If you’ve ever watched a K-drama, you’re probably aware that there is a wide variety of ways people greet each other in Korea. Besides the usual “Annyeonghaseyo” or “Annyeong”, there are many different expressions Koreans use, depending on who they are greeting or what situations they are in. There are also a number of ways people say goodbye, some of which you might already know. Today, we are going to introduce some of the most useful expressions for greetings and goodbyes in Korea.
Chapter.1 Greeting someone you've met for the first time
When you greet someone you’ve just met for the first time, you always use jondaemal (formal way of speaking). It’s considered good manners, and you also don’t know how old they are at this point.
Person A : 안녕하세요”
Person B : “네, 안녕하세요”
Yes. Hi (formal)
“Annyeonghaseyo” is the most natural and polite greeting.
Even if you are greeting someone you already know, you say “Annyeonghaseyo” if that person is older than you.
But if you were greeting someone who is the same age as you or someone younger, you could simply say “Annyeong!”. This is a very casual expression you normally say to your friends.
Chapter.2 How to greet a friend like a Korean
The most common greeting is “Annyeong”.
Person A : “안녕~”
Person B : “어 안녕~”
“Annyeong” can be used both when you greet someone and when you say bye. You can also use it at any time of the day, whether in the morning, afternoon, or at night.
When talking with a friend, there are many options for a greeting expression, depending on the situation. If you are greeting a friend you haven’t seen in ages, you greet each other by asking “Have you been well?”.
Person A : “오랜만이다~ 잘 지냈어?”
Oh lan man ee da- Jal ji naesseo?
Long time now see! Have you been well?”
Person B : “어 그럭저럭~ 너는 잘 지냈냐?”
Uh geu-ruck jeo-ruck- Neoneun jal jinatnya?
Yeah pretty well! Have YOU been well?
A Korean would often ask their friend if he/she has eaten yet when greeting him/her. It’s not necessarily because they want to know if their friend has eaten. People say this just as an expression when saying hi or as a way of starting a conversation.
What makes Korean very different from English is that in Korean, you say hi or bye differently, depending on who is leaving and who is staying, and who has come and who has been staying.
Person A : “어 왔어?”
Oh you came?
Person A : “어 왔어?”
Oh you came?
Person B : “응 차가 많이 막히더라..”
Eung, chaga mani makhiduhra..
Yeah the traffic was so bad..
Person A : “밥은 먹었어?”
Have you eaten?
When you come from somewhere else to see your friend, and your friend has been staying where he/she is, you greet your friend by saying that you’ve come.
Person A : “나 왔어~”
Person B : “어 왔어?”
Oh you came?
Saying goodbye works the same way, more or less. When your friend is staying, and you’re leaving, you tell them you are leaving.
Person A : “나 갈게~ 잘있어~”
Na galgae- jal itsuh-
I’m leaving! Goodbye!
Person B : “어~ 잘가~”
If you are the one who is staying and your friend is leaving, you tell them to leave safely.
Person A : “조심해서 가~ 잘가~”
Joshimhaesuh ga! Jalga!
Leave carefully! Goodbye!
Person B : 응 안녕.
Sometimes you’ll hear a Korean say a very long goodbye to their friends. Girls usually do this to once another after hanging out.
Person A : “오 야 오늘 너무 재밌었어. 조심해서 들어가. 어 조심하고, 들어가서 연락해. 문자해. 안녕. 안녕 안녕!”
Oh ya ohneul neomoo jaemitsutsuh. Joshimhaesuh deuluhga. Uh joshimhago, deuluhgaseo yeonlahkae. Munjahae. Annyeong. Annyeong annyeong.
Oh hey, today was so much fun. Get home safely. Yeah be safe. Hit me up when you get home. Text me. Bye. Bye bye!”
Girls do this typically because they want to express how sad they are to say goodbye. Guys do it completely differently. The way they say goodbye can be extremely simple.
Person A : “나 간다.”
Person B : “가”
There are some other useful expressions as well.
Person A : “담에 밥 한 번 먹자~”
Daameh bap han bun mukja.
Let’s have a meal next time.
Person B : “그래.”
Saying “Let’s have a meal” right when you say goodbye often means “Let’s see each other again when we get a chance.”, although it could sometimes literally means “Let’s have a meal”. The “adult” version of this expression would be about drinking rather than eating.
Person A : “담에 한 잔 하자~”
Daameh han jan haja!
Let’s have a drink next time!
Person B : “그래”
Koreans sure ask a lot about one’s health or whether or not one has eaten, right?
Chapter. 3 Greeting a grown-up/elderly
Unlike English, Korean has something called jondaemal (formal speaking). So when greeting the elderly, there are some different expressions used. If you happen to use the wrong expression, you may sound a bit rude. For example, if you say “Let’s have a meal next time” to an elderly, the same way you would to a friend, you will sound very disrespectful, so DON’T DO IT.
To greet an elderly, “Annyeonghaseyo” is the most basic greeting, and if you are greeting someone you haven’t seen in a long while, you say something extra.
Person A : “안녕하세요, 잘 지내셨죠?”
Annyeonghaseyo, jal jinaeshutjyo?
Hi. You’ve been well, right?
Example #2 (friendlier version)
Person A : “안녕하세요 잘 지내셨죠? 식사는 하셨어요?”
Annyeonghaseyo jal jinae shutjyo? Shiksaneun hashutsuhyo?
Hi (formal). You’ve been well, right? Have you had a meal?”
If after the conversation, the elderly is leaving and you are staying where you are, you say goodbye, as shown below.
Person A : “안녕히 가세요” 이렇게 인사를 해요.
If it’s the other way around where you are leaving and the elderly is staying, you say goodbye, as shown below.
Person A : “안녕히 계세요”라고 인사를 해요.
You can also use health-related expressions when saying goodbye to an elderly.
Person A : “건강 조심하세요~”
Take care of your health!
Person A : “감기 조심하세요~”
Be careful not to catch a cold!
Example #3 (longer version)
Person A : “저 이제 가 볼게요 안녕히 계세요”
Jeo ijae ga bolgaeyo. Annyeonghi gyeseyo.
I’ll be leaving now. Good bye. (formal)
Person B : “어 조심히 들어가.“
Uh joshimhi deuluhga.
Alright. Get home safely.
Person A : “네 추운데 감기 조심하시구요~”
Nae. Chooundae gamgi joshimgashiguyo.
Ok. Be careful not to catch a cold in this cold weather.
Person B : “어 너두.”
Yes you too.
Interestingly, when adults say goodbye to students, they sometimes tell them to study hard.
Person A : “안녕히계세요”
Person B : “어 그래 공부 열심히하고~”
Uh geurae. Gongboo yeolshimhihago.
Oh ok. Study hard.
Why do adults suddenly tell students to study hard? It might seem a bit odd to non-Koreans. Adults in Korea do this because they think studying hard is what students are supposed to do. Also, in Korea, going to a good university is considered highly important.
As for the non-verbal aspect of your greetings, you have to bow your head when greeting or saying goodbye to an elderly is that when you’ve met someone for the first time or someone older than you.
When it comes to hand-shaking, the person who is older takes the initiative. If you were meeting someone older than you and you went to shake their hand saying “Oh nice to meet you”, it would seem very rude in Korea. Also, during the hand-shaking part, the younger person has to shake hands with one hand and supports their wrist with the other hand. Watch the video to see how it’s done!
Chapter.4 Business greetings
When calling it a day at work, co-workers usually use the following expressions to each other.
Person A : “수고하셨습니다~”
You’ve worked hard.
Person B : “아 네, 고생하셨습니다.”
Ah nae. Gosaeng hashutseupnida.
Oh right. You’ve worked hard.
Even though this might sound awkward to foreigners, these expressions are considered nice and are used to recognize each other’s hard work. You would often hear these expressions after work or after a meeting, or after a team project with the team mates that you aren’t that close friends with.
If you ever take a business trip to Korea and meet a client, you can greet him/her with expressions such as “Annyeonghaseyo” (hi) and “Bangapseupnida” (nice to meet you).
Person A : “안녕하세요.”
Person B : “안녕하세요.”
Person A : “반갑습니다.”
Nice to meet you.
Person B : “네, 반갑습니다.”
Nice to meet you.
Person A : “유생이라고 합니다.”
You Saeng-irago hapnida.
I am Yoo Saeng.
Person B : “아 네, 김선비라고 합니다.”
Ah nae, Kim Seonbi-rago hapnida.
I am Kim Seonbi.
Person A : “만나서 반갑습니다.”
It’s nice to meet you.
Person B : “네 만나서 반갑습니다.”
Nae mannaseo bangapseupnida.
Yes, it’s nice to meet you.
Chapter.5 Traditional Korean greetings
This tradition has become a lot simpler lately and many households don’t really do this anymore. Traditionally, though, it is considered good manners to bow down to the elderly when your family and relatives gather together on national holidays. Bowing down is a traditional Korean greeting.
Men and women bow down differently. You usually do what’s called the “small bow” to an elderly whom you haven’t seen in a long time, and you do what’s called the “big bow” at a ritual or a funeral.
Start with your right hand on your left hand, and gently hang your hands on your sides. Bend your left leg first, kneeling down, and place each hand next to each knee like this. With your fingers stretched outwards, bow your head down, and after about a 3-second pause, stand back up, and bow your head at about 45 degrees.
Start with your left hand on your right hand. Bend your left leg first to kneel down, and place both of your hands on the floor first and then your forehead. After about a 3-second pause, stand back up, and finish with a half bow with your head.
Generally, you do this before your grandparents or parents who you haven’t seen for a long time, or when you are going to get married and meet the elderlies of both families for the first time before the marriage.
At funerals, you bow down twice to dead people, but you bow only once to people who are alive.