The most common way of greeting someone in Korea is by saying 'annyong haseyo'. It means ‘hello’.
There is no separate way of saying ‘good morning’, ‘good afternoon’ or ‘good evening’. At any time of day, you just say 'annyong haseyo'.
Like the Japanese, Koreans bow a lot. In South Korea, this is often combined with shaking hands when meeting foreigners, blending Western and Eastern styles. The person with the lower status will bow first, but it is the person with the higher status who will initiate the handshake.
Outside of the business world, however, Koreans do not usually shake hands. Men will sometimes shake hands with other men, but it is not common for men and women to shake hands; it is not something they will feel very comfortable with. Koreans also don’t kiss in public.
When initiating a bow, in South Korea do say 'man-na-suh pan-gop-sumnida'. It means ‘pleased to meet you’.
When bowing, remember:
- keep your feet together
- men have their hands at their sides
- women have their hands on the fronts of their thighs
- the whole upper body bows, not just the head
One possible origin for the custom of bowing could be the ancient custom of worshipping ancestors by bowing on their graves. There, one would also leave offerings of fruit, meat, fish etc.