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Travel with Consideration (South Korea)

Tourism can impact the natural, economic and social environment. At Wendy Wu Tours, we are committed to addressing this impact wherever possible without compromising our customers’ experience.

Taking Photos

Always check that it is ok before taking a photograph or video of a local person. Simply indicate to your camera to ask and never take the photograph or footage if someone gestures to say that they do not want you to. Cameras are not allowed in some sightseeing spots, particularly temples, and government buildings.

Due to rising safety concerns, some venues have now banned selfie sticks. 

Observe Local Rules and Customs

South Korea has a Culture built on intricate social etiquette and customs mainly based on religion and the influence of other regions such as China, Japan & USA. As foreigners, we are not expected to be knowledgeable about these, but it will make your time in South Korea more enjoyable if you are respectful of local customs. Some examples of customs include:

  • Remove your shoes and hats when entering a temple or house (some restaurants as well). You may be supplied with slippers at some places, but please come prepared with plenty of spare socks and shoes that are easy to take off.
  • Use both hands when giving or receiving things, such as money or change. It is seen as more polite.
  • The bow is the traditional Korean greeting, although it is often accompanied by a handshake among men.
  • Dressing well is important in South Korea and it is considered a sign of respect. South Koreans also dress well for civic activities, especially in larger cities like Seoul.
  • Cushions are commonly used at low tables to sit on the floor at restaurants. The floor is generally heated by the ondol, an underfloor heating system.
  • In restaurants and bars, pouring one's own drink is seen as a faux pas. Hosts generally fill the drinks of their company, and the company should do the same for the host. Therefore, paying attention to other's drink glasses and filling them when empty is a common procedure in a social setting.
  • South Koreans consider it a personal violation to be touched by someone who is not a relative or close friend. Touching, patting, or back slapping is to be avoided during interactions.
  • Using the number four is considered unlucky as the pronunciation of the word 'four' and a Chinese character (meaning death) are similar.
  • Kissing in public is looked down upon and seen as highly immodest among older individuals in South Korea.
  • South Koreans never raise a rice bowl to their mouth, blow their nose at the table, even if the meal is spicy as it is considered offensive.

Dress Appropriately

The way you dress in South Korea is up to you – you may have seen how unconservative some people are, especially in Seoul! However, Korean's do take great pride in their appearance
and how you are treated may be influenced by how you present yourself. A couple of tips:

  1. dress appropriately when visiting temples and shrines, e.g. no beachwear, and
  2. wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off.

The Environment

The tap water in South Korea is safe to drink. Consider bringing your own reusable bottle to save buying lots of bottled water, and to lower the number of plastic bottles being thrown away. Wooden chopsticks also have a negative environmental impact – these are likely to be supplied in restaurants. Perhaps consider taking your own pair of reusable chopsticks (or even a knife and fork if you are chopstick-challenged!) that you can carry with you and use at lunch and dinner.