Gift giving culture in Korea has some etiquette that you need to know:
1) Two hands
When giving and receiving gifts, you should use two hands, especially to seniors and those whom you do not know well.
2) Do not open
You should not open a gift in front of the giver, to avoid embarrassment of the giver by the reaction of the receiver. It is consider rude, unless the recipient was allowed to do so. If you are giving a gift, be sure to wrap your gift, and you may consider leaving it somewhere for the recipient to find it later.
3) Don’t go empty-handed
When visiting a home, it’s always a good idea to bring a gift (bottle of wine, some fruits or dessert). If you are an international visitor, a product from your homeland might be a good ideal.
4) Don’t overdo it
Gifts should look nice and good in quality, but not excessively expensive. It may cause burden to the receiver as he/she might feel expected to reciprocate with an equally expensive gift.
5) Cash in an envelope
In occasions such as wedding or funeral, when you are giving cash as a gift, put the money in an white envelope. Do not just hand over the cash, it is rude.
As mentioned above, when a Korean receives a gift, he/she will be expected to return the favor with a gift of similar value at some later date. Likewise if you receive a gift, to be polite, reciprocate with gift of similar value.
When attending a housewarming party, bring a box of laundry detergent. It is not only practical, but carries with the meaning of cleanliness and prosperity. Other non-perishable yet practical gifts will also do, for example, toilet paper…
8) Do not expect letters of thanks
In some cultures (especially in the West), consider proper to give a note of thanks when receiving a gift. If you did not receive a note of thanks from your Korean friends, it’s not that they don’t like your gift, just because Korean do not have this practice in their culture.
Source of reference: SEOUL December 2011, iss. 101, p.27.
– 크리스티 ✿