3 Ways to Make a Good Impression at Your Korean Internship

A group of happy students working in Korea

3 Ways to Make a Good Impression at Your Korean Internship

Looking forward to your Korean internship?

We totally get it – Korean internships are all the buzz right now, and with good reason, too! Internships alone are a great learning experience for students. You get to learn more about the career you’re planning for, as well as get some hands-on experience, and get to know people in the industry. Taking up an internship abroad can make the experience even more enriching.

While taking an internship abroad, not only do you get the chance to immerse yourself in a work environment that’s close to the career you’re dreaming of, but you also get to experience life in a totally different culture. You get to practice your independence, solve your own problems, and learn more about the world around you.

So you must be asking yourself… of all the places, why South Korea?

Why pursue a Korean internship

If you’re wondering why you should take an internship in South Korea, there’s really plenty of good reason to. One of those reasons is that South Korea was actually named as the second most innovative economy in the world. In addition to that, its capital city of Seoul is also home to over 2 million foreigners – as of June 2022, foreigners consisted of 3.4% of South Korea’s population. This means that not only are there are a ton of great job and internship opportunities, but there are also a lot of people that you can connect with who are adjusting to the culture!

Seoul, the South Korean capital, is also known for its lively nightlife and rich culture. Most opportunities will be found here, as well! So aside from diving in head-first and getting experience from your internship, you’ll also be able to get to know more about the people and their lives. There are a ton of ways to enjoy this bustling city! It’s all up to you to find ways to do so.

Make a good impression on your Korean internship

If you’re worried about making a good impression during your Korean internship, don’t sweat it. Most locals are truly understanding of the fact that foreigners have a hard time adjusting to their culture. However, if you do want to live like a local or just want to level up your communication skills, then it’s best to understand and prepare!

To make a good impression during your Korean internship, here are a few things that you should keep in mind:

Learn to speak some Korean

Of course, as it is when moving to any foreign country, you’ll want to brush up on the local language. This will help you communicate with better ease with the locals, or simply find your way around the city!

Now, nobody expects you to become fluent immediately (or at all, honestly), but just showing that you’re making an effort can help people respect you more. Your peers might even teach you some Korean, too, if they see that you’re interested in it! Don’t worry if you aren’t good at speaking or writing it – all of it comes with practice as you use it in real life situations.

If you’re looking to learn Korean, there are quite a few resources online, especially on platforms like YouTube and TikTok. You can even download language-learning apps like Duolingo to get practice before and during your trip! If you would really like to, you can even get a book of your own, or a tutor that will help you speak better Korean. There are tons of ways that you can learn and practice!

Get familiar with dining etiquette

One of the biggest deals in Korean culture is meal time: typically, families sit down and eat together; but now, colleagues in office settings also typically go out to eat together. Koreans also love going out to eat with their friends, exploring new food, and trying out different cuisines. Meal time is a very important time for Koreans!

As an intern, you can expect to be invited to lunches or dinners, especially after office hours and on weekends. To make a good impression, you should show some interest in getting to know the food that’s set in front of you on the table! Koreans often eat banchan, or side dishes, with their meals. So aside from a main dish that will likely be a meat or protein, you can also expect to have dishes like kimchi, fish cake, marinated radish, and more on the side. So don’t be scared to try something you haven’t before! You can do your research beforehand, but you can also ask your companions – that’s sure to show them that you’re keen on learning about their culture.

Aside from getting to know the dishes, you should also be aware that like many East Asian countries, Koreans also favor the use of chopsticks. Typically, chopsticks are used to pick up dishes, like a meat or the banchan dishes; while spoons are used to scoop up rice. If you haven’t quite mastered the use of chopsticks yet, it would be good to practice beforehand! This is a polite way to respect eating norms.

Additionally, drinking is also a big part of Korean dining culture. Korean legal drinking age is actually at the age of 19 — but you don’t have to partake, especially if you aren’t comfortable.

Be respectful

Lastly, this might be a given, but be respectful!

Age hierarchies are a big deal in South Korea, so it would do you well to remember proper terms and etiquette regarding age differences. If you’re a female, an older female would be your unnie, and an older male would be your oppa. But if you’re a male, an older female would be your noona, and an older male would be your hyung. Regardless of gender, any younger male would be your namdongsaeng, and a younger female would be your yeodongsaeng.

Understanding that Koreans place high importance on these hierarchies will help you understand certain cultural norms and ways of communication, even if these aren’t required of you to use.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask questions! You might feel like it could be a pain, but it isn’t. Asking questions impresses your peers as they see your eagerness to learn.

Enjoy your time in Seoul

When pursuing a Korean internship, it can feel intimidating at first. It can be overwhelming to be in a totally new part of the world, adjusting to a whole new culture! But once you’ve found your footing, there’s much to enjoy in the city of Seoul and across the whole country.

Whether you want to go on museum trips, shopping sprees, or enjoy a night out, Seoul has something for everyone to enjoy. Don’t forget to soak up the culture while you’re there! A Korean internship isn’t just about working – it’s about enjoying, too.

(Pro tip: Seoul is actually known for its amazing cafes, which you shouldn’t miss while you’re in the city!)

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