When visiting a new country, it is always a good idea to be able to communicate with the locals. While it might be unreasonable to expect a tourist to speak a local language fluently, it’s not too much to ask that they can understand and maybe try their hand at a few words and phrases – just for the sake of politeness, or even a necessity. You never know what situations you may need to ask for help!

Annyonghaseyo – Hello/Goodbye

This phrase should be familiar to you if you’ve spent any time at all watching your idols on any kind of show. What you perhaps didn’t know, is that it’s actually used for saying both hello, and goodbye! Upon entering a shop in Korea, it will set you in a good light if you bow slightly at the workers, and greet them with this phrase and a smile.

Kamsahamnida – Thank you!

Just like Hello, you’ll likely know this if you’ve spent any time at all watching your favourite idols or dramas. Kamsahamnida is the polite way of saying thank you, and should be accompanied with a small bow of your head. If you’ve made a purchase, make sure to remember to accept your product with two hands too, as explained in this travel thursday from last week!

Shillehagesumnida – Excuse me?

If you need to ask for directions, this is a great word for you to know. In order to stop someone on the street, or simply to ask anyone for help, open with this, and when you get their attention, bow slightly and follow up with a “Annyonghaseyo!” for politeness.

Yongoro hasil jul aseyo? – Do you speak English?

While you may know some basic words and phrases, if you’re in trouble or need to find something, it would benefit you if the person you’re speaking to is able to understand you in English. For politeness if they don’t, you can stick to Korean first, but I would say once you’ve gotten a confirmation that they can understand English, you’re safe to switch to that.

Chwe ireumun ___ imnida – My name is ____

It’s always nice to be able to introduce oneself in different languages. If you meet someone you’d like to get to know, maybe a boy you want to impress – or even an idol – you’ll be well on your way if you’re just able to tell them your name in Korean!

Jeoneun ______eseo wasupnida – I’m from _______

As a continuation from before, even better is if you can also tell them where you’re from! I promise you’re likely to get a few oooooh’s and aaaaah’s for something just as simple as this. If someone corrects your pronunciation, remember to don’t take it personally. They’re just trying to help!

Hwajangsiri eodiyeyo – Where’s the toilet?

Always a necessity. Sure, you can hope that there are signs, but just in case this is a good phrase to know. Just in case!

Ige eolmayeyo? – How much is this?

You’re sure to impress a shop worker or two if you’re able to ask about prices in Korean. While they’re likely to simply write the price down for you, or use their fingers to show you, it’s still a nice gesture, and who knows – it might get you a few won off the item!

Ige Chuseyo – This please

Another useful phrase to use when you’ve found the item you want to buy. Or alternately the basket of items – if you’re like me in an Etude House shop. Often you’ll have one of the employees follow you through the shop and help you pick colours to suit you and products that are good for you, and they’re so happy to help that once you’ve finished you simply hand them the basket (remember: Two hands!) and say “Ige Chuseyo”!

These are the phrases I’ve found to be particularly useful for my visits to Seoul, and I hope they come in handy for you too! Make sure to let us know if you’ve got anything to add in the comments below!

Mai Vabo
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Mai Vabo

Journalism and Media & cultural studies @ Kingston University, London. Aspiring traveller.
There's always a story to tell - my job is to find the perfect angle!
Mai Vabo
Find me
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Journalism and Media & cultural studies @ Kingston University, London. Aspiring traveller. There's always a story to tell - my job is to find the perfect angle!

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