Korean proverbs for everyday use

Since ancient times, the Koreans have held their ancestors and teachers in high-esteem and have been taught to live by the wise words of those that came before them. Before traveling to Korea on business, take a look at this selection of Korean proverbs and score bonus points with your friendly Korean business partners by putting them to use in the real world!


Don't drink the Kimchi soup first!

Proverb: 김치국부터 마시지 말라

Pronunciation: Kimchi-guk-buteo ma-si-ji mal-ra

Situation: This saying can be used when someone is getting a little bit ahead of him or herself when making plans for the future.


Writing chinese characters in front of Confucius

Proverb: 공자 앞에서 문자 쓴다

Pronunciation: Gong-ja app-eh-seo mun-ja sseun-da

Situation: This proverb applies to a situation in which someone attempts to teach an expert his or her own area of expertise.


Even monkeys fall from trees!

Proverb: 원숭이도 나무에서 떨어진다

Pronunciation: Weon-sungi-do namu-eh-seo ddeoleo-jinda

Situation: This proverb is the Korean equivalent of "nobody's perfect" – even the experts make mistakes on occasion!


Starting is half the task

Proverb: 시작이 반이다

Pronunciation: Shi-jaki bani-da

Situation: This saying can be used to remind your Korean business partners that a good start (e.g. to a project) is key.


Even if you are cornered by a tiger, if you keep your cool you can survive.

Proverb: 호랑이에게 물려가도 정신만 차리면 산다

Pronunciation: Horangi-egeh mool-ryeo-gado jeong-shin-man chari-myeon sanda

Situation: This adage serves to remind others that they can survive a sticky situation, but only if they remain calm.