Dos and don'ts
The decision-making process in Korea is done collectively and up through the hierarchy, and therefore takes more time than you may be used to.
Try to be patient. If you’re not feeling patient, try not to show your impatience.
Business Card Etiquette
When you first receive the card, take it with two hands. Look at it for a short time (5 – 15 seconds) to read it over and show that you are putting effort into reading the card.
Place the card in front of you if you are sitting down, and don’t make any marks on the card in front of the giver.
Important to note
Ask the person what he or she would like to be called.
Often times, a person will give you a version of his/her Korean name or English name, allowing you to comfortably sidestep the complex name and title rules that Koreans live by.
When doing business, you should wear a suit or a dress.
Koreans differentiate between using two hands for a handshake vs. one hand. One hand can be used by someone of higher rank to someone of lower rank, but not vice versa!
To be on the safe side, it’s best to show your manners by shaking a person’s hand with two hands the first time you meet him or her. The same applies for receiving something that someone is giving you.
If you want to show that you learn Korean customs fast, make sure that you accept items with both hands. That simple act will go a long way.
Likewise, if someone bows when shaking your hand, it’s polite to bow in return. It’s definitely safe to bow to someone who is older or of higher rank than you, regardless of whether they offer the gesture first.
Important to note
Hurry up culture / Ppalri Ppalri: There is a strong demand for speed when you work with a Korean company. Once decided or indicated, everybody prefers to see the outcome very soon.
It is very important to manage the speed of the collaboration. Quick email reply is a daily challenge for many Norwegian companies, even if they say that they will get back to you soon. The Korean side would at least like to know whether you are aware of their email or not, and expect your reply to arrive shortly. Specify your expected time of reply, especially if you cannot reply within 1-2 days.
If you’re engaged in a joint development project with a Korean company, meeting development speed is the most challenging aspect. You need to be prepared to provide estimated dates for developments in advance, including test results, possible modifications, etc.
- Don't serve your own alcohol. You should serve someone else’s alcohol, and they’ll return the favour.
It’s also important not to just use one hand when serving someone else, but both hands!
- Small gifts are an accepted and recommended practice. Gifts must be given with both hands and gift giving must respect ranks and hierarchies if done in public.
- Modesty and humility are important in Korean culture. It's therefore best to avoid over-selling yourself or your company’ previous business achievements.