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One of the biggest complaints heard from expats here is the bumping while walking in the busy streets of Seoul. It has been one of my biggest pet peeves as well. But the thought came to me today that since most of us are not from big cities with 10-20 million people, could it be that this happens in all major cities all over the world which have such tight spaces and lots of people? And maybe we are just not used to it and being in a new country warps our perception and makes us think it's a "Korean thing"?

I decided to just search for "nyc people bumping into you" on Google and it seems people in NYC have the same complaints as well. (http://gothamist.com/2012/04/16/walking_etiquette_recent_new_yorker.php)

How is it for those of you in the smaller cities here in Korea?


I work in Tokyo and after a year living in Seoul, it's a breeze to get around here unscathed (relatively).


  • a87
  • Super Waygook

    • 330

    • July 21, 2013, 12:31:10 am
One of the biggest complaints heard from expats here is the bumping while walking in the busy streets of Seoul. It has been one of my biggest pet peeves as well. But the thought came to me today that since most of us are not from big cities with 10-20 million people, could it be that this happens in all major cities all over the world which have such tight spaces and lots of people? And maybe we are just not used to it and being in a new country warps our perception and makes us think it's a "Korean thing"?

I decided to just search for "nyc people bumping into you" on Google and it seems people in NYC have the same complaints as well. (http://gothamist.com/2012/04/16/walking_etiquette_recent_new_yorker.php)

How is it for those of you in the smaller cities here in Korea?

Perhaps, but I've been to NYC and Tokyo and didn't have the issues that I've had here. And I don't even live in Seoul, but any place that is somewhat crowded is prime for getting bumped into / shoved. I think it has more to do with the disregard of others that people seem to have here. Not that people are necessarily intentionally bumping into others, but that the needs of others isn't even on most peoples' radars. Inside their mental process is just "Me me me me me me."

And also people of higher stature seem to do it more (ie older people, people who think they're important because they're wearing a suit). In some ways it's kinda built into society, in that we are supposed to give in to elders. So the elders act accordingly.
Take that apologists!


  • MJHanson
  • Expert Waygook

    • 500

    • May 02, 2011, 09:42:58 am
    • Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
It's not just the crowdedness of Korea, it's the lack of manners.  The only place I've been to that is worse is China.  Korean apologists will say, "Oh, it's because we have so many people."  That's BS.  They shove, bump, cut in line, throw litter on the ground, and spit in your path.  The most annoying thing for me is when nobody makes room when walking on the sidewalk.  An entire group will walk shoulder and shoulder next to one another taking up the entire path.  What are other people supposed to do?  Walk in the street?

Tokyo is more crowded than Seoul and people are extremely polite.  If they happen to bump into you, it's because it actually was crowded and they always apologize. 

Sorry to rant so much.  I love Korea.  But shitty manners are shitty manners.  I call it like I see it. 



  • Ley_Druid
  • The Legend

    • 2465

    • February 17, 2011, 08:36:33 am
    • Shinan-Gun, Jeollanam-Do, South Korea
It has to do with the manners of the people. I'd like to say that it is mainly an East Asian thing with some Western cities as well, but when I go to cities like Dubai, London, or Istanbul, I didn't experience being bumped into and not apologized to. Of course there is severe crowding in the subways of those cities, but I don't consider that the same thing.


  • philby1985
  • Expert Waygook

    • 662

    • March 05, 2013, 09:10:49 am
    • Daejeon
I've visited Seoul about dozen times and can probably count the number of times someone bumped into me on the subway/street/shops. Not saying others are full of shit, but I think it is interesting that I don't have the same problem that others have. Maybe it is because I'm a tall mean looking bastard  8)

There are a lot of inconsiderate things that I see Koreans do, but bumping into me isn't one of them.

For the record, I hate crowds.


  • EL34
  • Expert Waygook

    • 728

    • September 28, 2013, 07:48:34 pm
It's not just the crowdedness of Korea, it's the lack of manners. The only place I've been to that is worse is China.  Korean apologists will say, "Oh, it's because we have so many people."  That's BS.  They shove, bump, cut in line, throw litter on the ground, and spit in your path.  The most annoying thing for me is when nobody makes room when walking on the sidewalk.  An entire group will walk shoulder and shoulder next to one another taking up the entire path.  What are other people supposed to do?  Walk in the street?

Tokyo is more crowded than Seoul and people are extremely polite.  If they happen to bump into you, it's because it actually was crowded and they always apologize. 

Sorry to rant so much.  I love Korea.  But shitty manners are shitty manners.  I call it like I see it.

Lack of manners? So, explain why Koreans always take off their shoes before entering someone's home.

Thanks for the lesson in cultural relativism, by the way.



  • EL34
  • Expert Waygook

    • 728

    • September 28, 2013, 07:48:34 pm
I've visited Seoul about dozen times and can probably count the number of times someone bumped into me on the subway/street/shops. Not saying others are full of shit, but I think it is interesting that I don't have the same problem that others have. Maybe it is because I'm a tall mean looking bastard  8)

There are a lot of inconsiderate things that I see Koreans do, but bumping into me isn't one of them.

For the record, I hate crowds.

Well, some people pay a bit too much attention to what rookie hagwon teachers who are still going through culture shock, or long timers who are about as adaptable as a fish in the desert, say and allow this to define their experiences in Korea in a negative way.

PS. I'm probably a lot shorter than you, and I also rarely get bumped into.


all about manners, my friend. I am living in Jeollanamdo.. in a small city- only about 30 000 people.  People still bump into you, cut you in line, rush on to get infront of you on the bus when there are plenty of open seats.  Kids from other schools show you no respect even though you're older. 


  • a87
  • Super Waygook

    • 330

    • July 21, 2013, 12:31:10 am
Gosh darn I wish I wasn't such a rookie! If only my experiences were valid!
Take that apologists!


  • EL34
  • Expert Waygook

    • 728

    • September 28, 2013, 07:48:34 pm
all about manners, my friend. I am living in Jeollanamdo.. in a small city- only about 30 000 people.  People still bump into you, cut you in line, rush on to get infront of you on the bus when there are plenty of open seats.  Kids from other schools show you no respect even though you're older.

Cultural relativism again, eh? Seems arrogant of you to define what are good manners in a culture that isn't your own.


It's all about manners. And by that I mean what the locals consider polite and impolite and also what they just don't consider at all. Here in Korea it doesn't seem to be an issue, so they're not really being polite or impolite, they're just doing what they do. Foreigners might think it's boorish, but they're not really making an effort to be boorish.

Still, it's not just a big city thing. I don't wanna go tit for tat about where I've been and who I've bumped into and where I've not been bumped into, but in Tokyo, Bangkok, Amsterdam in tourist season, Manila, even Delhi I've always been able to walk down busy streets with a minimum of rough-and-tumble, and even that much was incidental because the sidewalks were quite full.

I would almost describe Korean pedestrians as having tunnel vision -- just seeing where they want to go or even refusing to see anything at all. So many people seem to be constantly rediscovering that there are other people in public. :shocked:


all about manners, my friend. I am living in Jeollanamdo.. in a small city- only about 30 000 people.  People still bump into you, cut you in line, rush on to get infront of you on the bus when there are plenty of open seats.  Kids from other schools show you no respect even though you're older.

Cultural relativism again, eh? Seems arrogant of you to define what are good manners in a culture that isn't your own.

Hmm, funny. I don't remember defining anything, just sharing my experiences. A little defensive?  At what point does this culture become 'my own'?   Seems like you are the arrogant one, trying to correct everyone that has a different opinion than your own. 


  • orangeman
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1768

    • September 01, 2011, 09:56:35 am
    • Seoul-East Side
This topic has been covered to death, so I'll just say:

-It's not a big city thing.  It's pretty unique to Korea.  It's not just busy streets in Seoul, either. 

-It's not unfairly judging another culture.  Most Koreans I talk to seem to hate it, too.  But then I'll walk outside with them and they'll do the exact same thing. 

-The conversation with foreigners desperate to prove that Korea is a paradise it usually goes, "Koreans don't bump into people!"  "Yeah they do." "Oh my god you keep going on about it!" 

-Anyone who has spent 5 minutes in Korea....hell, just getting on the plane to come over here, knows this is true.  Anyone who says differently is not being honest with themselves, or others.  I've had visitors, my friends have had visitors, and it is one of the first things they notice about the place.  These range from retirees, young New Yorkers, well traveled nomads, people who have never left their hometown before.  I've even had friends who traveled through China before getting here who were about to lose their crap on Koreans in the streets for this behaviour. 

-Having said all that, it's just one of the charms of living here.  It's not a big deal, but like I said above when people deny it exists I've learned to just smile and nod, because they're obviously trying to prove another point and any rebuttal will send them into a tizzy about how you just can't handle a new culture and they're so much more adaptable, which is what their real agenda is in the first place. 

I said it recently on another thread, it's better to just accept the negatives of Korea (or anywhere) because then you can honestly enjoy the positives so much more.