10 Basic Greetings In Korean: It's More Than Just A Greeting

May 15, 2021

Unlike other cultures, basic greetings in Korean (인사 / insa) is more than just saying hello (안녕하세요 /annyeong haseyo). Basic greetings in Korean culture or 인사 (insa) are essential for them. Koreans are known to be polite and courteous, especially to foreigners. They have very particular ways to greet someone politely and respectfully. Korean culture is influenced by Confucianism that supports respect for elders and authority, traditions, group harmony, the importance of family, friendship, and ancestry. This is the reason why Koreans are known to be well-mannered people.



Basic greetings in Korean culture are done with a bow. Bows are reserved as greetings of respect for one's senior. The lower and longer you bow, the more respect is being shown. Close friends rarely bow to each other, but if they are on public occasions, it is polite to bow to each other no matter how close you are.

In bowing, posture is also essential. Bowing should occur from the waist and not the neck. You can often see these bows in different Korean movies and series, but if you have not seen one, here are the different vows in Korean culture that you need to learn:

1. Casual Bow

This bow is used to greet someone close to you or have similar ranked colleagues or friends. People use this bow in places where you can't do deeper bows, such as in crowded places, elevators, and public transportations. This bow is also applicable when greeting a senior when you see him/her several times that day.

2. Respectful Bow (30º ~ 45º)

You can never go wrong with this bow. The respectful bow is the most common bow used in greeting almost everybody. Remember, a bow should start from the waist, not the neck.

3. “Belly-button” Bow

The name of this bow came from the fact that the hands are clasped together and placed is in a navel position. Belly-button bow is commonly used by people in uniform, such as flight attendants and salespeople.

4. 90º Bow

This is called a 90º bow because your back is literally bent at 90º. It is a form of respect, and it is also an intentional showing of obedience and service.

5. Big Bows

If you are a fan of any K-pop group, you might be seeing them doing big bows for their fans. This bow includes a man bending fully down on their knees with hands on the ground and women to slightly sitting down, legs together, and hands near their chest. This type of bow is reserved for special occasions like weddings, holidays, funerals, ancestral rites, greeting elders after a long time of absence, and last but not least, showing extreme gratitude or remorse.

These bows are very important in greetings. Silent bows appear rude unless you are in a place where you are not allowed to speak. Greetings might be easy in some cultures. But in a place like North and South Korea, make sure to do it right because this might offend the local people.



Korean culture also uses handshakes in greetings besides bows. Remember not to grip hands very tightly because Koreans do not like it so, a soft grab of the hand will do. Another interesting about a Korean handshake is that they use both hands when shaking hands. The other hand is used to support your forearm while shaking hands. Women do not offer to shake hands first to men, especially if they are Western men. However, Western women may offer their hand to Korean men.


Casual, Polite, And Formal Speech

As mentioned above, Koreans are very particular with their values. These values are reflected through their words and actions. That is why native Korean speakers have different ways to say their greetings and expressions.

Casual speech is used when you speak with your close friends, family, and those who are younger than you.

Polite Speech is used when you speak with strangers in people you already know but not very well.

Formal speech is used during formal occasions. It is also used when talking to elders, authorities, and colleagues in your workplace.


Learning Basic Korean Greetings In Different Ways

Basic Greetings in Korean
Basic Greetings In Korean

Are you planning to go to South Korea? If you do not know how to speak Korean, it will make it hard to communicate with the local people. To enjoy your whole trip, you need to learn some basic Korean phrases. So, let's get started with the Korean greetings. After learning the basic Korean greetings etiquette, let us now learn basic greetings in the Korean language.

1. 안녕하세요! (Annyeong Haseyo!)

English Translation: Hello/Hi

This greeting is used when you are speaking to a person on a phone call. The locals across the country commonly use this

There are different ways to say hello to someone.

안녕하세요! (Annyeong haseyo!) - used to greet someone politely and respectfully. You can also use this greeting in introducing yourself.

여보세요 (Yeoboseyo) -  used when answering the phone. It can be 'Hello' in English

2. 안녕! (Annyeong!)

English Translation: Hello/Hi (Informal)

This word is used the same as the first one, but it is informal and casual. You can use this in greeting your close friends and those who have the same age as you.

3. 녕하십니까 (Annyeong Hasimnikka)

English Translation: Good Day/ Hello (Formal)

This is the formal way of greeting someone. This greeting is usually used in welcoming customers politely and respectfully.

4. 환영합니다 (Hwangyong Hamnida)

English Translation: Welcome

Koreans are very welcoming people. If you visit South Korea, you will also hear this when you enter a store and restaurant.

5. 어떻게 지내세요? (Eotteoke Jinaeseyo?)

English Translation: How are you?

Asking someone How are you? is another way of greetings in Korean. This will give you an idea about their current situations, whether they are happy or going through a problem. It's nice to check in with somebody.

요즘 어때? (Yojeum Eottae?)

You can also use this phrase when asking someone how they are. The literal translation of this is "What’s up?" This is more informal than the first one.

6. 식사하셨어요? (Shiksa hashutsuyo?)

English Translation: Did you have a good meal?

If you are wondering why this is included, it is because of Koreans food. Knowing if someone had their meal is a nice gesture to ask someone. If they said "Yes," then you know that they are in good condition. But when they said "No," why not treat them to a nice Korean meal?

밥 먹었어? (Bab Meogeoss-eo?)

This literally means “Did you eat?”. This can also be used when asking someone if they have eaten already.

7. 만나서 반갑습니다 (Mannaseo Bangapseumnida)

English Translation: Please to meet you / Nice to meet you

If you are a foreigner visiting Korea, you need to learn this because it is a nice and polite way to say to someone.

반갑습니다  (Bangapseumnida)

To say "Pleased to meet you." casually, use this phrase.

잘부탁드립니다. (Jal Bootak Deurimnida)

You can also use this phrase if you are a foreigner who just arrived in the country. This translates to "Please look after me." in English. You will hear this as a respectful way of greeting someone for introductions.

8. 오랜만이에요 (Oraenmanieyo)

English Translation: Long Time No See

This phrase can also be used as a greeting if you have not seen someone in a long time. This creates an impression that you are glad to see that person again after a while. Koreans add "ieyo" to sound polite.

오랜만에 (Oraenman-e)

If you want to be more casual with your friends, this is the right phrase to use. Koreans add "e" in the ending to sound least formal.

오랜만입니다 (Oraenmanimnida)

If you want to talk to someone in a formal setting like your boss, use this phrase. Adding "nida" in a word/phrase makes it most formal.

9. 안녕히 계세요 (Annyeong Hi Gyeseyo) / 안녕히 가세요 (An Nyeong Hi Ga Se Yo)

English Translation: Please stay well

There are different ways to say goodbye to someone in polite and casual ways.

안녕히 계세요 (Annyeong Hi Gyeseyo) is used when you are the one leaving. On the other hand,안녕히 가세요 (An nyeong hi ga se yo) is used when you are the one staying. It means "Please go well." It feels great hearing someone wishing you to please stay well. Who would not want to hear it?

잘 있어 (Jal Itsuh) - this is the casual way to say goodbye to someone. This literally translates to "bye (stay well)," which you can use with your friends.

잘 가 (Jal ga) - this is another casual way of saying goodbye to someone. This translates as "bye (go well)" in English.

10. 야! (Ya!)

English Translation: Yo!

You probably be hearing a lot of this in dramas and movies. This is a common way to call out your friends and grab someone's attention.


Time Of The Day

Basic Greetings In Korean | Time of the Day

Another exciting fact about Koreans is they don't have different greetings for the morning, noon, evening, and night. They use 안녕하세요! (Annyeong Haseyo!) at all times of the day. But if you are wondering how to say greetings at different times of the day, here it is.

Pronunciation English Translation
좋은 아침
annyeong hashimnikka
joheun achim
Good Morning
안녕하십니까  annyeong hashimnikka Good Afternoon
좋은 저녁 joheun jeonyeok Good Evening
안녕히 주무십시요 
annyeong-hi jumusipsio
 jal jja
Good Night

Basic Greetings In Korean | Time of the Day


Special Occasions

Basic Greetings In Korean | Special Occasions

Koreans also celebrate occasions. Some occasions are very particular in the Korean culture, and some are celebrated in different parts of the world. Here are the examples:

Pronunciation English Translation
행운을 빌어요
행운을 빈다
haeng un eul bil eo yo (formal)
haeng un eul bin da (informal)
Good Luck
생일 축하합니다
생일 축하드립니다
생신 축하드립니다
생일 축하해
saeng-il chukha hamnida (formal)
saeng-il chukha deurimnida (formal)
saengsin chukha deurimnida (formal)
saeng-il chukha hae (informal)
Happy Birthday
즐거운 성탄절 보내시고 새해 복 많이 받으세요
메리 크리스마스
jeulgeoun seongtanjeol bonaesigo saehae bong manh-i bad-euseyo
meri keuriseumaseu
Merry Christmas
행복한 새해 되세요
새해 복 많이 받으세요
새해 복 많이 받으시고,가정에 항상 웃음꽃 피시길 기원합니다
haengboghan saehae doeseyo
saehae bong manh-i bad-euseyo
saehae bong manh-i bad-eusigo, gajeong-e hangsang us-eumkkoch pisigil giwonhabnida
Happy New Year

Basic Greetings In Korean | Special Occasions

You don't have to be as fluent as a native speaker to learn these greetings. It is called basic greetings in Korean for a reason. These greetings are great ways to get started in learning the Korean language. After learning these basic greetings in the Korean language, the next step is to practice the Korean pronunciation. This is essential so that locals will understand you.


Want To Know More Than Greetings? Learn Korean Now!

Looking for an excellent tool for learning Korean? Why waste time on different resources? Learning new languages like Korean is challenging yet fulfilling. Through Ling App and practice, we will make it happen. You can start learning from the basic words and phrases in Korean, like 감사합니다 / Kamsahamnida (Thank you), 죄송합니다 / joesonghamnida(Sorry), 잠시만요 / jam shi man yo (Excuse me; Just a moment), and 주세요 / juseyo (Please).

There are lots of Korean phrases that you need to know before you go to Korea. Lessons in Ling App are made to be engaging and meaningful to enjoy learning new languages. In addition to this, there are interactive games and audio recordings to learn the right Korean pronunciation of words. Take note; you can download the Ling App on your phone or click on the links in this blog.

Korean phrases are not that hard to learn if you put your heart and mind. So, what are you waiting for? Start learning Korean now.



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