1. 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo) – Hello
The most basic thing you can say as a conversation starter is “hello.” Even if you don’t know how to strike up a full conversation with someone, it’s always useful to say hello when you’re entering a store or a restaurant.
2. 죄송합니다 (joe-song-ham-ni-da) – Sorry
Not used to the way things work in Korea? In a rush and accidentally bump into someone? You can never go wrong with a simple “I’m sorry” if you’re ever stuck in an unfavorable situation.
3. 주세요 (ju-se-yo) – Please/Please give me
When you’re asking someone in the store for something or ordering something on menu, say “juseyo” at the end of whatever you want and you’ll be sure to get it.
4. 반갑습니다 (ban-gap-sum-ni-da) – Nice to meet you
After striking up a conversation with someone after saying hello, it is polite to continue with, “nice to meet you” before you say anything else.
5. 잠시만요 (jam-shi-man-yo) – Give me a second/Hold on
Busy with a task while someone is bothering you to answer their question? To get them to stop talking for a moment tell them “jamshimanyo” which is equivalent to “hold on” or “give me a second.”
6. 감사합니다 (kam-sa-ham-ni-da) – Thank you
Just like in other countries, once someone does a favor for you, you must say “kamsahamnida” which is the formal method of saying “thank you.”
7.어디예요 (o-di-ye-yo) – Where is it
If you ever get lost in Korea and you’re looking for a specific place and you don’t know how to get there, don’t be afraid to ask someone where it is. Simple say the place or thing you are looking for, followed by “odiyeyo.” If you’re looking for Namsan Tower you would say “Namsan Tower + odiyeyo.”
8. 얼마예요(ol-ma-ye-yo) – How much is it
Similarly, if you’re looking to buy something but there’s no price tag on the object, simply say the name of the object followed by “olmayeyo” to ask how much it costs.
9. 이것 (i-geot) – This
When you don’t know how to read something on the menu but you like the picture that you see, you can still point out what you want. When you point out something specifically you say “i-geot” which means “this.”
10. 한국말 잘 못해요 (han-guk-mal jal mot-hae-yo) – My Korean isn’t very good.
Finally, if you ever feel like you will struggle to remember all these phrases, if someone approaches you to ask a question you can simply say, “han-guk-mal jal mot-hae-yo” which means “My Korean isn’t very good.” People in Korea study English in school so there is a chance that they will try to speak to in English instead.