Communication barriers are a common challenge when working with people from other cultures.
Knowing the cross-cultural communication barriers in South Korea is very important when working with clients from this country. It will increase the chances of a successful project and decrease the chances of misunderstandings.
About South Korea
South Korea (officially the Republic of Korea) is a sovereign state in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The name Korea is derived from Goryeo, a dynasty that ruled in the Middle Ages.
South Korea has a vibrant culture and boasts some of the world's most fascinating historical attractions. It borders North Korea, China, and Russia. The capital city is Seoul and the currency is the Korean Won.
South Korea's Culture-Based Communication Style
Here are some of the most common challenges.
- Koreans have very strong family ties, and this can make them hesitant to speak openly with strangers. They may also feel uncomfortable expressing their true thoughts or feelings in front of people they don't know well.
- Koreans tend to be indirect in the way they express their opinions and try to avoid confrontation at all costs. If you ask them how they feel about something, they'll probably say "it's okay" instead of giving you an honest answer.
- Korean business culture is very hierarchical, and there are many rules about who can speak to whom, when they should speak, and how they should speak to each other. This can make it difficult for Westerners who aren't used to this kind of hierarchy in their own countries' cultures!
- The Korean culture uses a lot of honorifics in their language, which can get confusing for people who are not familiar with them. They often use honorifics (such as "Mr." or "Mrs.") when addressing someone who is older or has more authority than them—so it's important for Westerners to adjust their communication style accordingly if they want their message to get across clearly!
- Koreans have high expectations for themselves and others—so much so that it can be hard to meet those expectations! This can result in frustration if your work doesn't meet their standards.
- Koreans have a collectivist culture where people are more concerned about the group than themselves individually. Therefore, they will often be quiet when they don't agree with something in order to avoid causing conflict within their group or company. This can make it difficult for foreigners who come from individualistic cultures where it is okay to speak out against others' views if you disagree with them.
- It's important not to interrupt others while they're speaking, because this may be seen as rude. If someone is in the middle of talking and you want them to stop so that you can say something, it's better just to wait until they're finished.
- South Korea is a country with a high context culture, meaning that the context of what you say is more important than your words. In other words, if you're asking for directions, it's not enough to just ask where something is—you also need to know why you're asking (for example: do you want to go there yourself or just find out how to get there).
Non-verbal communication in South Korea
- When speaking to someone older than you, it's best to avoid eye contact and maintain a posture that is respectful and polite (i.e., don't cross your arms).
- In general, handshakes are not common in South Korea—instead, people will often bow slightly when greeting one another or exchanging business cards with someone new.
- South Koreans prefer much less personal space than Westerners do.
- When giving or receiving something, South Koreans often use both hands. The left hand is placed under the object being given or received, while the right hand is used as support for the object being handed over or received.
- When pointing at someone, Koreans use their entire hand. They do not point with only their index finger. This is because it is considered rude and impolite to point out one person in a group of people.