Hands on Shoulder: Don’t put your hands on someone’s shoulder, especially an older Korean. Doing so establishes yourself as a superior. And in Korea’s very hierarchal society, older individuals are to be respected more than usual. This is usually a non-issue with younger Koreans.
Just Sit Anywhere: Freedom of seat is not really a thing in Korea. In formal settings, seating arrangements are quite important. Your hosts might want you to sit at the most center position, giving everyone at the table access to ooh and aah at your responses. You might also be seated next to the boss or your future parents-in-law so that he or she can get to know you better. Whatever the case, don’t just grab the first seat you see. Just like on a Friday night at Outback Steakhouse, wait to be seated.
If you want to make a good impression at the dinner table, follow these Korean dining etiquette tips!
Respect the Business Cards: If it’s a business meeting, you’ll most likely exchange business cards. But in Korea, you shouldn’t put it away immediately. In Korea, business cards are seen as an extension of the person, and it’s proper business etiquette to examine the card for a bit to see the person’s position as well as any other information that might be relevant. Putting away a person’s name card immediately signifies disinterest. Show interest by looking and flipping. Here’s a few more tips:
• Don’t write on the card. It’s a sign of disrespect.
• Don’t pocket the card right away. Doesn’t show enough care.
• Place it on the table in front of you. It shows care and respect for the card, and thus, the person.
Be Ready for a Long Night: If you’re traveling to Korea specifically for a business meeting, your Korean counterparts will most likely have the entire night, including dinner and drinks, planned out for you. And sometimes that can lead to a long night. Typically business meetings start with dinner (with drinks), move on to more drinks, and finally more drinks. But that’s more for businesses that have older traditions. For newer companies, it could be dinner, coffee and ice cream. Either way, it can be a long night. If you’re busy, just warn them beforehand.
Read more on What to Expect When Hanging Out with Koreans!
Follow the Boss: Whoever the highest level person you meet is, be sure to follow their lead. That means standing when he stands, sitting when he sits, and leaving when he leaves. Now this is showing the utmost respect. So if you’re in a position where you need the boss’ help, you might want to follow all of these rules as best you can. If they’re the ones in need of your help, do as you please (respectfully of course ;)).
Forget Rank: Korea’s a very hierarchal society and position and rank are quite important. And most Koreans prefer to interact with people of similar position. So a CEO meeting a first-year employee is not very common. If you’re setting up meetings, try to match positions as best as possible.
Be Antisocial: Just like it is all over the world, it’s important to have trust and commitment in any business relationship. In Korea, however, that’s expressed through spending time together outside of the office. That usually means dinners and drinks. If you’d rather be playing League of Legends in your hotel room than having dinner and drinks with CEO Park, it’s a sign of disinterest. Spend that time, get that big contract, and buy the Seoulistic team a big fat dinner, mmk?? 🙂
Have you ever made one of these mistakes? Share your experience in the comments!
Related post: 8 Simple Ways to Make a Good Impression in Korea!