Skip to Content

8 Common Mistakes to Avoid When You Are an Intern in Korea

You have been offered an exciting internship in South Korea and are excited to learn about a new culture and gain useful work experience. As you start this journey, figuring out how to work in a Korean company can be both exciting and hard. 

To make the most out of your internship experience, it’s essential to be aware of common mistakes that interns often make in Korea. In this article, you will uncover eight common mistakes to avoid when you have an internship in Korea.

8 Mistakes to Avoid During Your Internship in Korea

1. Using Nappeun Son or Bad Hands

In Korean culture, the left hand is considered impure or less respectful compared to the right hand. Using the left hand for gestures like giving or receiving items, eating, or gesturing during conversation can be seen as rude or disrespectful. Always use your right hand for these actions to show respect and politeness in Korean culture.

2. Being Unmindful With Your Language

Korean culture values politeness and respect in language, especially when speaking to elders or those in positions of authority. Using informal language or failing to use appropriate honorifics can be considered disrespectful. Always address people with appropriate titles and use polite language, especially when speaking to elders or superiors.

3. Initiating A Handshake With An Elder

In Korea, initiating a handshake with an elder or someone of higher status can be seen as inappropriate or disrespectful. Handshakes are not as common in Korean culture, especially between people of different ages or positions. 

Instead of initiating a handshake, it’s better to wait for the other person to offer their hand first. If they do, then you can reciprocate the gesture respectfully.

4. Sitting Randomly on Public Transport

In Korea, there are unspoken rules about seating on public transport, especially on buses and subways. It’s considered polite to offer seats to older people, pregnant women, or those with disabilities. 


Avoid taking priority seating if you don’t belong to these categories. Also, avoid sitting in certain seats designated for specific groups, such as reserved seats for seniors or pregnant women, unless you belong to those groups.

5. Smoking On The Streets Or In A Bar

Korea has strict regulations regarding smoking in public places. Smoking on the streets, in certain areas, or indoors without designated smoking areas can result in fines or penalties. 

Additionally, smoking indoors, such as in a bar or restaurant, may be allowed only in designated smoking areas. Always check for designated smoking areas or ask for permission before smoking to avoid breaking the law or offending others.

6. Receiving A Cup Of Drink With One Hand

In Korean culture, it’s polite to receive or give objects, especially when it comes to food or drinks, with both hands. Using only one hand to receive a cup of drink can be seen as disrespectful or impolite. 

When someone offers you a cup of drink, use both hands to receive it as a sign of respect. Likewise, when offering a drink to someone else, use both hands to present it to them.

7. Sitting In Someone Else’s Spot At Company Gatherings

Seating arrangements during company gatherings, meetings, or meals can carry meaning and hierarchy. Sitting in someone else’s spot, especially if they are senior or have a designated seat, can be seen as disrespectful or presumptuous. 

It’s essential to observe where others sit and avoid taking their usual spot unless explicitly invited to do so. By respecting seating arrangements, you show deference to seniority and maintain harmony within the workplace.

8. Eating Before Your Elder

It’s customary to wait for your elders or seniors to begin eating before you start your meal. Eating before them can be considered impolite or disrespectful. 

Even if you’re hungry or eager to eat, it’s essential to show patience and wait until your elders have started their meal. This demonstrates respect for hierarchy and fosters a harmonious dining experience. If unsure, observe others and follow their lead regarding when to start eating.

internship in Korea

Have a Successful Internship Experience in Korea

By avoiding common mistakes, embracing cultural differences, and prioritizing professionalism and adaptability, you can make the most of this valuable opportunity for personal and professional growth. Here’s to a rewarding and fulfilling internship experience that lays the foundation for a bright future in your career journey. Good luck!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.