Gift Giving Etiquette in Korea | Unique Gifter

Gift Giving Etiquette in Korea

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Giving gifts in Korea is a sign of respect, shows that you are courteous, and helps maintain a comfortable mindset. Most Asian cultures value modesty and graciousness. That is true in Korea as well. Gifts can make a great impact and show gratitude. It is a good way to thank someone for showing you kindness or hospitality. There are some things you may want to know about giving gifts in Korea.

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Read more in our gift giving etiquette series:

Korean Gift Giving Customs

  • Candles and a box of matches, or laundry detergent, are customary for a housewarming gift.
  • Gifts are given and received with both hands.
  • Gifts are not opened in front of the person who gave them.
  • If you receive a gift, it is customary to give a similar type of gift in the future.

Giving Gifts to Koreans

  • Make sure that your gifts are wrapped nicely and look good. This part matters nearly as much as giving the gift and the type of gift it is.
  • Gifts that come from your own country or town make good gifts and add a nice touch to the gesture.
  • It is important to remember that the main purpose for giving gifts is to give thanks and show respect.

Business Gift Giving Customs & Etiquette in Korea

  • It is common to give gifts in business settings in order to gain favors or build relationships with others, and then to reciprocate.
  • For a first meeting, your gift should be something with your company’s logo on it or something that demonstrates your home country. These gifts should be of good quality, but not expensive.
  • Give gifts that have a higher value to the senior person. The gifts to those in lower positions should be of a lesser value, even if they are similar to the one you gave to the senior person.

Korean baby opening a traditional first birthday gift

Gift Giving Occasions in Korea

  • Valentine’s Day
  • Housewarming
  • Weddings
  • Chuseok
  • New Year’s Day
  • Christmas

Tips for Giving Great Gifts

  • Wrap gifts in green or yellow striped gift wrapping paper as that is the tradition there.
  • Food makes a great gift when in doubt, such as cookies, cupcakes, and fine chocolates, as well as wine.
  • Cash is a good gift for newlyweds who are getting married and for New Year’s Day.
  • Alcoholic beverages or cigarettes can be given to those who drink or smoke.
  • Monetary gifts should be given in a white envelope.
  • The number 7 is viewed as lucky, therefore giving 7 of something is lucky.

Gift Giving Don’ts in Korea

  • Avoid red and dark-colored wrapping paper, as it is seen as unpleasant.
  • Don’t give sharp objects, as it will mean that you are ending your friendship or relationship.
  • The number 4 is viewed as unlucky.
  • Don’t send notes of thanks after receiving hospitality, the gift was your thanks.

Like everywhere, gift giving etiquette in Korea is evolving. Although many traditions are still used today, some traditions like giving gold rings to children on their first birthday are changing because of the cost of gold. As with any culture, make sure to check with your hosts or business associates to confirm any gift giving etiquette beforehand!

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