Survey Reveals Most Embarrassing Things Koreans Do When Abroad

A member of Super Junior on his travels

A recent survey revealed what Korean businessmen who are regular visitors to other foreign countries perceive as being the most embarrassing things that Koreans do when away from their homeland.

Netizens have made their sentiments known over the results of the survey. Some argue Koreans abroad are the ‘shame of the nation’, whilst others think the whole thing is simply pedantic and that all humans are instead fundamentally the same. While the British might be well known for their drunken post-colonial antics and the Americans for their cultural enthusiasm, it seems that the Koreans feel they need to focus on Western etiquette.

What do you think? Is the Korean ‘national character’ internationally offensive? Or is this just another exercise in internal orientalism?


When are Koreans most embarrassing abroad?

A scene from a drama with Miss A's Suzy

It has been revealed that the majority of businessmen think that Koreans abroad do not observe the rules of etiquette closely., together with carried out a survey regarding ‘the standard of Korean international manners’ based on 670 businessmen who had experience of visiting foreign countries.

When asked whether Koreans observe etiquette closely while in another country, ‘They don’t particularly observe etiquette closely’ was the highest proportion, at 49.3%. Furthermore, 8.4% said ‘They don’t observe etiquette at all,’ and 57.6% said ‘They don’t observe ettiquette.’

The number one time when Koreans are most embarrassing abroad was ‘when they make a noise on the street or in a public place’ (36.6%). Number two was when ‘you bump into someone but ignore them and just walk past’ (18.5%), number three ‘when going around in a group, when you walk spread out to the sides and form a crowd (15.7%).

Koreans in a group abroad

Aside from these, other embarrassing moments were when they saw people spitting in the street or in a public place (15.2%), when someone just closes a door and goes out without being concerned for who was behind them (10.7%) when they saw someone asking someone they didn’t know well a personal question and making the other person upset (1.8%), and ‘other’ (1.5%)

If there was one thing that Koreans must do when overseas, the highest proportion of 35.8% of people surveyed said ‘to not make a noise in the streets or in a public place’.

After this, people surveyed said other things to do when abroad were making an apologetic gesture when you bump into someone (19.3%), not spitting on the streets or in public places (16.7%), when going around in a group on the streets, not walking spread out to the sides and forming a crowd (12.4%), being concerned for the person behind you and holding the door for them (11.2%), not asking personal questions to people you don’t know well (2.8%), and ‘other’ (1.8%).

Unesco Korean commission celebrating other cultures

Comments from Nate


Oh come on..graffiti in historic sites ㅡㅡ


If you get judged as doing something wrong, you wish you could speak Japanese ke ke ke ke ke


Embarrassing from the moment they take off on a plane.


Even if you went to Japan right now…you’d realise how much of a difference is apparent in the etiquette of the Japanese and us Koreans…Even just by riding the subway…In Japan, a subway train with fifty people on it would be quieter than a subway train in South Korea with ten people on it. It’s also difficult to find any rubbish on the streets. We’re always bitching about Japan, calling them monkeys and whatever…but although the movements to try and settle the past are unfair, that’s something that politicians do. The fact is that the national character of Japan is more distinguished than that of Korea.


Of the tourists in the world, I guess that the number one noisiest bastards must be the Koreans and the Chinese. ke ke ke Even Koreans, who want to believe that they are quieter than the Chinese, are inevitably a boisterous race in the eyes of foreigners ^^ Shyalla shyalla~ [the sound of spoken English to a Korean].


Why are people from Jeolla always going around Seoul flapping their arms about? Did they go through immigration?


At a time when Lee Myung Bak is going around being a global push over….how disgraceful.


If you go to a foreign country, please don’t hire hookers. And don’t graffiti cultural properties. Don’t spit on the floor. Don’t go to southeast Asia and go around getting women preggers.


It’s really embarrassing when they scoop up their meal in a hotel restaurant and put it in a bag to take with them….


Ajeosshis [middle-aged men] and ajummas [middle aged women] who wear golfing clothes and sunglasses and have an attitude.


People from Jeolla are embarrassing.


I don’t know much about overseas, but the most embarrassing times in Korea are…when they lie on their sides and don’t even know whether they are spitting, and humiliate people from our country by calling them ‘kimchi men’, when they see someone do something brainless and and make the nonsensical assumption that the whole country is like that. Though your yourselves are human, you people leave comments saying you should punish humans for an article about animals. It’s only right that we fix our mistakes and understand them, but this is just kind of insulting…


The biggest problem with people from our country is that it seems like there are loads of people who don’t know whether the things that they are doing are wrong or not,,,Furthermore, it’s not just asking youngsters what they’re doing, elders also need to look at themselves first, seems like the country is going wrong,,,,


When I went to America as an exchange student, Christians from our country had gone there and I got sick of seeing them giving out pamphlets and cards that said ‘come to our church’.


They’re eating a meal, and as they eat they smack their lips together ke ke If a Westerner sees them, they’re just uncivilised barbarians.


What can you do? Though we have suddenly started living well in Korea, our mindset is still that of an agrarian society…Looks like it’ll take twenty years to change. The problem is that there is no answer if the educated young buggers are unsophisticated.


Please, it would be great if you didn’t go about the streets of Hollywood shouting into a megaphone the English version of Jesus-heaven, disbelievers-hell. Forming a crowd and going around blocking every street…Other Americans and tourists take photos because it’s so weird…And why the hell do you have the Korean flag between the pickets?


You lot who are discriminating against people…I want to give you a good slap.


Hmm…I guess that foreigners really look at us with the same way that we look at the Chinese.


Don’t roll out a mat on the floor of a foreign airport, whip out the kimchi and start eating…and why would you drink alcohol there….


Number two was when people bump into each other, pretend it wasn’t them, and just walk on by (18.5%) – Please, let’s have some manners ㅡㅡ

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