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 towards others. It is the main perspective that foreigners usually have about Korean people.
If you are wondering why they are known to be extremely well-mannered, it is mainly due to their confucianism influence. Confucianism supports respect for elders, authority, traditions, group harmony, and the importance of family, friendship, and ancestry. You will notice all these important points in the daily lives of Korean people, even the first time you contact a Korean person.
If you have already learned to say hello in Korean, your next step is understanding every greeting. After that, you can use them with your Korean friends and people you meet while visiting South Korea.
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 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 transportation. 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 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 Korean handshakes 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 with 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 about 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
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.
- Hello/Hi: 안녕하세요! (Annyeong Haseyo!)
- Hello/Hi (Informal): 안녕! (Annyeong!)
- Good Day/ Hello (Formal): 녕하십니까 (Annyeong Hasimnikka)
- Welcome: 환영합니다 (Hwangyong Hamnida)
- How are you?: 어떻게 지내세요? (Eotteoke Jinaeseyo?)
- What’s up? (Informal): 요즘 어때? (Yojeum Eottae?)
- Did you have a good meal?: 식사하셨어요? (Shiksa hashutsuyo?)
- Did you eat?: 밥 먹었어? (Bab Meogeoss-eo?)
- Please to meet you / Nice to meet you: 만나서 반갑습니다 (Mannaseo Bangapseumnida)
- Pleased to meet you: 반갑습니다 (Bangapseumnida)
- Please look after me: 잘부탁드립니다 (Jal Bootak Deurimnida)
- Long Time No See: 오랜만이에요 (Oraenmanieyo)
- Please stay well: 안녕히 계세요 (Annyeong Hi Gyeseyo)
- Please stay well: 안녕히 가세요 (An Nyeong Hi Ga Se Yo)
- Yo!: 야! (Ya!)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
English Translation: Did you have a good meal?
If you are wondering why this is included, it is because of Korean 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?
This literally means “Did you eat?”. This can also be used when asking someone if they have eaten already.
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.
To say “Pleased to meet you.” casually, use this phrase.
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.
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 the impression that you are glad to see that person again after a while. Koreans add “ieyo” to sound polite.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
|– annyeong hashimnikka|
– joheun achim
|안녕하십니까||– annyeong hashimnikka||Good Afternoon|
|좋은 저녁||– joheun jeonyeok||Good Evening|
|– annyeong-hi jumusipsio|
– jal jja
Koreans also celebrate occasions. Some occasions are very particular in Korean culture, and some are celebrated in different parts of the world. Here are the examples:
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 Korean pronunciation. This is essential so that locals will understand you.
Want To Know More Than Greetings? Learn Korean Now!
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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.