even if they’re not your grandparents.



Bring Whatever You’re Having

This is typical for Korean offices and schools. One way Koreans try to be nice is to bring officemates or classmates some food, snacks or drinks while you’re out. On the way back to the office, if you’re in the mood for ice-cream, a really Korean thing to do that would be ultra nice would be to get everyone else ice-cream too. It’s not too expensive, and it’s a really common way Koreans try to be nice. Some common things to bring back to the office or classroom are: ice-cream, beverages, bread (as snacks), coffee, etc. Remember, sharing is caring in Korea 🙂

This is related to that really complicated, but very Korean concept of jeong (정).

Keith Kim is a Korean-American who has been living in Korea for almost a decade. Being in a unique position as both a Korean and a non-Korean, he's put all his experience and knowledge for surviving in Korea in Survival Korean . Read it to learn how you can survive in Korea. Follow him on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.


  1. Shane says:

    Hi Keith :)..You’re back :). I read your last blog I just want to apologize I wont be able help you but I’m spreading the word though. “Sharing is caring” 🙂

  2. Jenn says:

    If I promise to help an elderly person right away, can I come to Korea? Please? I promise to eat a lot. 😉

  3. Grace says:

    This was very interesting. Thanks, for the advice ^^

  4. Ramona says:

    Your comment… This is an awesome article, so similar to the way I was raised in America in a Native American/African American household. Sharing is definitely caring. Everyone loves to a helpful person.

  5. shaghayegh says:

    Aniyang haeseyo…:)
    Yeah … like way we do in Iran;)
    I really happy because Iran and korea have a similar culture…

  6. Zach says:

    Let them practice their English? Good luck stopping them. Many foreigners continue to suck at Korean because Koreans won’t let them practice.

  7. Sukhada says:

    Nice blog liked it. 🙂

  8. DavidXian says:

    Eat a Lot – ㅋㅋㅋ That’s so true. Even in my country, Indonesia.
    My grandma will make me eat 4-5 times/day everytime I visit her. She loves to see her grandson healthy. 😀

  9. Idachinju says:

    Keith … I’ve been reading your blogs, because I miss Korea..they are awesome. I’ve not seen you say anything about using two hands and doing the head bow. Especially for foreigners who stand out in Korea, paying in public or handing money to anyone use two hands is seen as you showing respect to the other person add the head bow and you are earning points. A bonus for doing this…you get much better service and the employee will remember you the next time you are in the establishment. Owe someone money, put it in a white envelope and hand it over with two hands and head bow (Koreans will do this, and do not look in the envelope until you are gone from their sight).

  10. Shannon says:

    Own. How come Koreans can be so cute sometimes?
    Korean Culture is so different from Brazilian. I just think is amazing how things work for them. I also think it’s really cute the way Korean people care about each other. Just sounds like Korean people are really nice!

  11. huy says:

    It’s so funny that all of these are the same in Vietnam! So I’m so familiar with them even though I grew up and live in germany ^^ I guess I won’t have real problems in Korea then 😀 What a relief haha

  12. Jacks says:

    The advice here is all very good for visitors and people looking to brush up on being respectful visitors when in Korea, but I find it misleading and unsettling that SEOULISTIC would publish a picture of an abnormaly large Chinese boy along with their advice to “Eat a Lot.” Click on the image, it will take you to the story. MY ADVICE to SEOULISTIC: Update this page with a more Korean-centric and RELEVANT image.

  13. rose gianne says:

    Great culture…..even here in the Philippines respect, hospitality, concern and care for the elders are just one of the numerous traditions in our culture that’s been handed down to us from generations…. its also customary to us to bring gifts whenever we visit a household and pay for others but its not that much of a requirement….being sensible is what counts the most… Korea’s culture is great, Id like to pay a visit sometimes!!! ^_^

  14. I wish if I could have read this blog before…. but yes nothing is too late to do good things yeah…thanks mate. 🙂

  15. NathanC says:

    Great article. One more thing: DON’T go expecting that your awesome foreign-ness entitles you to anything. Much less to being a jerk, a party animal, or a flirt. You give foreigners a bad name and you will probably get yourself in trouble. Abusing your host country’s hospitality that way, and ruining your country’s reputation, is just about the lowest thing you can do. If you have the privilege of visiting Korea–a privilege many would love to have but can’t–be a respectful, polite visitor, learn the good things form Korean culture, and share the good things from yours. Don’t be evil.

  16. Daniella says:

    Very good advices, but what if I want to practice my korean with native speakers also? Should I let them speak my language as I reply in korean? This is a hars one :))

  17. Miranda says:

    Bring things to share sure, but a round a coffee can easily cost the same as (or more than) an entire meal. Crazy coffee obsession going on in this country!

  18. Elle says:

    Let Koreans Pay ^^.. hehe that’s the awesome advice, that i would definitely remember when I visit Korea.

    When my Korean business partners came to Indonesia, we always fought to pay the check, most of the time they won hahaha… (heck^ maybe because i’m a lady) if only i knew about this sooner, will just let them, so they can keep more face. ^__^

    Hence, I also enjoy treating them with enormous good foods in Indonesia, even one of my Korean friend said finally he missed my country because of good foods here. And he’s really a good eater, he ate everything!!

    Oh just remember, it’s his birthday today..gotta congratulate him ^^ saengil chukkae~~

  19. Franck says:

    When I go to Korea I want to speak Korean. I do not live there so I want to grasp any opportunity I have to practice it. It is really annoying when Korean people answer me back in English, even when I continue to speak to them in Korean. Besides that English is not even my mother tongue. It takes a lot of time and dedication to learn Korean so I find it is kind of frustrating if you cannot use it. I guess that if lived there I would not care since I will have plenty of opportunities to practice it.

    Thanks for creating this site. It is truly an amazing source of information.


  20. Funkorean says:

    Hello, if you are interested in learning korean language, you should check out the book “As Much as a Rat’s Tail” by Peter Liptak. It covers a lot of korean slang that you can’t learn in other conventional text books.

  21. Yeji says:

    this is so true!!
    and while i was reading this, i almost cried.
    this is why i love my country, and my people.
    i am so proud of myself the fact i am in this culture.

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  24. Natalie says:

    Keith, love your insight!

    Keep it up.

    Your pretty hansome too!!

  25. Ravina says:

    I think this is too cute.. The way you should show respect is absolutely easy for me because im that kind of person..Lol 😀

  26. Hector says:

    This article is really cool. I have bookmarked it.

    Do you allow guest posting on your blog ? I can provide high quality posts for you.

    Let me know.

  27. Christy says:

    I ate like a champion in one of the pochangmaja there, and the imo-nim keep on pushing more food to my plate for free! 🙂

  28. nighty dress says:

    Thanks for such post and please keep it up. Great work.

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