15 Survival Korean Phrases to Fake it like a Local

So, when I first jet-setted to Seoul 5 years ago, to say that I barely knew any Korean would be a gross understatement; I didn’t even know how to read hangul (and I still don’t, much of the Korean phrases typed in here were kindly translated by my fiancée) nor the basic phrases. Just nothing, really.

Seeing how pathetic it was for me to get around Seoul, the girlfriend typed in a few Korean phrases on my iPhone and I would just flash the note to the barista and point to the relevant phrase. Quite amusing, indeed.

Here’s the Korean Alphabet for your perusal.


Image credits from tumblr.

1.  안녕하세요 + 감사합니다 (Ahn-nyeong-Ha-sae-yo + Kam-sa-ham-ni-da)

Hello + Thank you.

I literally went into Korea without even knowing how to say hello, so there. Don’t judge. >.<

2. 아메리카노 한 잔 주세요. (Americano Han-jaan-ju-se-yo)

Please give me a cup of Americano.

Feel free to substitute Americano with any preferred beverage. Just remember to pronounce the lattes as RATTE and mint as MINT EU.

3. 진하게 만들어 주세요. (Jin-ha-geh-Man-deu-roh-Ju-seh-yo)

Please make my drink stronger.

Some cafes tend to make their drinks a little too diluted for my taste. So, if you like your coffee strong or have more flavor, ask for it, it’s free. ^^

4. 민트 많이 넣어 주세요. (Mint-Ma-ni-Noh-oh-Ju-seh-yo)

Please add lots of mint.

Again, you can substitute the word mint for chocolate, sugar, milk, cinnamon, whatever.

5. 화장실 어디 있어요? (Hwa-jang-shil Or-di Yi-Suh-yo?)

Where is the bathroom?

You can also substitute the word “bathroom” with anywhere you’re trying to get to. Saying the english words in choppy, Japanese-y ways helps.

6. 깍아주세요. (Kka-Ka-Ju-Seh-yo)

Please make it cheaper.

Self explanatory. A must-learn phrase for the bargain hunter.

7. 서비스 많이 주세요 (Service Ma-Ni-Ju-Seh-yo)

Please give loads of freebies. ^^

I think this one’s for my Korean shopping crazed aunties and friends.

8. 반찬 리필 해 주세요. (Ban-chan- Refill- Hae-Ju-seh-yo)

Please refill the side dishes!

I really love Korea, the land of the unlimited side dishes and warm hospitality. How these restaurant owners earn any money is beyond me, but I’m not complaining! ^^

9. 봉투 하나 주세요. (Bong-too- Hana- Ju-Seh-Yo)

Please give me a shopping bag/ carrier.

Sometimes, you gotta ask for these because the Koreans assume you can carry some stuff in your bag or something. Or, if you need an extra bag, you can get one but sometimes they cost 20~100won, especially at HomePlus or E-Mart. Just FYI, the paper ones are cheaper compared to the plastic ones.

10. 죄송합니다. (Jweh-Song-ham-ni-da)

I’m sorry (formal)

Bumped into someone accidentally? Use this phrase!

11. 한국사람 아니예요. (Han-guk-Sa-ram ah-ni-yeh-yo)

I’m not Korean.

Being Asian somehow makes Koreans mistake me for one of their own quite easily even though I think we all look quite different from East Asians. Ah well. Useful phrase to clear up misunderstandings. ^^

12. 몰라요. (Moo-lah-yo)

I don’t know.

Best phrase to use to get out of sticky situations! LOL on the Moolah. IKR?

13. 잠깐만요. (Cham-Kkan-Man-yo)

Wait a minute / Excuse me (Used when trying to alight from the subway)

Again, another super commonly used phrase that you hear everywhere.

14. 없어요. (Ob-suh-yo)

I don’t have (it).

Sometimes, random people will come up to us and ask for stuff…? I don’t know. In the end, I just keep hearing my girlfriend repeating this, so I guess it’s also useful. ^^;

15. 총전 해주세요. (Choong-Jeon Hae-ju-seh-yo)

Please recharge (my card/cellphone/cellphone credit).

By the way, did you know you can top up your T-money card and prepaid cell phone credit at any convenience stores like GS25, Family Mart? This phrase is short and sweet, and super useful.

In case all else fails, use the universally known as the HEY I’M A FOREIGNER hand sign, form an X with your hands! ^^ Works like a charm. ^^

Are there any more useful phrases you think we should add in? Please let us know! ^^