The basics
South Korea: Destination Guides

Seoul subway etiquette

First time in Seoul? Here are some essential information to you should know when riding the train in Korea

It’s hard to avoid taking the subway when you’re in a city like Seoul. Subways are fast, cheap and very convenient.

Koreans are a very civic-minded society. So there are some unspoken rules that you should adhere to when you’re on the train.

 

Don’t sit in the priority seating

It’s been a particularly trying day, you’ve had back-to-back exams and you have another assignment deadline looming over you. You’re mentally and physically exhausted and all of the seats in the train are filled, except for the priority seating. It can be extremely tempting to just sit there, but you should not. Koreans would never sit in those sits as they are reserved for elderly, pregnant women and young children. While over here, it’s fine to sit in a priority seat and just give it up when someone needs it, the correct protocol in Korea is to leave it empty at all times.

 

Give up your seat to others who need it more than you

As you can see from the picture, the ones that are sittiing are the elders in the society.

Even if you’re sitting in a non-priority seat, if you see someone else that needs it more than you, it’s good if you give up your seat to them. Give up your seat to the elderly, disabled, pregnant women, injured people and children.

You could also say “anjeuseyo” meaning please sit to the person you are giving up your seat to.



Be a righty on the escalators

In Malaysia and Singapore, everyone not in a rush stands on the left to give space for those walking up the escalator. In Korea, they stand on the right. In places where there is a lot of human traffic there is nothing more vexing than trying to get past someone who standing in your way but being unable to do so.

 

Pushing and shoving is the norm

For some inexplicable reason, pushing and shoving others is something that is widely accepted. I’ve been lucky that despite getting on and off congested trains, I’ve never been pushed or shoved, but my friends weren’t as lucky. It could be that the Koreans are averse to the idea of talking to strangers, but don’t be surprised if you do feel someone nudging or pushing you, just move out of their way. You can do the same, but you could also just say either “jamsimanyo” which means “excuse me”, or “naerilgeyo” which means “I’m getting off”.

 

Seoul subway do’s and don’ts

These might come across as common sense. Just to play it safe, in case here are some things that you should bear in mind when riding the train.

  • Talk at normal decibel levels – that goes for phones and super hilarious jokes.
  • There are plenty of trains. Try not to hold doors.
  • Seats are for people. Put your bags up on top.
  • Sleeping on the train is fine, just don’t lay down on it and deprive others of their seats

 

Have fun exploring Seoul!

 

Check out the courses available in Korea here!

Search for a course

South Korea
Study level*
About Author

A fan of anime and all things Japanese, Khai has been writing professionally since 2010 and “unofficially” for much longer. In her free time, you will often find her baking, reading, travelling and doing everything else in between.