12 In Korean Lessons/ Seoul Life 2011

REAL Useful phrases to know when traveling in Korea

I’m not a big fan of phrasebooks, especially those made by those publishers that have a whole series of them in various languages. Sure, they are convenient, well known, but also highly irrelevant and basically they are just the translations of the most common phrases from the perspective of English (for some of them at least).

Some books contain awkward phrases too. And the question is: how relevant are they? Are these ‘common phrases’ really used in everyday life?

These questions have been bugging me for a long time, so I’ve decided to come up with a list of phrases most commonly used (in real life) in the most common situations – based on personal experience in Korea ^^

The following list contains phrases of what the Koreans will say. I find that it’s harder for us to catch what they are saying compared to getting our meaning across since the following are such set phrases that they usually say it really fast.

I won’t be putting up romanisations, but I hope you will be finding it useful all the same! ^^ I’ll be compiling another list of how you should reply next time to prevent information overload.

At the restaurant

  • 몇분이세요? (how many people?)
  • 잠시만 기다리세요 (please wait for a moment)
  • 이쪽으로 안내 드리겠습니다 (please go this way – used when directing you to the seat)
  • 예약했어요? (have you made a reservation?)
  • 지금 자리 없는데요, XX분을 기다려야 하는데 괜찮으세요? (there are no seats right now, is it okay to wait for xx mins?)
  • 성함이 어떻게 되세요? (may I have your name?)
  • 자리가 나오시면 연락드리겠습니다 (we will contact you again when there are seats)
  • 주문 도와 드리겠습니다. (may I take your order?)
  • xxxx, 주문 맞으시죠? (xxx, is the order correct?)

At the casual food place

  • 뭐 드릴까요? (can i take your order?)

When paying

  • 결제 도와 드리겠습니다 (lit: I will assist you in payment – used when you are paying for something)
  • 포인트 카드 있으세요? (do you have any point card?)
  • 연수증 필요하세요? (do you need a receipt?)
  • 현금 연수증 필요하세요? (do you need a cash receipt?)
  • 서명 부탁드리겠습니다 (please sign)
  • 봉투에 담아 드릴까요? / 봉투 필요하세요? (should I put these in a bag for you? / do you need a bag?)


현금 연수증 is a something that we do not have in Singapore. I’m still not sure of its purpose but be rest assured that foreigners have no need for it. I once said 예 and the cashier ask me for my social security number. 😐

Point card. Every Korean has at least a dozen point cards. Or so it seems. I’ve always been asked if I have xxx point card or yyy point card almost anywhere I go. The most common one seems to be the Happy point card or the CJ card.


The translations are not direct translations of the phrases. If you look at them carefully, you will find that some of them are statements functioning as questions when translated to English. We tend to expect a direct translation of our native language and that is why we often do not understand how the natives speak.

During my first week here in Korea, I get really nervous when the Koreans start to rattle off these set phrases at top speed. My Korean is not bad, but I was just unaccustomed to these phrases. Anyone has similar experiences?

All those phrases are not really found in the typical phrasebooks right? ^^ But trust me, they are used everywhere in Korea!

Let me know what you think about the list. And suggestions / feedback is always welcomed!

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  • Reply
    7 December, 2011 at 9:30 AM

    Thanks so much for compiling these useful phrases! They will really help me understand what’s going on.

    In college I spent a couple of semesters at a university in Germany and even though I had been studying German back in the U.S., I was amazed by how rapidly Germans would rattle off certain phrases, seemingly catching me with a “deer in the headlights” look on my face for the first couple of weeks.

    Hope you’re keeping warm!

    • Reply
      7 December, 2011 at 1:17 PM

      thanks courtney! glad they are useful 😀

      deer in the headlights is such an apt phrase. i get stunned when they start rattling those set phrases and everything sounds like a whole long word all muffled together. D:

      yeah i have a nice thick jacket to last me through winter! getting better in the cold nowadays ^^ hope u are good too!

  • Reply
    7 December, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    Very useful. I remember a lot of staring and blinking when I first heard these statements (or something that sounded like them). Do you have a list of possible questions you could ask in a restaurant too?

    • Reply
      9 December, 2011 at 11:28 AM

      will make that the next list! ^^

  • Reply
    Debbie Wong (@debklw)
    7 December, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Thank you very much for the list! It is really very useful. I’ve encountered the same thing when I was in Seoul especially when they asked me for the 포인트 카드…hahaha!
    As with Conor above, can you include in your next list, how to ask the restaurant if they provide take-away or not? Thanks in advance!

    Have a warm & merry X’mas in Seoul!!!

    • Reply
      9 December, 2011 at 11:27 AM

      definitely. to your question: 포장되나요? ^^

  • Reply
    Lucie Dvorakova
    7 December, 2011 at 8:00 PM

    😀 Those phrases are useful.
    Speaking of phrasebooks, yesterday I walked into a bookshop in Prague and saw a grammar and a conversation/phrasebook for Korean. Decided to pick up the conversation/phrasebook and opened it on a random page. The first sentence I saw was “Do you have a condom?”. I face-palmed, shut the book and left the bookstore.

    • Reply
      9 December, 2011 at 11:26 AM

      wahaha! i know there’s this korean phrasebook called ‘how to make out in korean’. the funny thing is that it’s not part of a series and it’s only in Korean LOLOL.

  • Reply
    7 December, 2011 at 11:54 PM

    This post. This post is gold. Can’t wait to see others if you decide to do more!

  • Reply
    8 December, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    “예약했어요”– isn’t this usually 예약하셨어요?

    • Reply
      9 December, 2011 at 11:25 AM

      ahhh~ yeah ^^ thanks for pointing that out

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