South Korea is basicaly a no-tip culture and this guide to tipping in Korea will help you avoid any misunderstandings in restaurants, hotels, and taxis.
Tipping is not customary in South Korea. In fact, giving gratuities to waiters, cab drivers, and hotel staff may be considered disrespectful here as opposed to in many Western nations. However, there are several circumstances in which tipping may be permissible.
As a tourist, it is inevitable to run into these scenarios, so conducting some homework beforehand is a wise move to prevent cultural gaffes.
Don’t worry, though; we are here to assist you with the dos and don’ts of tipping in the common tourist-centric locations in Korea.
Guide to Tipping in Korea: Restaurants
Tipping is not usual in restaurants and the restaurant staff usually declines it. The common belief is that you are already compensating handsomely for the food, so there is no need to pay extra. Hence the best course of action is to treat the team with courtesy and express your gratitude for their arduous work in words. Say annyeonghaseyo while entering and kamsahamnida while exiting the restaurant. Also, bow slightly at both times to please the employees.
However, some western restaurants have started using tip jars because of the large number of international visitors to Korea. If you see one, you can leave a tip there rather than giving it to any staff members directly. But, kindly refrain from leaving tips at the local Korean restaurants.
Again, tipping is not mandatory in the case of tour guides, but since they are used to receiving extras, especially those who work at American organizations and handle a lot of foreign tourists, you may tip them for their great services.
However, if you hire a tour guide for the countryside, we suggest you forgo tipping as they do not expect such gestures. In fact, they may think otherwise and reject you outright, leaving you in an unpleasant situation.
Taking a taxi is a good choice if you need to reach somewhere quickly and are in a rush. Sadly, taxi drivers these days have a horrible reputation for leading tourists astray. Therefore, make sure you agree upon the fee from before or see to it that the driver is using the meter correctly and not taking unnecessary detours. If you have trouble communicating, we advise using the map to point out the location you wish to go.
However, not all drivers are unpleasant, so the best method to tip someone if you find them to be helpful is to pay in cash and ask them to keep the change.
Spas and Hotels
Similar to other places, tipping in hotels and spas is not expected. There have been instances where attempts to tip by foreigners were flatly rejected. So, if you encounter a similar situation, please do not take it personally. Instead, try to respect their viewpoints and do your best to refrain from tipping. If you’re really happy with the hotel’s services, just put the tip in an envelope and leave it in the room. Avoid tipping in person at any cost.
In the case of spas or conventional Korean jjimjilbangs, we strongly advise against tipping. A simple bow is more than enough to make the staff happy.
General Tipping Guidelines When in Korea – Dos and Don’ts
Never insist on Tipping
It is strongly advisable that you avoid insisting on tipping because South Koreans do not anticipate you to do so for their services. Please understand that even though you have the best intentions at heart, the other person might not share your sentiments towards tipping. They will probably perceive it as much more impolite if you insist that they accept the tip.
Instead, some pleasant words will have a greater impact because South Koreans value dignity.
If you visit a place and find that tipping may be appreciated there, then prepare ahead. Take out some Korean Won from any nearby ATM, place it in an envelope, and deliver it to them respectfully.
Use local currency to tip
Only provide tips for local money. This way, the service providers can avoid costly currency exchange rates.
Over To You!
Koreans welcome their tourists with open arms. However, tipping is against their customs and this guide to tipping in Korea , avoiding upsetting them while visiting their country is preferable.
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