In addition to chopsticks, South Koreans regularly use soup spoons at meals. The chopsticks are used primarily for side dishes, while the spoon is used for soup and rice. All plates and bowls should stay on the table.
Drinking customs in South Korea are also different than in Japan. Use both hands when pouring a drink for someone, because it shows respect. This may seem like a trivial concern, but will count for a lot in the eyes of your South Korean friends. Among young people, the person who issued the invitation usually pays. Among older Koreans, one person will take care of the bill, and roles will switch the next time.
Tipping is not a traditional Korean custom; however, a 10 percent service charge is added to bills at all tourist hotels and tipping is not expected. South Koreans are averse to overt physical contact between members of the opposite sex.
Public displays of affection between couples, like hugging and kissing, are considered very improper. South Korean public baths, moyoktang, are wonderful. Moyoktang are found throughout the city and are inexpensive. There are usually showers to use before entering the hot tub. An expected convention when interacting with older people is that if you are taking something from someone older always use two hands; if you have to use one hand, you can should support your right arm with your left hand.
Another convention is to support your right arm with your left hand when shaking hands with somebody older. When meeting for the first time, older Koreans may ask about your age, your job, and your education. They may also ask of your parents careers. If you do not want to talk about these subjects you can politely give short answers and move the conversation along. Koreans in general have strong nationalistic views and as with most countries it is advisable not to bring up any historical events make negative comments about anything culturally in Korea.
When dining with Koreans, the oldest always eats first. It is common to hear people talking loudly in restaurants, as a sign of being happy and enjoying the food. Remember never to pour your own drink, but do pour for others. Also, if you notice the slurping of noodles this is actually expected. It shows that you enjoy the food and you are appreciating the cooking.
Money if given as a gift is placed in paper or an envelope. Swastikas are commonly seen in Buddhist temples. This is a religious symbol to the Koreans and does not represent Nazism or anti-Semitism.
It is common that when meeting a Korean business person initially you will be introduced by somebody rather than introducing yourself. Bows may or may not take place but handshaking is now commonplace. It is definitely expected that at an initial meeting business cards will be exchanged. Role level and rank play a central part in hierarchy within Korean business so here the business card is important as is confirming your title so that status and rank can be understood. Koreans generally prefer to deal with someone of the same rank or level as themselves.
Earlier we mentioned how to take things in terms of your hands. Use two hands when presenting and receiving a business card. If that is not possible, use your right hand and support your right elbow with your left hand. A business card needs to be treated as an extension of the person. Be sure to read it carefully and then place it on the table in front of you.
It is seen as disrespectful to put it straight into your pocket and definitely do not write on the business card.
Most business meetings are scheduled mid-morning or mid-afternoon. You must make an appointment in plenty of time so ideally a couple of weeks before you wish to meet. Punctuality is important as it is a sign of respect. You must call ahead if you will be late. It is also not unusual for Korean executives to cancel appointments with little or no notice. The cancellation may genuinely be due to an unexpected situation. However if you realise that this has happened before it may be that they either need to delay the business or that they are not really interested.
Like in any country it is important to be savvy and read between the lines a little. Gift-giving is very normal when doing business in Korea. Gifts are given at the first meeting to build relationships.
Wait until the host has presented his gift and use both hands to accept it. The gifts given should be of similar value, with the gift of greatest value going to the most senior person from the company within the meeting.
Contracts are seen as needing to be flexible by the Koreans. However, you may want to make sure to also know their Korean name for after the meeting. The decision making process in Korea is done collectively and therefore may take more time than you may be used to.
You will need to be patient. The reason being Koreans worry that foreign businesses are only there to make a quick profit and run so it is important to demonstrate long-term commitment to the relationship.
Koreans business people devote a great deal of time and energy into getting to know the people with whom they are dealing in order to build long-term relationships. This section will be particularly helpful if you are relocating to South Korea and intend to work. There are a number of factors to have in mind when you start managing South Korean employees.
There are strict rules that you must be aware of in order to make your employment a success. You must always retain a formality in the way that you manage people. Additionally, anyone older must be treated with great respect.
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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. For all the details of applicable customs duty and tax rates in English, you can refer to the Duties and Taxes in Korea on the Korea Customs website. Besides customs duties and taxes, some items require licensing and approval procedures with other Korean Government agencies.