Survival Korean – Essential Parts of the Language

Do you know survival Korean? Imagine this.

The day has finally come for your South Korea trip. Everything is planned out, but could there still be something missing before the puzzle is complete?

Oh no, how do you plan to communicate with the locals once you arrive?

A girl with a back pack holding a map

Not to worry, we’ve got you covered! We’re going to give you the essential parts of the Korean language so you can comfortably communicate and understand Korean.

Learn this basic survival Korean, and you will love your trip to Korea even more!

Want a free PDF version of this guide to take with you on the go? Grab your download here:

You may wonder, “will Koreans talk to me in Korean?“. Learn the phrases and Korean words below, and you’ll be able to speak Korean for your next trip out here. It’s good and helpful to learn Korean before your visit or stay in Korea. If you’re already living in Korea, learning Korean will be a great advantage for you and help you understand Korean culture.

Survival Korean Phrases

When traveling or living in Korea, it is important to know essential words and phrases of the Korean language, such as their common greetings and courtesies. It’s equally important to know Korean culture. This will greatly help you have an easy and comfortable stay in Korea. It’ll be helpful when you communicate with and talk to native Koreans.

These are the survival Korean phrases and questions that you’re going to want to learn first. We’ve given them to you in Korean and romanized English to help you read the sentence and phrases if you can’t read Hangeul yet. To hear the audio, click the text with the yellow speaker icon.

For a complete list of Korean phrases, go here:

Use the phrases and Korean words in the lessons below for your next trip to South Korea instead of the phrases you’d find in a guidebook.

Common Greetings

In this section, you’ll learn the essential and common greetings you’ll hear and use when traveling or living in Korea. These basic Korean phrases are a good addition to your Korean language learning. We’ve written the words and Korean phrases in Hangul to help you learn the correct Korean pronunciation.

Hello 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo)

There are a few ways to say “hello” in Korean, but this is the best one to use. It’s by far the most common and can be used in all situations. It’s the first survival Korean phrase you should learn if you’re visiting or living in Korea. It will help you sound and appear like a local. It’ll also help you sound friendly and polite to Koreans.

Goodbye (to the person leaving) 안녕히가세요 (annyeonghigaseyo)

This is a bit different than “goodbye” in English. The difference between these two survival Korean phrases is that the latter is said when the person you are saying goodbye to will stay in the place you are leaving. For example, if you are a group dinner and a friend is leaving, you would say 안녕히가세요 (annyeonghigaseyo).

Goodbye (to the person staying) 안녕히계세요 (annyeonghigyeseyo)

If you’re saying goodbye to a friend who is leaving, your friend would, in turn, say 안녕히계세요 (annyeonghigyeseyo).

If both of you are leaving the shared location at the same time, then both of you can say 안녕히가세요 (annyeonghigaseyo).

Nice to meet you만나서 반갑습니다 (mannaseo bangapseumnida)

This is the formal version of this survival Korean phrase and the one you are most likely to hear from people you meet in Korea.

Nice to meet you –

For a slightly less formal but still polite version, you can say. Feel free to use it with someone who is around your age.

Note that the Korean age is different from the international age. It’s not critical for learning the language, but age is a common question when you first meet Koreans. It may not be that critical, but learning Korean age can help you better understand the language and culture.

Thank you –  감사합니다 (gamsahamnida)

Unless you are close with the person, this is the main way to say “thank you”. You can also use the survival Korean phrase 고맙습니다 (gomapseumnida). They both mean the same thing and have the same level of formality and politeness. 

Common Korean Greetings For Friends

The phrases and sentences below are the usual greetings and responses you’ll use and hear when meeting friends in Korea. These sentences are in polite and standard form. If you’re traveling or living in Korea, it’s best for you to learn these greetings.

How are you? –

This is the formal version of the survival Korean question that uses Korean honorifics. You may also drop the honorifics and use 어떻게 지내요? (eotteoke jinaeyo?) if the person is closer to you or one of your friends.

What have you been doing these days? –

This survival Korean phrase is formal and is similar to “How are you?”. For the polite but less formal version of this phrase, you can use 뭐 하면서 지내요? (mwo hamyeonseo jinaeyo?) 

Are you doing well? –

For this survival Korean phrase, you can use the alternative of 지내요 (jinaeyo). The Korean verb 지내요 (jinaeyo) is quite common, so it’s handy when learning the language. 

I am doing good – 잘 지내요 (jal jinaeyo)

This is a useful survival Korean response. You wouldn’t use the Korean honorific form when talking about yourself. This phrase is the standard and polite version.

Common Courtesies

When traveling or living in Korea, you’ll, one way or another, be using these phrases. These will be helpful in getting around Korea.

Just a moment –  잠시만요 (jamsimanyo) / 잠깐만요 (jamkkanmanyo)

Both of these survival Korean phrases mean the same thing. 잠깐만요 (jamkkanmanyo) can also be used to get someone’s attention, such as in situations when you want to say “excuse me” to pass someone on the subway.

How do you say “just a moment” in Korean?

Please wait a moment

Please wait a moment (more polite)

This survival Korean phrase is very similar to the “just a moment” phrases above, but it has some additional formality. That is why they are longer.

Excuse me실례합니다 (sillyehamnida)

This survival Korean phrase is typically used when you either need to pass someone walking in front of you or inside the subway or if you need to catch someone’s attention to ask a question in public.

For getting the restaurant staff’s attention, you’d use or .

I’m sorry 죄송합니다 (joesonghamnida)

This is a handy survival Korean phrase. You may also hear the phrase 미안합니다 (mianhamnida), which also means sorry and has the same formality. You can use both essential phrases in situations where you need to apologize to older people or hold a higher position than you. 


If you can’t read Hangeul (the Korean Alphabet) yet, check out this step-by-step guide:

Basic Introductions

When traveling or living in Korea, it’s inevitable that there’ll be people you’ll meet. You must have some handy sentences you’ll use when getting and giving out information about yourself.

My name is John (standard) –

This survival Korean phrase is the standard and polite form of introducing yourself.

My name is John (formal)

This second survival Korean phrase for introducing oneself is more formal, but it is actually not used as the first option.

What is your name? –

This survival Korean phrase is used when meeting someone for the first time. It’s a phrase you’ll use when you want to get to know someone new.  Using the noun 성함이 (seonghami) is the honorific and polite version for “name”. You may also hear the word 이름이 (ireumi) used.

I am from America

This is one of the expat phrases overseas learners must learn when they visit Korea. This will help them with letting their Korean friends know where they’re from or which country they’re from.

I am a German

The first survival Korean phrase 저는 미국에서 왔어요 literally translates to “I came from X country,” whereas the second option translates to “I am from X country.” Either one is excellent to use. You can substitute your country in the blanks using this list of countries in Korean


Korean Phrases for Travel

Use these survival Korean phrases and questions to help you navigate around the cities in South Korea. These will be especially helpful when asking for and giving directions.

Asking For Directions

If you don’t have Korean friends, below are helpful expat phrases that you can use to ask for directions while you stay in Korea. We’ve also included essential grammar points and vocabulary so you can use them in many situations.

Where is the closest hospital? –

You can use different places in place of the blank word. The 이 (i) is a particle that is commonly used in the Korean language, but you can omit it if you’d like. It is optional and can make learning this phrase a bit simpler.

Where is the bathroom? –

This is a useful pattern for asking questions. You can substitute many different words into the blanks above. For example:

  • Bathroom – 화장실 (hwajangsil)
  • Subway station – 지하철역 (jihacheollyeok)
  • Bus stop – 버스정류장 (beoseujeongnyujang)
  • Movie theatre – 영화관 (yeonghwagwan)
  • Hospital – 병원 (byeongwon)

Giving Directions

Below are phrases that you can use to ask or give directions in the Korean language. If you’ll stay in Korea for quite some time, these phrases will come in handy.

Do you know where Apgujeong station is? –

Go Right –
Go Left –
Go Straight – 

Take me to the hospital –

Use this survival Korean when you take a taxi while you navigate the city. Speak slowly and repeat yourself if necessary. There are some different words for driving directions, but taxi drivers in Korea will understand you using the above phrases. 



Below is a list of common survival Korean phrases when visiting restaurants.

Please give me a menu –

In South Korea, typically, the menu is already available at the table or on the walls. Alternatively, the menu is brought to you as you sit down when you go to a restaurant. Sometimes there is an English menu, or the equivalent translations are written below each dish in English.

You may want to order some more after your first order. In those cases, you should ask for the menu separately.

Hold the whipped cream. –

If you have food allergies and such, it’s important to use this when ordering. Note that the word 빼 (ppae) has a strong pronunciation sound at the beginning, which doesn’t exist in English. 

Do you have wifi here? –
Do you have wifi here? (formal) –

Most restaurants, cafes, and main areas in Korea have free public wifi.

Please give me _____ _____ 주세요 (juseyo)

Whenever you are requesting something, you may want to add this to the sentence. You can substitute different words into the blank. Many words you may already know because they are derived from English words. That makes learning them easy; all you need is to get the pronunciation correct. 


This one –

If you don’t know the name of the item you want, you may point to it or touch it and use 이것 (igeot) to specify it.

How much is this? –

If you are shopping at markets or street shops, there are not always prices laid down on the items, and you will have to ask and haggle for them specifically. Knowing the Korean numbers will help. You can learn them here

Please give me a discount –

It is getting less and less prominent to haggle in Korea, but if you go to Namdaemun and Dongdaemun’s markets, you may still get lucky enough to get a discount.

Can I pay with a credit card? –

While most Koreans opt to use their cards when paying instead of cash, it is good, especially in tiny stores and restaurants, to double-check if that is a payment option.

Emergency Phrases

These are useful phrases to study for your trip to Korea. Although Korea is a safe country, it’s always good to be prepared for emergencies. It’s easy to

Please help!도와주세요! (dowajuseyo)

It’s an emergency –

Call the police –

Where is the nearest police station? –

I have a headache –

Please take me to the hospital-

I need a doctor –

Communication Trouble

If you’re having trouble understanding what a local is saying, here are some phrases that you can use to express that.

I don’t know

I don’t understand

I can’t speak Korean well –

Do you speak English? –

Do you speak English? (polite) –

Please speak slowly –

Please repeat that for me. –

Wrap Up

If you liked this and want to learn more Korean, then head over to our guide here:

We also have a structured online Korean language course that will teach you how to have a 3-minute conversation in the first 90 days.

Now that you have this survival Korean in your repertoire, you’re ready for your South Korean adventure! We hope you have an amazing trip.

What survival Korean would you like to know? Let us know in the comments below!

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