Korean culture has survived for 5,000 years and now due to the rise of the “Hallyu Wave”, people tend to have a deep interest in this culture and love its diversity! However do you know the main cultural customs that need to be followed? If not, I am here to share some of them with you guys!
1. KIMCHI IS CULTURE
Kimchi is sliced cabbage, fermented with red chili sauce and anchovy paste. It is pungent, spicy, and sour. Koreans love it and eat it with every meal — usually on the side -– though they also use it as an ingredient in countless other dishes.
Kimchi is symbolic of Korean culture: it’s strong, distinctive, and defiant. Some foreigners can’t stomach it, but if you can, you will earn the locals’ heartfelt respect. It’s definitely one of the top food experiences you need to have in South Korea.
2. SHOES OFF
When entering a Korean home, you must remove your shoes. To do any less is a sign of great disrespect.
Koreans have a special relationship with their floor, on which they sit and often sleep. A dirty floor is intolerable in a Korean home, and they view Westerners as backward savages for remaining shod in our living rooms.
Korea is a drinking culture, and their national booze is soju, a clear, vodka-like drink.
Soju is drunk out of shot glasses, and like all liquor in Korea, it’s always served with food. Koreans drink in boisterous groups, regularly clinking glasses, while shouting geonbae! (cheers) and one shot-uh! Koreans have strict drinking etiquette: never pour your own drink, and when pouring for someone older than you, put one hand to your heart or your pouring arm as a sign of respect.
Like the Japanese, the Koreans eat rice with almost every meal. It’s so ingrained in their culture that one of their most common greetings is Bap meogeosseoyo?, or ‘Have you eaten rice?’
Unlike the Japanese, Koreans usually eat their rice with a spoon, and they never raise the rice bowl off of the table towards their mouths. Also, chopsticks must never be left sticking out of the rice bowl, as this resembles the way rice is offered to the dead!
5. DO NOT SMILE
Koreans are a warm and generous people, but you would never know it from the sourpusses they paste on in public.
Sometimes, the chaotic streets of the peninsula resemble a sea of scowls, with everyone literally putting their most stern faces forward. This is NOT true of the children however, who will invariably grin and laugh while shouting “Hello! Hello!”
6. BEWARE OF ELBOWS
Korea is a crowded country. It’s a cluster of stony mountains with only a few valleys and plains on which to build. The result is a lot of people in small spaces, and folks will not think twice about pushing and jostling in order to get onto a bus, into an elevator, or to those perfect onions at the market.
Don’t even bother with “excuse me,” and beware of the older women, known as ajumma. They’re deadly.
As Korea is mountainous, it should come as no surprise that hiking is the national pastime. Even the most crowded of cities have mountains that offer a relative haven from the kinetic madness of the streets below.
Koreans are at their best on the mountain. They smile and greet you and will often insist on sharing their food and drink. Make sure to stop at a mountain hut restaurant for pajeon (fritter) and dong dong ju (rice wine).
Koreans are an extremely proud people, and sometimes this pride transforms into white-hot nationalism.
You see this nationalism displayed at sporting events, where thousands of Korean fans cheer their national teams on in unison, banging on drums and waving massive flags.
I am pretty much sure of one thing if we are aware of such custom of a particular country, not only we tend to respect them but also follow and try to learn something new from them!
Author l Bhagyashree