One of the best parts of traveling to South Korea for school, business, or pleasure is that you are not required to speak Korean. In fact, it is quite easy to get by in South Korea with a limited vocabulary.
Many Koreans speak English quite well. In fact, many foreigners living in South Korea are there teaching English. English to Koreans is like Spanish to Americans. More and more people are learning English. However, it is always nice to pick up another language. Here are few basic words and phrases you might find come in handy during your trip to Korea.
Image credited to Joaquin Uy
This is the formal way to say hello. If you are among friends, however, it is common to say "Annyeong" (ON-young). If you are speaking to someone older than you, you must use "Annyeonghaseyo."
You can simply say "Gamsahabnida," but to show respect, you have to emphasize the middle and end of the word. So when saying it, you have to say gamsaaaaaahabnidaaaaa. You may think you are sounding condescending, but in all reality, you are better expressing your gratitude.
You may find this disrespectful to say to waiters or people working in retail, as you probably feel like you are demanding from them without saying "please." "Please" is rarely used in Korean day-to-day life, so it is not a big deal to demand something just so long as you say "Gamsahabnida" after!
This phrase can be counterproductive, because if you ask how much for something, they will tell you in Korean. It’s a smart idea, though, to ask how much and carry around a calculator with you. This way they can type the price into it for you. Also, it’s not a bad idea to learn a few basic numbers for these situations.
South Korea is a crowded place. So when you’re trying to navigate through the mess of people, saying this will hopefully give you some wiggle room to get by.
It’s pretty self explanatory as to why this is a must-know phrase. However, sometimes, just saying “toilet” will do the trick.
Throughout your trip, you’ll pick up many more words and phrases. Regardless of how limited your vocabulary may be it is still relatively easy to get around and communicate with those around you.