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Monday, March 12, 2007

What NOT to do in Korea...

1. Greet people like the French (a kiss on either cheek) or slap their back, like the Greek. The customary Korean greeting is a slight bow of the head and, in some cases, a handshake: right hand in one or both hands.

In Canada last year, Hwan had Korean friends over for dinner and I made the mistake of hugging them hello. They approached him to clarify- what was the deal.. was I romantically interested? Oops.

Don't wave hello. It's acceptable among close friends but not elders. There are many formalities in Korea, and if you're saying anyoasayo: the formal hello, waving undermines the respect.

2. Eat rice or stew: jiggae with chopsticks. You'll look like an amateur. Even Koreans use spoons. Also, refrain from sticking chopsticks straight up in your rice, like you're honoring the dead, and eat your kimbap in one bite! Read my post on restaurant/bar etiquette here.

3. Casually link arms with someone of the opposite sex. Girls often link arms with girlfriends but but co-ed arm linking is likened to holding hands; it's an intimate act.

4. Resist sharing or accepting food. Even children, the uber selfish, break a chocolate bar into 10 pieces so everybody can have some.

When invited to someones house for dinner, never fish in your kimchi jiggae for a rice cake or chunk of beef. Just eat. Also, try to clean your plate and always act appreciative.

5. Wear a tank top. Girls- there's a double standard in Korea. You can show thigh in a mid-winter miniskirt but, for some reason, you aren't supposed to reveal too much arm. I learned this at my work Christmas party! It was boiling hot and my coworkers kept asking if I was cold and should put a sweater on.

6. Forget to reply to a text message. Koreans never leave the house without their phone, and they slide it open about once ever 5 minutes, to see if they missed a message. An exaggeration? Maybe, but if it takes you longer than an hour to reply to a msg., you better have a damn good excuse.

7. Dye your hair a crazy color. It ain't Japan!

8. Write a student's name in red (inferring death), call them a "bad boy" or "bad girl," call them crazy, which translates to "psychopathic," wave them over like you would livestock; wave with your palm down, curling your fingers towards yourself, instead.

9. Rush romance. Koreans are friends for months before feelings develop. There isn't a 'love at first sight' mentality- lust at first sight, maybe. Friendship in Korea is the bud of love, and that bud takes a long time to develop.

Many of my Korean friends (couples) dated for 4 months+ before they held hands for the first time. And no canoodling at the park! Public displays of affection: anything more than a hug on the subway or linked arms on the street, are frowned upon.

10. Women- Profess your feelings first. Korean men are always the first to ask a girl on a date, and later if she wants to "be a couple". Women should never, ever say, "I love you,' first.
It's still a male dominated society, and Korean men expect to be the pursuers.

11. (Bonus) Praise Kim Jong ll's love of luxury items. Talk about what great taste he has in cars, clothing, electronics...

Brought to you from the streets of Suwon:

33 comments:

Craig said...

They all sound like good post topics but my vote is for 'What not to do in S.K.'....

Eva Karrin McKinnon said...

Okay, one post coming right up! What would you like to drink with that? Coke?

John said...

haha...i love the list and the picture to go with it...

at first i was trying to figure out what in sweet jesus' name you were doing - but i got it now...

and the eating rice with your chopsticks thing is right on, and hilarious...

Craig said...

Love reason 6! Where I live, replying to an email within 72 hours seems to be the norm. Text messaging will not even be noticed.

Wonderful post Eva.

Anonymous said...

haha! Those are so interesting! I actually went to eat Korean yesterday and these Korean girls were not shy at staring at me. (I'm Chinese but often get mistakened for a Korean).. anyway and I kept on wondering why... maybe they were thinking I was such an "amateur" because I ate my Kimchi Jjigae with chopsticks!

Ed said...

There isn't a chance I'd praise Kim Jong Il's taste in anything...that man looks like he belongs on the Muppett Show.

Arin said...

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Eva Karrin McKinnon said...

Craig- Great real estate commercial!!!

John- That's both a '10' and a "whoa, sorry, not from Korea! Didn't know!"

Anonymous- hahaha, don't sell yourself short. Maybe you resemble a Korean celebrity or had something stuck in your teeth.

Ed- lmao

Arin- I dropped by your site and will visit again.

Sam the Filmmaker in Korea said...

Re:5
Perhaps it was the style of tank top you were wearing. When people ask if you're cold, they're usually worried that you are indeed cold. Also, tank tops are thought of as sexy and would be reserved for "going out on the town".

Re:8
Just to add, pointing to a person with your index finger is a no no, especially to an elder person. To kids, it's alright, but it's something you do sternly.

Re:9
Each romantic case will differ. I just think that many of the men here can't take a hint and see the signs that a woman is interested. And maybe women here, don't know how to send them properly. But I know people who have kissed on the first date.

Anonymous said...

How about eating the last piece of food (chicken wing, duk bok ki, etc.) off of a communal plate? supposedly it's bad luck.

I usually eat the last piece. Maybe that explains my string of misfortunes... and my fat ass.

Eva Karrin McKinnon said...

Sam- thanks for the clarifications,of course it's easy to generalize

anonymous- haha I'm not sure about that but I do know you're not supposed to leave ANY of the communal rice uneaten.

mike_ike said...

I've been to korea 7 times so far (korean girlfriend). I'm swiss and I always like to introduce korean girls (well, age 20-30, you know what I mean) I get to know to the swiss way of greeting between male and female of similar age. like the french, we kiss on each others cheeks, but 3 times rather than just the two...

I usually got good reactions (except maybe once or twice when I haven't had shaved in a while...) and my girlfriend doesn't mind, she even encourages me to see the reactions of her girlfriends...

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Anonymous said...

Anonymous - I'm Korean, but have never heard of 'bad luck' regarding the last piece. So, enjoy the last piece of 떡볶이!

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