“Do You Tip in Korean Hotels? The Hilarious Dilemma of Who to ‘Kimchi’ Your Gratuity To!”

By John Goldsmith •  Updated: 11/03/23 •  4 min read

Do You Tip in Korean Hotels? The Hilarious Dilemma of Who to ‘Kimchi’ Your Gratuity To!

In today’s globalized world, understanding and respecting cultural differences is more important than ever. One aspect of cultural etiquette that can often cause confusion for travelers is tipping. Each country has its own unique tipping customs, and it is crucial to familiarize oneself with these practices before embarking on a trip. In this blog post, we will explore the dilemma of tipping in Korean hotels and shed light on the amusing situations that can arise when trying to determine who to “Kimchi” your gratuity to!

Tipping Culture in Korea

Korean cultural norms regarding tipping differ significantly from those in Western countries. Unlike in many Western countries where tipping is customary, tipping in Korea is not an ingrained practice. In fact, leaving a tip may even be frowned upon or viewed as rude by some Koreans.

Several factors influence the absence or minimalism of a tipping culture in Korea. Firstly, it stems from the fundamental values of Korean society, such as humility and modesty. Koreans believe that employees are paid a fair wage for their services and do not require additional monetary rewards.

Another significant factor contributing to the absence of a widespread tipping culture is Korea’s strong sense of collectivism rather than individualism. In Korean society, people often rely on each other for support and cooperation without expecting any additional compensation beyond their regular salaries.

Tipping Practices in Korean Hotels

When it comes to tipping practices within the context of Korean hotels, there are few established norms that travelers should be aware of. While some international chain hotels may adopt Western-style tipping practices due to their global clientele base, it is important to note that these practices are not inherent to Korean culture.

On the other hand, local accommodations such as guesthouses or traditional hanok stays typically do not expect tips from guests since they operate under different financial structures and cultural expectations. Instead, guests are encouraged to express their appreciation in other ways.

The Confusion Surrounding Tipping Hotel Staff

One of the most perplexing aspects of tipping in Korean hotels is determining who to tip and when. Common misconceptions about tipping may lead travelers to awkward situations or unintentionally offend hotel staff.

In general, it is not customary or expected to tip hotel staff in Korea. However, some tourists may feel inclined to tip due to their own cultural backgrounds or previous travel experiences. The lack of clarity around this issue can result in humorous scenarios where both guests and staff find themselves uncertain about the appropriate course of action.

Alternatives to Monetary Tips

Since monetary tips are not a common practice in Korean hotels, there are various non-monetary ways to show appreciation for exceptional service from hotel staff. These alternatives can range from leaving positive reviews online or personally expressing gratitude through a thank-you note.

Additionally, guests can get creative with ways to ‘Kimchi’ their gratitude. Some ideas include bringing small souvenirs from their home country as gifts for hotel staff or even teaching them a few phrases in their native language as a token of appreciation.

Challenges Faced by Hotel Staff due to Lack of Tipping Culture

The absence of a tipping culture can pose challenges for hotel staff who work tirelessly to provide excellent service. Without the prospect of additional gratuities, employees may feel demotivated, leading to decreased service quality over time.

Hotels have devised various strategies to compensate for the lack of tips and maintain high levels of motivation among their employees. For instance, some hotels offer performance-based bonuses or provide opportunities for career advancement within the industry.

Tactics for Showing Appreciation without Offending Cultural Norms

While it is important to express gratitude for outstanding service, it is equally crucial to respect cultural norms and avoid inadvertently offending locals. Travelers should adhere to guidelines that allow them to show appreciation without resorting to direct monetary tips.

One approach is to acknowledge good service by writing a heartfelt thank-you note or leaving a positive review on travel websites. It also helps to maintain respect for Korean culture by taking the time to learn and use basic Korean phrases and greetings during interactions with hotel staff.


Understanding tipping etiquette in different countries is essential for any traveler. In the case of Korean hotels, tipping is not an expected practice, and there are cultural reasons behind this absence. While travelers may feel inclined to tip due to their own customs, it is important to respect the local culture and find alternative ways to express gratitude. By being aware of cultural expectations and showing appreciation without offending, travelers can navigate the hilarious dilemma of tipping in Korean hotels with ease.

John Goldsmith