Culture Etiquette Lost in translation

How old are you? Why do Korean people ask for your age at the first encounter?

CONTINUED FROM : Why do I get a year, or even two years older when I land on Korean soil? How many “Korean Ages” are there? Ugh!

If you are meeting someone for the first time in Korea, don’t panic if you are asked for your age at the very first encounter.

How old are you? Why do Korean people ask for your age at the first encounter? No need to panic! Here's why.
Portrait of Yi Gwang-sa

While straight-up asking someone’s age can be very personal and even offensive, there is a good explanation for this habit. As we previously covered, the yugyo-based Korean society is strictly hierarchical and puts a strong emphasis on the senior person’s roles and responsibilities of taking care of the junior in the relationship, while the junior is expected to show respect and discipline towards the senior in return. Hence, the “How old are you?” question is crucial in gauging and determining how one will interact with the new person.

RELATED : From bowing to receiving stuff with two hands. Why do Koreans do what they do? YUGYO 유교- The ideology of the Korean people.

This is just spot on! (found on the Internet – please message me if you know who made it)
Exaggerated but true LOL
(found on the Internet – please message me if you know who made it)

One of the biggest perks of hanging out with older Korean friends is that they would often insist on paying for your meal. In return, you can show respect by setting the utensils and filling up the water glasses (many casual Korean restaurants have a “self-service” system where you have to do the table setting).

RELATED : Don’t go to a Korean restaurant without reading this: Korean dining etiquette and and questions answered.

And there are always those mean-minded people who try to abuse the system – they would go as far as lying and overstating their age in an attempt to have the upper hand in the relationship, but it often gets found out by bumping into a mutual friend who is the same age. Another K-drama cliché.

The content you are enjoying is complimentary from Korean Culture Dictionary. If you want to learn more about Korea, from kimchi to K-pop and K-drama clichés, it’s available on Amazon Worldwide!

Recommended Resources on Amazon

Fastest Way to Speak Korean
  • Let’s Speak Korean – Learn Over 1,400+ Expressions Quickly and Easily With Pronunciation & Grammar Guide Marks – Just Listen, Repeat, and Learn!
Self-study Korean Books for Beginners
  • Korean for Everyone – Complete Self-Study Program : Beginner Level: Pronunciation, Writing, Korean Alphabet, Spelling, Vocabulary, Practice Quiz With Audio Files
Learn the Most Essential Korean Slang Words and Expressions
  • K-Pop Dictionary – 500 Essential Korean Slang Words and Phrases Every K-Pop Fan Must Know
Learn About Korean Culture
Sign Up For Our NewsletterAll things Korean delivered right to your inbox.

Korean Culture 101, Korean Lessons, K-Food Recipes and many more. Stay in the know our occasional newsletter!