Typical behavioral mistakes tourists make in South Korea

“What mistakes do foreigners make in Korea?” Opinions of Koreans

“There is one common mistake. As you know, despite the armistice, the Korean War is not yet over. Once a year there is a civil defense drill. On that day, sirens sound everywhere, police control the roads, traffic stops, and people have to hide in a bomb shelter. You can also sometimes see military vehicles on the roads. We are used to this drill, but foreigners, especially those from Europe and America, are shocked and think that war has really started.”

(M, JaeHoon, 22, Seoul)

“So, first of all, age plays a very important role in Korea. Even if someone is only a year older than you, you have to talk to them formally, using polite addresses, etc. Secondly, it is considered rude to start eating before adults if you are sitting at the same table.”

(G, Emily, 27, Seoul)

“Hmmm… For example, some foreigners don’t know that kimchi should be eaten with rice. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it tastes much better with rice.”

(M, MyeongHong, 23, Ansan)

“Many foreigners have an idealized view of Korea. Sometimes it’s annoying. They are sure that Korea is the best country in the world or they think that Koreans and Korea itself are in reality the same as in the doramas. They are in love with a fictional country. It’s frustrating that some foreigners don’t see the real Korea…”

(J, Yonsu, 24, Seoul)

“Linguistic mistakes are very common. For example, in Korean, the word ‘eighteen’ is quite similar in sound to one bad expression. So when foreigners try to pronounce an innocuous number, it seems as if they are swearing.”

(M, Han Sung, 22, Seoul)

“I think one of the mistakes is that some foreigners don’t take their shoes off when they enter the house. This is a common mistake among tourists from Western countries. Also, when communicating, Koreans use different polite addresses that foreigners are not used to. It’s usually difficult for them to use them. It is considered rude to talk informally to an adult or a stranger.”

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(J, Hyeon Seon, 23, Gwangju)

“Hmm… Mistakes made by foreigners? Well, I haven’t noticed anything like that ^_^ But I dare to guess that many foreigners think that all Koreans are interested in K-pop ;) Anyway, no Korean would consider it a mistake :)

(J, Charlotte, 26, Seoul)

“When we go inside, we make sure to take off our shoes. But some foreigners, especially from the West, don’t do that.”

(J, Belle, 27, Gwangju)

“First of all, in the subway, some foreigners sit in the seats for the elderly. This cannot be considered a gross mistake, but be aware that some people of age will stare at you intently. Second, many people are used to leave a tip, for example in a restaurant, but it’s not customary in Korea :) Third, when you have an alcoholic drink with a Korean, you should fill each other’s cups, don’t fill yours yourself. Fourth, please forget all stereotypes :) Just like Russians don’t drink vodka every day, Koreans don’t eat kimchi at every meal :) One last thing: if people in Korea give you quick looks, it doesn’t mean you look weird. Those looks don’t make any sense at all :) Koreans even look at each other that way.

(M, Bak, 23, Sonnam)

Questions asked by: Eran Babayan, 2015

and notice,this is south korea) but all the hardcore in north korea)

PS. The previous posts were rejected, I can’t add the tag “opinions of Koreans” so they can add to ignore. And the year of the article I write at the end, why the dissatisfaction about the fact that the posts I’m very “in time” to write. But okay, I’ll keep that in mind.

When justice is more valuable than money

It was 2014, in Seoul, when after a hard day’s work, my girlfriend and I decided to stop by a bar in the Ittevon area, famous for its abundance of entertainment venues for foreigners, mostly from the US. We had dinner and drinks and decided to go to a club for a couple of hours. We were dancing, not disturbing anyone, and suddenly a security guard came up and asked me to go with him. I, unsuspecting of anything, follow him and find myself on a blind landing, which was filled with boxes and to all appearances was not used for its intended purpose.

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There, in the semi-darkness, was a young woman sitting on the stairs, with her two friends standing next to her. Some blood-stained napkins were strewn about, and the girls were discussing excitedly. Their attire spoke for itself: ultra short dresses, fishnet stockings, high heels, very bright makeup, in general, even at first glance it was clear that the night butterflies.

When one of them, the most perky one, saw me, took me by the hand, led me to a girl sitting on the stairs, and began to explain that her friend had badly injured her leg. When I looked closely, I saw that the girl’s big toe was really badly hurt, and that blood was oozing from under the nail. Strongly frightened, I shook my head sadly and asked how it happened, to which the “perky” said that I did it and asked how I was going to answer for it. And for some reason immediately began to voice the amount that, supposedly necessary to have for emergency care, namely – $ 1200 dollars. Where she got that amount of $ 1200, I never understood.

Naturally my reaction was negative – it was the first time I had seen each of them, much less inflicted such a serious injury without even noticing it. After politely explaining to them that they were mistaken and I couldn’t have done it, I moved back toward the club, followed by threats to report them to the police.

Ten minutes later the police arrived and took me to the station to investigate all the circumstances.

At the station, each party writes their version of what happened, where I also point out that my shoes – soft flat-soled pumps, as opposed to the injured girl, who was wearing high-heeled sandals with a platform, could not cause such an injury. Even if I had specifically tried to pick up her toenail with my ankle boots, it would have been difficult to do so because of the height difference. The police officers couldn’t disagree with this fact, shook their heads, and the girls in their corner became visibly tense and began to whisper quietly, apparently urgently discussing how to build their strategy now. Maybe they had not counted on such a competent and harsh rebuff from a foreigner. They thought they would scare me a little and I would tell them everything. But they had the wrong girl!

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After spending about 3 hours at the station, I gradually went from shock to righteous anger: by what right are you holding me here, while these charlatans, serving as bedfellows for the Americans, trying to bribe me for the money they could not earn today on the panel?

The case went to court. I lost the first hearing, I was forced to pay a $500 fine for unintentional injury, but at the second hearing I got an acquittal. The higher court affirmed the second trial.

I defended my honor and justice was served, but at what cost? The result: a lawyer’s fee of $ 3 thousand, frequent time off work due to attendance at court hearings, 2 years of my life (during this time I managed to get married, find a new job, and even go on maternity leave) in the form of stress, constant delays at the border when entering the country, moral damage.

After the first hearing, my husband told me to pay the $500 fine and forget about the case. But I knew I couldn’t do that. Of course money is important, but conscience is more important. I couldn’t live with the idea of being screwed by some nasty goons and just giving up on them.

Now I am happy that I went all the way. Later I sued the Seoul Prosecutor’s Office for $3,000 in compensation for the wrongful accusation. I wanted to file a countersuit against those mares, but my lawyer told me that my hopes were null and void because the injury had really happened and the hospital records confirmed it. To be honest, by that point I had no fuse left – all my energy was spent on defense, there was no energy left to attack.

My defense speech at the second hearing deserves special attention. During the whole trial the prosecution kept stressing my status of a foreigner. They say the poor girl is from Russia, we felt sorry for her, we would have been happy to take her statement, but she refused to even apologize to us (our conversation on the stairs was just a monetary bazaar). When I was given the floor, I refused the services of an interpreter and said the speech myself, putting my whole soul into it:

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“Dear judges! Yes, I come from Russia. But here too, just like in Korea, people say “Thank you” when they are done well and apologize when they cause inconvenience to others. If I had done something that day that would have hurt another person, rest assured that I would have apologized first, and I would have been held appropriately responsible for my action. Even after the first meeting, I could have paid the $500 fine and given up. However, I chose to pay 6 times the amount of the fine to a lawyer in order to fight on. Doesn’t this show that I am sure of my innocence? I have great faith in the justice of the Korean court and hope for your wise decision.

After I finished my speech, a round of applause could be heard from the audience.

P.S. Thank you for finishing a long post. I cut it down as much as I could.)

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