A great deal of important business relationship building takes place in the bars and restaurants of South Korea.
If invited out for dinner, it is advisable to accept as these are often the occasions where your South Korean contacts will really decide if you are a trustworthy honourable person — and consequently whether or not they wish to do business with you.
It is customary for the host to order the food, which all arrives at the same time. Korean food can be extremely spicy but milder dishes are also available. Wait until the host invites you to start. Do not leave chopsticks sticking into the rice bowl – place them by the side of your place setting on the chopstick rests when not in use. When passing food items around the table, use only the right hand as this is considered to be much more polite.
Korea has one of the highest per capita alcohol consumption rates in the world – so many business dinners are accompanied by some fairly heavy drinking. You do not, of course, have to drink a lot if you don’t want to but the Koreans will enjoy your company all the more if you join in with the general atmosphere of revelry. (It is not unusual to move on from the restaurant to a Karaoke bar where more drinking will take place and you will probably be asked to sing.)
Tipping is not customary in South Korea although many restaurants add a service charge to the bill.
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This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in South Korea only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.