Things you should NOT do in Korea

There are lots of blogs saying all about the things you should do in Korea. However, I noticed that people don’t tell you what you should NOT do in Korea. I want to write about it so newbies can be aware of the BIG NO NOS in Korea.

It’s timely because one of the members of Expat Women in Korea asked about it, I’m going to compile some comments there and elaborate on it for you. So here I am writing about it.

1. If someone starts talking to you out of nowhere, don’t follow them.

They might invite you to eat something, or try something cultural. Most of them are members of cults. Check out: Cults in Korea.

The only people you can trust are the ones who are wearing red jackets, giving out some real maps of tourist places.

2. Don’t directly insult someone online or offline.

Even facts can be defamation. These means don’t post pictures. Don’t use names when talking about a specific issue if someone harmed or did something dangerous. It must all be anonymous. The defamation laws are strict in Korea.

3. Don’t sit in the special spot for the old, disabled, or pregnant on the subway.

Even if the subway is full of people, those seats aren’t being used. People will stare at you when you do that.

4. Don’t talk loudly on public transport.

…unless you’re speaking in Korean. I think it’s common etiquette in any place. However, when you speak English or any other language, there’s a higher chance that they will call you out.

5. Don’t smoke in public.

…unless you’re Korean. LOL. They have smoking rooms to contain all the smoke in one place. If can’t really control it, don’t smoke on the main streets. Choose the narrow streets.

6. Legs are okay to show off, cleavage is not.

Older Koreans are super sensitive to any cleavage & shoulders showing but if you leave home without your pants, they probably won’t even notice.

7. Do not go to DVD rooms.

They are not for watching DVD’s. They are for underage sexual experimentation or for those couples who can’t afford a motel.

8. If someone says “Do you want to eat Ramen at my place?” Say no.

It’s the same as “Do you wanna go Netflix and Chill?”

For Korean Drama Fans: It’s the same as “Doing No. 4” (W-Two Wolds)

For momshies: It’s a booty call. It’s a euphemism for sex.

9. Walking with shoes indoors is a no-no.

In all the Korean houses I’ve visited, there’s a place where you have to take off your shoes before you enter the house. It’s respecting one’s property.

10. Eating before an elder is also a big no.

Korea has a seniority-based culture. The Korean words to describe the senior and junior parties are “sun-bae” and “hoo-bae”. The younger ones are expected to serve their seniors. Read more about Korean Etiquette, Culture, And Manners.

Did I miss something? Feel free to write about them in the comments.


  1. if a guy wanna meet u in sinchon or have a date there or bring u there is no no
    sinchon is fmaous for cheap motels

    about dvd room is same one called room cafe or wii room or zzang room

    if a guy play for you in a dolls place it means he wanna catch ur heart

    if foreigners give a seat in suvway to old person they will love you and smile you

    if your tmoney doesnt works go to big door and press the botton and say im foreigner so they open the door givibg u a chance to pass

    if a guys wanna hangout outside of the club in a soju hof dont go

    shibal o shibaloma sigbifica hijo de puta hahaha
    o es una de las groserias mas fuertes por asi decirlo

  2. I also liked , ~When you want a hair cut you look for a Barbers shop .. and out side a barbershop theres usually a “Barbers Pole” you know the swirly thing that looks like Sick a rock candy you get from the great British seaside haha well .. in korea if you want a hair cut and you see a “Barbers Pole” that’s ok BUT if you see 2 Poles ……. there not for getting your hair cut !!!! if you catch my drift !

  3. I have not been to Korea but with your article, I know what the Don’ts are over there and I can also advice a traveler from my country heading towards Korea. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great list Karla! I enjoy writing and sharing this type of quick posts that offer so much insight into Korean culture. Love it. The cleavage one is a serious one haha. Also, so weird about the cults! Good to know.

  5. I like these! i do not like the part where it’s okay if you’re Korean though. If anyone tries to call you out for doing something others are doing just ignore them, keep doing what you’re doing, and go about your business.Too many busybodies in the world! Let people live there lives as long as they’re not hurting anyone else. Great list!

  6. I dig these, especially because they were short and to the point. I agree with Don…a few of them could have used a bit more explanation, but overall I thought they were pretty accurate and some humor was added in. It’s cool that you got a lot of people on your page with this post. Nice job!

  7. I definitely feel self conscious about speaking, or being spoken to, loudly on the train, especially if I’m with other expat females. But i’ve noticed this is context dependent, because I feel less sheepish if i’m traveling with males, or older men. I think age and gender can play a subtle role here, but also, culture of origin. I’m British, and am more hyper aware of this, but generally, American ladies chat away quite happily without this burden.

  8. A very nice compilation Karla! I haven’t heard of “Eating Ramen at my place” thought it does make sense. My hubby roped me into “Drinking Tea” at his place….haha. Did you experience most or all of these to write about them or have just heard about certain No Nos instead?

  9. Is it generation gap? But what does “Do you wanna go Netflix and Chill?” mean?

    Any traveler should bear in mind not to be easily swayed by invitations from strangers. It could even just be in your own neighborhood in your own country since anything could really just happen. In all my years here, I haven’t been approached by cult members. I think we just need to always be wary, know how to firmly say No, especially when you’re new to a place, any place, not just Korea:-).

    In all the years I’d been here in Korea, I know I should not take things personally. Like being pushed around by grandmas in subways. It isn’t because they don’t like me. It’s just their way of life. Some foreigners get angry with this because being respectful should be universal, not cultural. But, we choose our battles and just learn to laugh it off.

    1. Thanks for asking. I’m trying to edit the article now. Netflix and Chill is millennial’s euphemism for sex.

      I agree with choosing our own battles. I’ve been pushed many times, and learned to move faster. I think it’s also their culture to be fast paced unlike many Filipinos who walks as if they are just strolling in the mall.

  10. omg. i knew something is off. was there last dec and from hongik univ im about to go to dmc then two ladies approached me. 1 was fluent in english and they were friendly and they said they wanted me to go somewhere for cultural experience something. wa curious and i thought they were nice so i i followed them.twe went somewhere in gyeonggido and they showed the ritual that is usually done for the ancestors (the 1 we see in dramas).then something went off when they were discussing religions and there is #5 that has not been mentioned. then they said if you want to know more come back. there i noticed its about religion. im a christian and the moment we started bowing for the ritual i prayed forgiveness and asked for protection for me amd the rest of foreigners who were invited there. now i know its really a cult. i never visited there place again

      1. thats bad. what is scary is that i think i got hypnotized cause i voluntarily give iut info regarding personal infos. i just realized what ive told them after we were discussing religion… so warning to all especially to foreigners (i think we our their targets). btw most of them are fluent in english and in chinese and there was agirl who even studied in la salle. ????????

  11. Also: don’t apologize for bumping people or be shocked when you get bumped. Hahaha. I’ve written a bit about étiquette when visiting Korea as well. Every place has different rules and it’s important to learn them if you want to navigate successfully. And yes, some rules only apply to foreigners
    Also, have you often been approached by cult leaders? In almost four years it never happened to me. Lol.

    1. yeah i noticed it,they just passed by even if they bumped on someone. it happened to me several times especially by the elderly. i even apologized when i bumped on someone haha

  12. LOL. I think you could have expanded a bit on the points. Haha But yeah, going with strangers who are inviting you seems a little crazy. I don’t know what “go Netflix and chill means”, But I’ve been to a DVD bang maybe 3 times… and not for that weird reason haha.
    But all in all a good little list for Korean noobs to follow.
    I think there are also a lot of other things that can be said as the culture is totally different from the west. ex. shaking hands with the older, touching woman, even a handshake, turning to drink alcohol, don’t put the chopsticks sticking up in the rice,. and so on.

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