Customs and traditions

Traditions are everywhere in South Korea, both in the cities and in the countryside. Large cities offer a multitude of shows, ceremonies and cultural gatherings. But it is of course in the villages that the traditions are most visible. The festivals punctuate the seasons while rural customs are maintained, to the delight of visitors.

Hierarchy is very important in Korea from early childhood, with the system of elders and juniors. In business, this will be even more accentuated: you are in the pay of your boss who is in the pay of his boss! Age is required in all circumstances so that your interlocutor can stand in front of you in the junior / senior relationship. Don't hide your age, it’s not a taboo in South Korea. In addition, you would embarrass the other person, since they do not know how to address you.

In society, you will have certain codes to integrate in relation to the age of your interlocutors, such as not to drink, eat or sit down before the oldest person present has done so. 

Hierarchy is very important in Korea from early childhood, with the system of elders and juniors. In business, this will be even more accentuated: you are in the pay of your boss who is in the pay of his boss! Age is required in all circumstances so that your interlocutor can stand in front of you in the junior / senior relationship. Don't hide your age, it’s not a taboo in South Korea. In addition, you would embarrass the other person, since they do not know how to address you.

In society, you will have certain codes to integrate in relation to the age of your interlocutors, such as not to drink, eat or sit down before the oldest person present has done so. 

Korean society is very patriarchal: the ideal woman (seen in advertisements, for example) is feminine, always neat, well-mannered and always maternal. And when a woman is employed, you often expect her to end her career when married. The man, on the other hand, has the responsibility of finding a good job to support his future family and find a wife. It is more difficult for a man with an unstable or low-paying job to get married.

Contrary to our Western mores, marriages of convenience are still quite common in Korea. The family has strong decision-making power in the choice of partner. If parents are unhappy with the lucky winner, Koreans will often end the relationship and choose a partner who better meets their family's expectations. Koreans know that this kind of wedding is not very popular in the West, so they may be embarrassed to tell you about it. Again, be open-minded in your conversations with them.

Koreans are heavy drinkers and heavy smokers. If you are sensitive to cigarettes, expect to be regularly inconvenienced in Korea. Foreigners have been shown to increase their consumption of alcohol and tobacco in South Korea compared to their consumption in their home country.

It is frowned upon to refuse to participate in drinking games, especially in the evenings after work. However, you can participate lightly and decline some offers that are made to you, but an outright refusal will be taken as rudeness.

Cigarettes are seen more as a tool to relax. Koreans work hard, they are very subject to stress, which is a big public health problem in Korea. South Korea is one of the countries with the highest suicide rate in the world. Numerous studies show a real discomfort among Koreans, often linked to a tiring pace of work that handicaps their social and family life. Cigarettes are a real pressure relief valve and they are tolerated almost everywhere.

                                To do
  • Greet by bending slightly
  • Present your business card during your contacts
  • Try to master some Korean polite phrases
  • Take off your shoes when you walk into someone's house
  • If you are invited to someone's house, introduce yourself with a small gift
  • Taste all the dishes and drinks
                             Not to do
  • Avoid showing impatience or anger in public
  • If you are invited to a banquet, avoid eating everything on one of the many small plates
  • Avoid being too familiar in public
  • Avoid wearing clothes that are dirty or not very presentable
  • Plant your chopsticks in the rice
  • Refuse a drink from an older person
  • Blow your nose in public, which is seen as rude
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