Korean Language Blog

I accept! Posted by on Feb 9, 2009 in Culture, Korean Language

I haven’t really talked about Korean standards for accepting and declining, so here goes a post on this very important matter.  For one thing, accepting and declining an offer can be tricky for the newbies.  One rule you should always follow is the rule of humility and modesty.  It’s considered polite to refuse someone when they offer you food.  Refusing the offer shows that you don’t want to trouble the person who’s doing the offering.  To refuse an offer you can use the phrase, aniehyo, dessumnida (아니예요, 댔습니다) or anieyo kwenchansumnida (아니예요, 괜찮습니다).  Even if you’re hungry enough to chew your arm off, you still have to refuse.  Not only do you have to refuse, you have to refuse about twice.

From my personal experience, I’ve had some unpleasant moments trying to feel my way through the decline and acceptance rules.  One time, a friend’s mother asked me whether I wanted something to drink.  Of course I refused politely.  Deep down inside I wanted a drink, but because I refused very adamantly, she thought I really didn’t want the drink.  I just remember sitting there like a fool, sweating in the hot sun, while my two other friends are happily sipping a Coke.  The moral of the story is that you should refuse, but not so much that people take your refusal seriously.  You have to refuse just enough to be polite but not enough so that people really think you don’t want something.

There are also exceptions to the refusal and acceptance rule.  When you’re dealing with an elderly person, you should refuse only once and accept what the person is offering.  Refusing too much can mean that you’re challenging someone’s authority.  When you do accept, you have to answer with a ‘thank you’ or something equivalent.  You can use either kamsahamnida (감사합니다) or komapsumnida (고맙습니다) to say thank you.

It’s true that not being direct can have its downside.  Sometimes I want to be frank and say, “Yes, I would like something to drink” on the first try, but there’s also a benefit in being modest.  There are times when I don’t want to move an inch from where I’m sitting and when someone refuses twice, I just take that as a ‘no’.  I save face because I asked twice and I also get away with not doing anything without the risk of being rude.  It’s very convenient!  Ok everyone, now I’m gonna conveniently end this post as well!

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