In a country where nearly half the population shares the same last name, you could be forgiven for being a little confused as to who is who and what.
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You'll gain a solid understanding of several key areas of Korean culture and society, including:
- religion and belief
- culture and society
- Social Etiquette and Customs
- corporate culture and work practices
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- An introduction to the country, its history, politics, people and culture.
- Information on national values, customs and etiquette.
- Tips on preparing to work with new colleagues from South Korea
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- facts and statistics
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Whether you are visiting South Korea for business, tourism, or even hosting Korean colleagues or clients in your own country, this guide will help you understand your fellow South Koreans, improve communication and get the relationship off to a good start.
However, remember that this is only onevery basic introduction to Korean cultureand we;cannot explain the diversity within South Korean society and it isdoes not intend to stereotypeall Koreans you can meet!
- Location:East Asia, the southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the East Sea and the Yellow Sea
- Capital city:Only
- National Hino: With time
- ethnic composition:Homogeneous (except for a small percentage of the population who are from other places but live permanently in the country). It is one of the most racially pure countries in the world.
- Population:51 million (2019 est.)
- Population growth rate:0.53% (2019 est.)
- Climate:temperate, with more rainfall in summer than in winter
- time zone:Korean Standard Time UTC (UTC+09:00)
- Uniform: Sul Korean'Bett'
- Internet-Penetration:92,1% (2016)
- Business culture:Rating 30 inchesO Company Culture Complexity Index™
Koreans share a common language, with approximately seventy million people speaking Korean worldwide.
The grammar and vocabulary of the language are somewhat similar to Japanese; the structure differs. Dialects are regional; They differ mainly in accent, but are similar enough that understanding by the speaker or listener is not a problem. The main difference in dialect is also attributed to social status.
Korea has one of the highest literacy rates in the world due to the phonetic nature of the written language, which was invented in the mid-15th century to give Koreans a single language.
religion and belief
- South Korea supports freedom of religion
- Confucianism,Buddhism jChristianityare the main formal religions
- Many Koreans believe in ancestral spirit and observe Confucian rituals.
- Confucianism is a political and social philosophy that permeates Korean culture.
Great Festivals/Secular Festivals
- There are two major national holidays.
- New Year (second full moon after winter solstice)
- chuseok(the eighth full moon)
- The celebrations of these festivals are based on ancestors, family, games, harvest festivals and food.
- Family unity is an integral part of South Korean customs and life.
- Arranged marriages are common.
- Marriage is considered a rite of passage.
- Divorce was rare but has become more common in recent years.
- Patriarchal lineage is pervasive, connecting ancestors through man's lineage.
- Traditionally, the eldest son inherited, but this has recently changed and is now legally the same.
- The eldest son has additional obligations towards his family and has to take care of his parents in old age.
Did you know that a series of plane crashes in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s led some experts to believe that Korean culture was to blame?
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- Sincedistributional reforms from 1894 there was no more traditional nobility
- 60% of Koreans describe themselves as middle class
- Class classification usually refers to educational level.
- Industrialization and urbanization contribute to the class difference
- Family, education, wealth, education and job all contribute to social status
- Status symbols include; big houses, chauffeur-driven cars, clothing, membership in certain clubs, and college degrees
- Urbanization accounts for 82.5% of the total population (2015)
- Language is hierarchical and social superiors should be addressed appropriately
- Gender equality is constitutional
- Everyday life in a largely patriarchal society is characterized by male orientation
- Social organization is influenced by gender and age.
- 47.7% of adult women worked outside the home (1998)
- Women held 2.3% of provincial and municipal seats in (1999)
- Women dominate shamanism as priestesses, but have a limited role in the Christian and Buddhist religions
- Women are expected to behave in a submissive manner in public situations and in informal gatherings.
- Women are considered more independent than men.
- The daily care of infants depends mainly on the parents, at least for the first two years, with little or no separation from the mother.
- Patriarchal obedience, cooperation, respect for elders, and family piety are infused in early childhood.
- Specific gender roles are promoted within the family and the education system.
- Children usually receive the best education and remain more dependent on their families even after marriage.
- South Korea has gone from an underdeveloped country to the 11th largest economy in the world in a generation
- South Korea is heavily dependent on exports for its GDP; Almost half of its business is exported through products or services
- 48% of all exports are electronic
- 31% of exports are related to transport (cars, ships, etc.)
- Korean cuisine is based on rice, vegetables and meat.
- 'Kimchi'It is the national dish and eaten with most meals
- Kimchi is made from a variety of vegetables that are then fermented and stored for a long time.
- Banchanare side dishes: are usually prepared in large quantities and served with the main course
- The food is used in ceremonies, mainly weddings, birthdays and to honor ancestors.
Arts, Humanities and Popular Culture
- Historically, Chinese and Japanese influences have been seen in South Korean art; aesthetic concepts and reasons were shared
- Korean music and art were combined with natural cycles and religion, creating a folk culture in rural areas that is still popular today.
- "Gangnam Style" by Psy, a South Korean musician, rose to worldwide fame in 2012. The song refers to Seoul's Gangnam district, a chic and trendy neighborhood on par with London, Paris or Hollywood.
- Foreign influences have spawned a fast food and café culture, particularly in Seoul, in recent years.
- The language changed with the introduction of some Western expressions such as "window shopping".
Koreans are very proud of their kimchi-making traditions. Affectionate and frequent, and people love to teach others their "secret" family recipes!
Photo ofRepublic of Korea on Flickr(CC BY-SA 2.0)
conceito de Kibun
- Kibunit is a word with no literal translation into English; the next terms are pride, face, mood, feelings or state of mind.
- When you hurt someone's kibun, you hurt their pride, you lose their dignity and shame. Korean interpersonal relationships function on the principle of harmony.
- It's important to maintain a calm and comfortable environment at all times, even if it means telling a "white lie."
- It is important to know how to assess the condition of someone else's kibun, how to avoid damaging it, and at the same time how to take care of your own kibun.
- In business, a manager's kibun is damaged when subordinates do not show due respect. A subordinate's kibun is damaged when his boss publicly criticizes him.
- Nunchi is the ability to determine another person's kibun by eye.
- Because this is a culture where social harmony is vital, being able to assess another person's state of mind is crucial to preserving one's kibun. Nunchi is performed by looking at body language and listening to the tone of voice and what is being said.
- In South Korea, names work the opposite of western cultures; Surname (last name), a middle surname shared by this whole generation, and finally your first name.
- It is considered very rude to address a Korean by their first name. You should be addressed by your job title, or Mr., Mrs. etc., until otherwise authorized.
Meet and Greet
- Bowing is the traditional form of greeting in South Korea.
- Shaking hands often accompanies bows between men.
- When shaking hands, the left hand should support the right forearm.
- Korean women don't always shake hands and wave slightly instead of a full bow.
- Always bow to people when you leave.
- Communication can be difficult in South Korea due to an innate dislike of saying “no” as it is considered bad etiquette.
- Discussions can drag on because you avoid refusing or declining
- When concern is expressed verbally or visually, it is a sure sign that something is wrong.
- Good posture and positive body language are very beneficial in meetings; Patience and courtesy must be maintained throughout
- Do not use excessive or overt body language.
- Use both hands or hold your right arm with your left when passing business cards, gifts, or receiving an item.
- Respect, trust and contentment are shown by a deeper bow.
- It's an insult for Koreans to be touched by someone they don't know; don't pat them on the back or hug them
- Direct and prolonged eye contact can be interpreted as a challenge and is considered bad behavior, especially when dealing with people of higher social status.
- keep your body in your own personal space; Avoid straight or crossed legs and limit arm movements when explaining to avoid personal space of others
- When calling someone to you, instead of pointing your index finger, use your palm in a downward rasping motion.
- In cities (particularly in Seoul), jostling, shoving and petting is commonplace. Don't be offended by the lack of an apology.
- Friends of both sexes often walk hand in hand, especially teenagers and the younger generation.
present the delivery note
- Koreans are generous people and love to give gifts.
- Accept the gift with both hands, but never open the gift right away, wait for the giver to leave.
- Return the favor and offer something of similar value. Koreans like Western gifts and objects, so prepare before you leave home.
- When giving gifts, make sure to wrap and present them appropriately. Avoid dark wrapping paper, especially red, choose bright yellow/green
- When invited to a Korean home, always bring a gift for the hostess; Chocolates, sweets, cakes or flowers, but preferably without alcohol
- Gifts are usually presented at the first business meeting and the host must present the first. In return, give quality alcohol such as whiskey or crockery.
- Do not give very expensive gifts as Koreans feel obligated to give what they receive.
- Avoid gifts such as knives, scissors, sets of four, and red writing (these are considered “tie-cuts” or death marks)
meals and food
- Always wait to be seated by your host. When given the place of honor (facing the front door), it's polite to show a slight objection.
- Seniors are served first and start with dinner.
- Food and meals are an important part of Korean culture and are used to build relationships. Be sociable and work to build good partnerships for leisure and business as they are connected.
- Do not serve your own drink, although it is considered polite to serve someone else's. Women generally care about men but not other women. Instead of refusing more drinks (remember Koreans don't like refusing completely), just leave your glass half full instead of empty.
- Do not tip if you see a "No Tip" sign
- There are often long periods of silence during Korean meals - socializing can take place after everyone has eaten.
- Don't forget to grab the food with both hands, or just your right hand if you're supported with your left.
- When it comes time to pay the bill, the guest may offer to pay, but the host usually pays for everyone.
- If you are invited to continue after dinner with drinks or a party, do not decline the invitation.
- He is occasionally asked to sing a solo after dinner. Try not to refuse this request, but sing with enthusiasm and spirit.
- Do not straighten chopsticks or stick them out of the bowl.
- Korea's national drink is'soju', a clear drink similar to vodka, usually containing between 18 and 25% alcohol
visit to a house
- Always remove your shoes before entering a Korean home (Western culture has taken off in recent years, and it's not always the case - follow your host's instructions if you're unsure).
- It is possible to be up to 30 minutes late without getting angry, but punctuality is highly respected.
- Remember never to pour your own drink. The host will do this in your presence.
- Being invited into a Korean's home is considered an honor (especially when it comes to a meal), so it's important to treat it as such. Be polite, respectful and respect their customs.
- Bring a gift to repay your host's kindness
- Once the party is over, the host will usually escort you to your car or out the door. that's a sign of respect
Taboos in South Korean culture
- Do not wear shoes in places of worship or at home.
- Don't put your feet on the furniture
- Do not eat or drink in public places while walking
- Don't put your thumb between your middle and index fingers when making a fist, as this is an obscene gesture.
- Do not use red ink. This is a symbol of death and reserved only for the names of the deceased.
- It is considered unlucky and suggests that you wish the recipient dead.
- If possible, avoid using the number four; When giving gifts, don't give four of something.
- It is considered unfortunate due to the similarity between the Korean word for death and the pronunciation of the word "four".
- Don't get too close to people you're meeting for the first time: keep them at arm's length.
Offerings to ancestors before the opening of a new complex. South Korea combines business and spirituality perfectly.
Photo ofUSAG-Humphreysno flickr (CC BY 2.0)
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If you are considering doing business in South Korea or with a South Korean, it is important to understand their culture and business etiquette in order to maximize your potential and avoid unnecessary inconvenience.
- Korean culture isheavily influenced by Confucian principlesand this permeates not only personal life but also business.
- supported ConfucianismGroup harmony, respect for elders and authority, importance of family, friendship and ancestors, and tradition.
- Kibun(equivalent to face or honor) is very important to Koreans and they will always try to preserve their kibun or personal dignity.comparisonit must be avoided at all costs as the kibun, once lost, cannot be recovered.
- In South Korea, good relationships are critical to personal and business success, and these are built into the business world.Koreans make friends first and clients later.To get the most out of your business acumen, you must also appear trustworthy, honorable, and respectable in a social and business setting.
- Korean business is built on relationships; Even large companies are often run by families, whose members still hold senior positions. Confucian principles regarding respect for age, family, rank and tradition ensured the continuity of this system. Recently, due to the economic downturn in Korea, there have been calls for reform, but this will take time due to the deadlocked systems.
- In addition to the formal power structures within a company, it is important to recognize and appreciate the informal structures that can be based on family ties, personal relationships and long-term loyalties. Understanding these practices will ensure a better understanding of Korean business etiquette.
What to wear?
- The dress is conventional and conservative for both women and men.
- Dark suits, white shirts and ties are accepted as the norm for men.
- Suits, dresses or blouses and skirts for women are recognized. Pants are not generally worn in business.
- Women should avoid tight, sleeveless clothing.
- Colors should be restrained and traditional.
- High quality accessories are accepted.
- Please note that winters in South Korea can be very cold and summers can be very hot
Use of Titles
- As mentioned above, Koreans have three names; They are used in the order of last name, generation name, then first name.
- If you are not sure, address people by Mr_____ (last name) or last name ______ and then the title (professor, professor, etc.)
- Generally, Koreans offer their name, which can be a westernized version of their Korean name.
- Business cards are considered important and ritualistic in Korea.
- It is recommended to print one side in English and the other side in Korean.
- Deal and receive cards with both hands, Korean side up for easy reading
- Take the time to read and examine the cards you receive - it's respectful
- Place cards in a holder to keep them safe and show you treat them well.
- Never write or mark the cards you receive.
- Organize your meeting in advance by registering in advance
- Come on time and be prepared
- The highest-ranking Korean enters and gets first place.
- Because Koreans live and do business in a Confucian framework, kickoff meetings are often used as an introductory session, and business can be picked up later.
- At this point, don't show impatience as these games are a way to get to know him.
- Only take off your jacket when the older Korean does it.
- Select delegates who are on par with their Korean counterparts; it shows respect and knowledge.
- After the first introduction, exchange business cards respectfully
- Ask open-ended questions that don't require a yes or no answer, since Koreans don't like nos.
- Let the high-ranking Korean stimulate business talks
- Formulate questions so that discussions are possible (question “When can we expect delivery?” not “Delivery in two weeks?”)
- Avoid using a resounding “no” in answer to questions
- Be aware of the kibun of others: do not force a problem if you feel reluctance, as it may offend your own dignity and lose respect.
- Always show respect to senior colleagues and management.
- During meetings there are often moments of silence, try not to break them as these are moments of contemplation and consideration for others.
- Avoid a hard sell and forced negotiation: think kibun
- Korean business and personal life is based on strict hierarchical structures.
- Confucianism supports this structure in the family and in the workplace.
- Senior and senior delegates must be delegated at all times
- 'sonsaengnim'means "distinguished person" and is often used when addressing someone in a higher position
- In South Korea, managers take a paternalistic role towards employees and may know them personally.
- This allows for mutual respect and understanding, so don't be put off by asking questions of a personal nature.
- For more specific management information, seeAs a manager in South Korea
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Below are some of our blogs about South Korea:
1.How different are the cultures of North Korea and South Korea?
2.Killing his family: Why Kim Jung's cultural taboo could mean the end of North Korea
3.10 Very Interesting Facts About South Korean Culture
4.4 Korean Business Etiquette You Really Need to Know
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These traditions include the ethical code of conduct in social life and showing respect to the elders and family. Koreans also believe in sincerity and loyalty and follow certain codes of conduct while meeting, eating, praying and even celebrating. At times when many other cultures would shake hands, Koreans bow.What are the 3 main values that South Koreans value? ›
Diligent and hard work, filial piety, and humbleness are characteristics respected by Koreans.What is the language culture of South Korea? ›
Language in South Korea
The South Korean official language is, of course, Korean. It is also the language of South Korea's northern neighbor, North Korea, with which technically it is still on a war footing, an oddity that has been in force since the end of the Korean War and partitions back in the 1950s.
Koreans share one language, with approximately 75 million people around the globe speaking Korean. The language structure, grammar, and vocabulary are similar to Japanese. Korea has one of the highest literacy rates in the world due to the phonetic nature of the written language called Hangul.What are the five elements in Korean culture? ›
The Five Elements
The “Five Phases” are Wood(木), Fire(火), Earth(土), Metal(金), and Water(水). This order of presentation is known as the “mutual generation”(相生) sequence.
Respect for age and status are very important in Korean culture, with hierarchy affecting all aspects of social interactions. Everyone has a role in society as a result of hierarchy - therefore it is vital to respect it. Koreans are most comfortable interacting with someone they consider their equal.Is Korean culture strict? ›
South Korea is a land of strict Confucian hierarchy and etiquette is important. In respect much can be said on the differences on how to conduct oneself as a male South Korean and a female South Korean. The bow is the traditional Korean greeting, although it is often accompanied by a handshake among men.What is the most important thing in South Korea? ›
South Korea is famous for being the land of kimchi, K-pop, K-dramas, tech giant Samsung, automotive manufacturer Hyundai, soju, Korean fried chicken, Korean barbecue, the 12-step skincare routine, and of course, Gangnam Style. But there's so much more to this East Asian tiger than the trends it has given birth to.What things are disrespectful in South Korea? ›
- Sitting in elderly seats in subways. ...
- Sticking your chopsticks in your rice. ...
- Refusing a soju shot with an ahjussi/ahjumma. ...
- Facing an elder whilst doing a shot. ...
- Writing names in red ink. ...
- Blowing your nose at the dinner table. ...
- Receiving with one hand.
The brushing method recommended to general persons in Korea is the 3-3-3 brushing method campaign, which involves only toothbrushing behavior (the time and frequency); 3-3-3 means brushing one's teeth 3 times per day, within 3 minutes after having a meal, for at least 3 minutes each time.
Since the 21st century, South Korea has been renowned for its globally influential pop culture, particularly in music (K-pop), TV dramas (K-dramas) and cinema, a phenomenon referred to as the Korean wave.What are the 3 main languages spoken in South Korea? ›
South Korea has one official language: Korean, although Japanese, English and Mandarin are widely spoken and understood.What are the top 5 languages spoken in South Korea? ›
There is one official language spoken in South Korea, with five different dialects. Seoul dialect is the standard version that is used in speeches and used on news reports. Some other commonly spoken languages in South Korea are English, Japanese, Chinese, and Russian.What is Korean first language? ›
Korean (South Korean: 한국어, hangugeo; North Korean: 조선말, chosŏnmal) is the native language for about 80 million people, mostly of Korean descent.Is it rude to cross your legs in Korea? ›
Do not cross your legs or stretch your legs out straight in front of you. Keep your feet on the floor, never on a desk or chair. Always pass and receive objects with your right hand (supported by the left hand at the wrist or forearm) or with two hands.What should I be careful of in Korea? ›
Avoid large public gatherings. Avoid large public gatherings and take extra care in any crowded space. The crime rate in South Korea is low. However, petty crime happens, especially in major cities such as Seoul and Busan.Is it rude to tip in Korea? ›
Tipping in bars and restaurants is not expected in South Korea, unlike in most countries in Europe and in the United States. The general rule is the service should be exceptional at all times, and with no expectation of extra pay. Tipping in South Korea can be considered rude and frowned upon.What are Korean family values? ›
Some traditional Korean values and customs established under Confucianism include: authority of fathers, wives' obedience to husbands, children's obedience to parents, filial piety submission of self to family, submission to civil authorities, and high expectations in education (Lehrer, 1996).What colors are important in Korean culture? ›
White, black, red, blue, and yellow are among the five colors of the Obangsaek or traditional Korean color spectrum. These five colors in Korean culture signify the five cardinal directions. They can be seen in Korean artwork, architecture, and cuisine, among other things.What are the main cultural influences on Korea provide 3 examples? ›
The spiritual ground and beliefs of Koreans are built mainly around the religions of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Of these, especially Confucianism has a long record of influence in Korea, and its political and social philosophies can still clearly be seen in today's Korea.
Koreans say “안녕하세요 [an nyeong ha seyo]?” while slightly bowing their head when they greet others. “안녕하세요?”is used interchangeably to say “Hi, hello, good morning/afternoon/evening”. You can simply say “안녕?” when you are greeting your friends or a person younger than you.How do you greet and gesture in South Korea? ›
The most common way to greet people in South Korea is with a bow. The casual bow is a dip of the head with eyes closed, sometimes accompanied by a slight bend from the waist. This type of greeting is used when informally greeting someone or walking past someone of a higher status.Why do Koreans remove their shoes? ›
As Koreans used floor to eat, sleep, and spend general leisure time, it became customary to take off shoes indoors to maintain the floor nice and clean. Even nowadays, many people spread blankets on the floor to sleep on.Is Korean a respectful language? ›
In Korean culture, respect is given high importance in everyday life. This is evident in the Korean language. Koreans use honorific language to communicate respect between the speaker and the subject/listener.What are 5 facts about South Korea? ›
- OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Korea.
- FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Republic.
- CAPITAL: Seoul.
- POPULATION: 51,418,097.
- OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Korean.
- MONEY: Won.
- AREA: 37,901 sq mi (98,190 sq km)
- MAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGES: Taebaek Mountains, Sobaek Mountains.
The most well-known are kimchi (fermented cabbage), ganjang (soy sauce), doenjang (soybean paste), and gochujang (Korean chili paste). Popular dishes among international visitors include bulgogi, bibimbap, and hanjeongsik (Korean table d'hote). Bulgogi is a marinated beef dish that is sweet and tender in texture.How do Koreans apologize? ›
How do you apologize in Korean? Well, there are two main ways to say “I'm sorry” in Korean: 죄송합니다, joesonghamnida, and 미안해요, mianhaeyo.What is the most popular tradition in Korea? ›
The most famous festivals in Korea are Bonfire Festival, Wangin Culture Festival, Chuseok- Harvest moon festival and Busan One Asia Festival. Name the tribal festivals in Korea. Samjinnal, Hansik, Dano, Yudu, and Sambok are the popular tribal festivals in Korea.What are the unique traditions in Korea? ›
Doljabi. In this Korean ritual, when a child turns one year old, he or she is placed in front of a table of objects and encouraged to choose one. It is believed that the object selected will foretell the child's future.Why is the Korean language so unique? ›
Unlike English, which has a relatively simple system of consonants, Korean has a much more complex one. There are 19 different consonants in Korean, each with its own unique sound. What's more, these consonants can be combined to form even more complex sounds.
Teeth whitening is widely used in Korea from whitening toothpastes to treatments at home or the dentist's office.What are some Korean habits? ›
- Bowing is the traditional way to greet in South Korea.
- Handshakes often accompany the bow among men.
- Your left hand should support your right forearm when shaking hands.
- Korean women do not always shake hands and may slightly nod instead of a full bow.
- Always bow to individuals when departing.
Koreans keep their oral care sets (toothpaste, toothbrush and mouthwash) and religiously brush their teeth after a cup of coffee, snack, and lunch break. It's very common to see a line of people waiting to brush their teeth at bathrooms in Korean offices.Is Korea a friendly country? ›
South Koreans are extremely friendly, and this friendliness comes from their pride in their heritage. If you're trying to find the best time of year to travel to South Korea, avoid typhoon season, which runs from June to November.What makes South Korea so popular? ›
As the popularity of K-pop songs such as "Gangnam Style", "Dynamite", "Butter" and "Money", and K-dramas such as Descendants of the Sun, Vincenzo, Squid Game and Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha accomplished international success, South Korea has become recognized as a hub of both economic and soft power.What is considered most disrespectful in Korean culture? ›
Touching, patting, or back slapping is to be avoided during interactions. In addition, direct eye contact between juniors and seniors should be avoided because it is seen as impolite or even a challenge. Korea is one of the most demographically homogeneous countries in the world, racially and linguistically.How to be polite in South Korea? ›
- Meeting Someone: Bow when you meet someone.
- Gift Giving: When you do offer or accept an object, gift, or food, you should do so with two hands whether you are receiving or offering.
- Showing Respect indoors: Take off your shoes and your hat in places of worship or someone's house.
The Korean suffix 님 (nim) is a high-level honorific used to show respect to someone. This suffix is used with people's names and titles.How do you pay respect in Korean? ›
The bow is the traditional Korean greeting, though often accompanied by a handshake among men. To show respect when shaking hands, men put their left hand in the crook of their right arm. Women usually slightly nod as a sign of greeting.