Customs & Oddities, Seoul
In days gone by, every village in Korea was protected by guardian deities, who watched over the entrance to the village as totem poles, beautifully carved from wood or stone. Even today, big towns and cities retain these protective icons and their presence is a charming reminder of Korean folk customs.
The upper part of the pole or post is a face, either human or spiritual, while the lower part has a statement in Chinese script, or occasionally in the Hangeul Korean script. Originally, the choice of wood or stone as the material would depend upon the availability of local materials suitable for use.
The totem poles have different names in different areas – Buksu, Bubsu, Dolharubang – but all fulfil the same purpose. Similarly, the posts are of different sizes but are genrally bigger than human-size so as to scare off intruders.
Those posts topped by a spirit face can be recognised by the distorted tortured faces, designed to frighten, with round bulging eyes, thick lips and protruding curved teeth. The human-faced posts have simpler, stylised local faces, designed more to welcome, but still with the purpose of reminding wrongdoers that they are being watched.
These roadside village guardians are always found in pairs, so that one could sleep while the other watched the road for strangers and attackers.
Today, the jangseung can be seen in many museums and even in public parks, and the outdoor area of the National Folk Museum in Seoul has a collection of them from different regions and showing different styles through the regions and ages of Korea.
Long ago, as you approached a village in the dark, the rain pouring around you, the wind whistling in the trees, the presence of the janseung as you arrived at your destination would be either a comfort and a sign of arrival, or an eery, scary warning not to enter, depending upon your intent.
This Street Fortuneteller seen was anywhere at all in Street. Korean peoples are usually drop in sometime ask for in the future about marital harmony as predicted, destiny, choice of an auspicious day, naming, divination and all for oneself.
This stone statues name is Haetai. original name "Haechi" from old history.it's a mythical and imaginary animal, which is believed to butt evil doers with its horns. The statues were built there as a reminder of the honesty and justice expected of government officials.
( This statues stand at front of the Gwanghwamun gate )
Korean ppl are very polite! The youth are very respectful and helpful to their seniors. On the train I see boys and girls offering their seats to ajusshi and ajumas. Helping out if they need a hand.
As tourist we may be new and unsure of their customs but we should read up on it. Pick lil things up by observing what they do. Offering your seats, helping someone up the stairs. Bowing and smiling. Just lil things. You feel good and they will be impress as well. That you took the extra time to learn something about them. Their culture and how they do things.
Before coming to Korea, I heard quite a bit about the industriousness of the people. I saw lots of proof! Shopping can be done 24/7. There are malls that oven about 10am and don't close until 5am!!! The are also night markets. A shopper's paradise!
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Even non-verbal communication is widely different between East and West. Americans, for example, use a virtual carnival of facial expression and hand gestures that Koreans often find amusing. The wink, that wonderfully simple and versatile method of communicating at least five different meanings, is not naturally part of Korean culture, and the sight of it usually tickles Koreans and produces broad smiles. The rapid raising and lowering of the eyebrows, to show interest, is another non-verbal cue that can induce laughter from a surprised Korean onlooker. Tongues in cheek, rolling of the eyes, and licking of the lips, among others, are all foreign to this country. Still others, such as nodding the head up and down for yes and sideways to mean no, pushing out the bottom lip to show disappointment, pursing the lips to display anger, and an inquiring raise of the eyebrows are similar to both cultures. Hand gestures may also provide some examples of cultural contrasts. The Korean gesture for money is demonstrated by connecting the thumb and index finger, to form a circle, with the other three fingers pointed downward. Americans signal money by quickly rubbing the thumb across the tips of the four fingers, palm up. The shrug of the shoulders, with the head tilted to one side to communicate, 'I don't know,' has no equal in Korea. The index finger placed perpendicular to the lips, signifies 'Be Silent,' in both cultures but can also mean 'Keep a secret' to Americans. But the title of this section refers to a much deeper form of non-verbal communication involving recognizing and sharing emotions. Western culture knows it in the form of empathy that comes from long-term association with another, like a close relative or spouse. Most married couples have probably experienced a situation where one spouse knows what the other will say before it is spoken, or when one spouse can predict the other¡¯s reaction before a response actually occurs. With a little effort one spouse can probably feel as the other feels, in certain circumstances, even though the other never expresses that feeling verbally. That type of empathy, while reserved for more intimate relationships in the West, is much more common in casual interpersonal contact in Korea. The term describing the ability to discern and interpret these feelings non-verbally is 'nunchi.' This skill becomes a powerful tool in ensuring harmony in interpersonal relations by effectively reading another's feelings. Once this skill is developed, a large portion of routine communication can transpire without a word or so much as a raised eyebrow. People can learn to feel each other's mood routinely. Communication requires participants to focus on non-verbal behavior that provides clues to inner feelings. Foreigners must use care, when listening and observing, not to screen out behavior they should be examining and interpreting. Westerners who rely on detailed and repetitive verbal communication to feel comfortable understanding another's mood can be confused in Korea where much interpersonal communication is conducted non-verbally. Conversely, Koreans typically do not understand why Westerners insist on verbal communication in situations better conveyed non-verbally. For example, Koreans may wonder why Westerners must continuously say 'I love you' to make a partner sure of their intimate feelings. Many Koreans believe such emotion is more sincerely communicated non-verbally. Again, the example used in a previous section seems appropriate: if a spouse is moping around the house, Westerners would tend to question what is wrong and try to resolve it verbally. Koreans, on the other hand, might detect the bad feelings and try to cheer up the person with a gift of flowers or an act of kindness, without discussion. While understanding the unspoken is certainly a challenge, it's a skill that pays big dividends for foreigners who can develop and utilize it effectively while working in Korea.
One unique point about Korean ladies is that they will always put on their make-up whenever they leave their house. They see it as a basic politeness. Heard from my local guide that some of them would wear their make-up on before waking up their husbands every morning. Wonder if its true. Perhaps Koreans out there can let me know. Thanks.
Korean language was invented by a Korean Emperor. His inspiration came from the structure of the ancient window. In Mandarin, it is known as 'Chuan Kou Wen Zi'. Some simple greetings and phrases are as follows. You can try using them on your next trip to Korea.
How are you? - Anyong haseyo?
Yes - Ne
No - Aniyo
How much is this? - Igo olma eyo?
That's too expensive! - Nomu pisayo!
Can I have that? - Jeogo kachodo teyo?
Thank you - Kamsamnida
Always hand to and receive things from other people using two hands.
Bowing is also polite, like a handshake in western culture. If you shake hands with a Korean person it shows respect to use both hands, or shaking with the right hand and touching your own upper right arm with the left at the same time. The higher up your own arm you touch the more respect you show.
If you look like a foreigner you are not really expected to know the customs. However, most Koreans are very appreciative of a foreigner who attempts to learn and use the language, customs, etc.
When in Seoul or South Korea, always remember to take off your shoes when entering someone's home. Also, never putyour chopsticks in your rice so that they are sticking up out of your bowl as this is considered very rude. Do not put money down on a counter...put it in the other person's hands, preferably using 2 hands. And if by chance you need to write someone's name....never do it in red ink! This means that you wish them harm!
Travelling in Seoul is relatively safe. People there don't vandalize and aren't into theft, but be careful just the same. The major inconvenience I experienced when living there, was being followed at night by drunken men! I think it is more of a curiosity than anything, but girls travelling alone shoudl be careful.
Oh yes, and be prepared to be stared at (A LOT) if you are not of Korean descent!!! Staring there is not rude, so expect it! And be prepared to get pushed and shoved, especially in crowded subways....shoving is not rude....it's a means of getting by people! So don't take offence!
Here are some tips about korean manners:
1. Greeting and saying 'thank you' are very important to Koreans. Words of Greeting and thanks are always said with a bow of the head. The depth of the bow depends on the relative seniority of the two speakers.
2. Korean do not appreciate an overly outgoing style and they generally limit direct physical contact to courteous handshake. As one gets to know koreans better, a greater familiarity becomes possible.
3. There are many clean public restrooms (toilets) in the office throughot Korea. It is also acceptable to use the toilets in office buildings, restaurants, shops or hotels.
4. Korean sit, eat and sleep on the floor, so shoes are always removed when entering a korean home. Bare feet are considered an affront in front of elders, so it is the best to wear socks or stockings when visiting families.
5. Young koreans are accustomed to 'going Dutch' but in general it is common to be either host or guest.
6. It is traditionally regarding unpolite to talk during a meal, however, nowadays Koreans are encouraged to talk, to laugh during the meal. Real appreciation of the food and service is gratefully recieved. It is inpolite to blow your nose at the table.
I hope my VT korea page can give you a lot of good information about Korea for those who want to know and understand about Korean culture.
I won't say that Korean culture is the best in the world since every culture has their own unique lure.
No culture can be the best or superior than any other culture in the world.
We should accept and admire other cultures as they show.
This picture shows traditional Korean socks. Especially for little babies before they begin to toddle.
And also, babies wore these socks at a party given to a hundred-day-old baby, first birthday and other national holidays.
They have embroidered decorations. The 'red' ribbon is for girls. Then, boys? Of course ' blue' ribbon.
gosh, dont except people to say, i'm sorry or excuse me when they bump into you. but then dont allow yourself to become like that. if you do apologize, people will think that you a bit odd but its OK, be nice even though the people there naturally arent in those situations. if you visibly are a foreigner, except to get stared at but dont take it personally.
And please respect the old people there and bow to them when acknowledging them.
Yes, I found bowing very common and was surprised that even I, a white clueless foreigner was exposed to this practice. It is a show of respect and I simply bowed back slightly with a nod of the head, ackowledging the gesture. It is best to bow back from what I was told.
1) Don't be mad when people touch you and never say 'I am sorry.' You know if you are living in a crowded city like Seoul, it is hardly impossible to be somewhere without bumping into someone. But in that case, we Koreans usually don't say 'I am sorry.' since it's happening all the time. But I know that foreigners think that Koreans are rude because of that. So, please understand this if you are facing it.
2) I think you would be better to know some basic Koreans.
Hello! = 'An-nyung-ha-se-yo! or An-nyung.'
Thank you! = 'Gam-sa-hab-ni-da.'
How much? = 'Earl-ma-ye-yoh?'
Where is...? = '.... o-di-ye-yo?'
Subway = 'Jun-Cheol'