"Odd greetings--until you know their origin" Top 5 Page for this destination South Korea Local Custom Tip by jburron

South Korea Local Customs: 218 reviews and 162 photos

  "Have you eaten today?" "Why, yes, I have!"
by jburron

Koreans sometimes seem to say some strange things. For instance, a couple of gyopos ('Koreans' born outside of Korea to Korean parents, fluent in English and some proficiency in Korean typically) I know started their emails to me with "Are you still alive?". I was taken aback as they were asking advice or such in the body of the email and it seemed pretty rude to say that in the first line (or even at all) as it implied that I was ignoring them or something. (Gee, I AM senstive, aren't I?)

Anyhoo, I asked my (Korean) wife about it and she had an interesting cultural/historical spin. Since Korea has been overrun by invaders circa 700 times in its history (e.g., 1910-1945 Japanese Occupation, 1950-1953 Korean War) you never know if your good buddies or relatives are dead or alive so when they'd see one another again it wasn't a 'howdy-do' or 'long time no see' it's more of a 'I can't believe it! You're alive!'. Interesting.

Koreans also hold on to the 'good old days' by asking people if they have had breakfast/eaten yet. That, as you might imagine, is a throwback to the many times when you might not have had breakfast (or anything) all day.

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  • Written Dec 15, 2006
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