Episode 1
Lesson Recap

How To Greet People for the First Time Meeting in Korean & Other Essential Phrases

Key Points &
  • 감사합니다 and 고맙습니다 are used interchangeably. However, as noted above, while 고맙습니다 is purely Korean, 감사 in 감사합니다 is a Chinese-derived word.

  • 처음 뵙겠습니다 and 잘 부탁드립니다 are humble expressions used in situations where you are talking to someone of higher rank or older.

  • 만나서 반갑습니다 is an expression which should NOT be used to someone of higher rank.

  • 안녕하세요 : Hello; Hi

  • 네 : Yes

  • 아니요 : No

  • 감사합니다 : Thank you ('감사' in this phrase is a Chinese-derived word.)

  • 고맙습니다 : Thank you (This phrase is pure Korean.)

  • 한국말 못 합니다 : I can’t speak Korean

  • 한국말 잘 못합니다 : I can’t speak Korean well

  • 처음 뵙겠습니다 : Please treat me favorably

  • 잘 부탁드립니다 : Please treat me favorably

  • 만나서 반갑습니다 : Nice to meet you


Directions: Assume the role in the situations and carry out the given tasks using the phrases learned in this episode.

Situation:  You left JFK 14 hours ago, and just arrived at the Incheon Int’l Airport. You’ll be working at a Korean company and living with a housemate who is Korean.  You’ve started learning Korean, but, presently, your Korean is quite limited. You however are determined to speak Korean whenever you can. You’re very excited about this new chapter of your life!

At Customs > 1-4

1. You’re called to one of the windows at the customs. How would you greet the officer?

2. How would you respond when your answer to the officer’s question is affirmative?

3. How would you respond when your answer to the officer’s question is negative?

4. You’re done with the customs. How would you thank the office before leaving?

At Baggage Claim Area >

5. A lady standing next to you waiting for their luggage starts to talk to you in Korean, and you don’t quite understand what she is saying. What would you say to her?

At Waiting Area >

6. You meet the Human Resources Office head at your company for the first time in person at the waiting area. What would you say to her? (Utilize all the phrases you learned in the episode that are appropriate in this situation!)

Bonus Question: If the person you meet at the airport is your colleague, how would you greet the colleague?

Episode 1


This is KAY from essentialkorean.com

I’m very excited to present the first episode of this podcast.

Through this podcast, I hope to help those who want to learn Korean, step by step, one episode at a time.

A little bit about myself. I’ve been teaching Korean for about 20 years at three universities in the US. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed teaching college students on campus. But I also saw the exciting possibility of connecting with global learners around the world. So, when I moved to Korea in 2018, I began building a website, essentialkorean.com, to actualize that goal, and along those lines, I am now starting the Essential Korean Podcast.

It wasn’t too long ago that a lack of content was the primary hindrance to learning Korean for many. Now, I find it’s the opposite: hundreds of courses and thousands of videos are at a student’s disposal online, but oftentimes, learners don’t know where to begin, how to continue, and what they need to do to get better.

At Essential Korean, please know that the content of each product is numbered and presented in the order that the learner should go through, and I plan to do that with this podcast. The organization makes it so that you know exactly where to begin and where to pick up from. I’ll assume no background knowledge of Korean from listeners; you need to go through the episodes in a chronological sequence.

One thing I promise to you is that I’ll be very thoughtful with each and every episode.

Learning a foreign language is not an easy endeavor, but definitely, an exciting and rewarding one; and I hope you stay the course.

Ok, with my self-introduction done, let me go into a little more detail about the format of this podcast.

Each episode will have, in most cases, 3 parts:

  • A Lesson on key learning points

  • a mini-quiz that reviews the lesson

  • And some suggestions on how you can practice what you learned effectively and while you’re not tuning in to this podcast.

So, today, in Episode 1, we will learn 11 basic expressions which will be very useful in everyday social situations.

When we practice speaking, visualizing situations is very helpful. Let’s do that.

Imagine that you’re an exchange student coming to Korea. Your flight just landed at 인천 국제 공항 Incheon Int’l airport, and you’re now in line for customs. When you’re called up by one of the officers, you approach him or her and greet them. 

( You might see a stern face, but greeting them with a friendly smile doesn’t hurt anyone.)

안녕하세요: 안녕 means well-being and 하세요 means do. So 안녕하세요 literally means Are you well? But it’s used more like the English expression, hi or hello, in that someone greets with 안녕하세요 and the other would respond with 안녕하세요 as well. Let’s practice. Please repeat after me: 안녕하세요 안녕하세요 안녕하세요

Back to the situation: Imagine the customs officer asking you a question. If your answer is yes, you’d say, 네; if your answer is no, you’d say 아니요 for no.

Please repeat after me to say yes in Korean: 네 네 네

And for no: 아니요 아니요 아니요

After you’re done, you can thank the officer before leaving:

감사합니다. is one way to thank someone in Korean: 감/사/합/니/다    감사합니다    감사합니다

You can also thank someone with 고맙습니다 which is interchangeable with 감사합니다: Repeat after me: 고/ 맙/습/ 니/다    고맙습니다    고맙습니다

So far, you’ve been introduced to 5 expressions already!

안녕하세요 for Hi;

네 for Yes;

아니요 for No;

감사합니다 for Thank you;

고맙습니다 also for Thank you.

After the customs, you proceed to the baggage claim area.

For some reason, someone standing next to you, also waiting for their luggage, starts talking to you in Korean. If you want to pick up on this opportunity to have an authentic conversation with a native speaker, by all means, you should give it a try. But if you’re not quite ready to take up the challenge, then this phrase should come in handy:

한국말 못 합니다:  한국말 means the Korean language; 못 합니다 means cannot do. You can say 한국말 못 합니다 to say, I cannot speak Korean. Please repeat after me. I’ll say the sentence slowly at first and then at a natural speed: 한국말 못 합니다   한국말 못 합니다   한국말 못 합니다.

In front of the 못 합니다, you can add 잘, which means well. So you have 한국말 잘 못 합니다 which means I cannot speak Korean well. Listen and repeat: 한국말 잘 못 합니다    한국말 잘 못 합니다    한국말 잘 못 합니다

Moving on. You’ve picked up your luggage and have come out to the waiting area. You spot a couple holding up a piece of paper with your name. You can tell right away they’re your host family, and they recognize you as well. What do you say to them?


Is that all? No. You can also say, 처음 뵙겠습니다. ‘처음' means First time; 뵙겠습니다 means meet in humble form. So 처음뵙겠습니다 literally means First time I meet you. 처음 뵙겠습니다 corresponds to the English expression, Nice to meet you. Please repeat after me to say this expression you can use to sound very courteous when you meet someone for the first time: 처음 뵙겠습니다   처음 뵙겠습니다   처음 뵙겠습니다

Anything else? Yes. 잘 부탁드립니다. 잘 means well, and 부탁드립니다 means ask for something in humble form. The expression is essentially asking the other person to treat you favorably; it is a ritual expression you could use when meeting someone higher for the first time.

Btw, why would the exchange student use the humble form? - Because the host family's parents are older than the student and he or she is meeting them for the first time, in which case they should be courteous. Please repeat after me: 잘 부탁드립니다   잘 부탁드립니다   잘 부탁드립니다

What about in a situation where there’s no need for you to imply hierarchy? You can say, 안녕하세요. And then, 반갑습니다 which means Nice to meet you / or Nice to see you. Please note that this is not quite appropriate to use for a person of a higher rank.

Repeat after me: 반갑습니다   반갑습니다   반갑습니다

After that, you can say, 잘 부탁합니다, which is the neutral form of the humble expression, 잘 부탁드립니다. So you can say 잘 부탁합니다 in a situation where you don’t need to imply any hierarchy.

Repeat after me: 잘 부탁합니다   잘 부탁합니다   잘 부탁합니다

Now, imagine you all come out to the parking lot where your host family patterns parked their car. As they help you with your luggage, they say you must be tired after the long flight. You want to say you’re not. You’re too excited about the new adventure to feel tired! You can say, 아니요, negating their assumption.

Repeat after me: 아니요   아니요   아니요

Alright! You’re off to a great start with your host family. Let’s hope you learn a lot and have a blast in Korea!


Now, it’s quiz time! Let’s check how well you can remember the expressions!

Let’s try a new situation.

First, imagine yourself going to a networking event. You arrive at the site and approach the table where people pick up their name tag. How would you greet the helpers at the table? You’re right if you said 안녕하세요

A person at the table shows you the wrong name tag and asks if it’s you. What would you say? You’re correct if you said, 아니요 for no.

The person shows you the right name tag this time and asks if it’s you. What would you say? Correct again if you said 네 for yes.

When they hand you the name tag, how would you thank them? The answer: 고맙습니다 or 감사합니다.

Now you’re walking into the room where people have gathered for the event. You’re going to meet new people: You’ll introduce yourself, and someone will introduce you to others…. Do you remember the set of expressions you can use when meeting someone of a higher rant for the first time?

안녕하세요 - 처음 뵙겠습니다 - 잘 부탁드립니다.

I’ll repeat: 안녕하세요 - 처음 뵙겠습니다 - 잘 부탁드립니다.

How about the set of expressions to use when meeting someone for the first time, where you perceive everyone to be at the same level, with no need to mark hierarchy?

Yes. (It's) 안녕하세요 - 반갑습니다 - 잘 부탁합니다.

I’ll repeat them: 안녕하세요 - 반갑습니다 - 잘 부탁합니다.

Now, your greetings were so smooth that people assume you speak Korean fluently and start to speak to you in Korean when the reality is that that’s all you knew - How to greet people on a first encounter. What do you say?

한국말 못 합니다  I cannot speak Korean or

한국말 잘 못 합니다 I cannot speak Korean well.

I’ve introduced all the expressions for today; let’s do a quick review!

안녕하세요 How are you

네 / 아니요 yes/no

고맙습니다 Thank you

감사합니다. Thank you

처음 뵙겠습니다. 잘 부탁드립니다. First time to meet you. Please treat me favorably. (humble form)

반갑습니다. 잘 부탁합니다. Nice to meet you. Please treat me favorably. (neutral form)

한국말 못 합니다 I can't speak Korean

한국말 잘 못합니다 I can't speak Korean well

Here are some suggestions for how you can practice today’s expressions: You can practice these very frequently because we run into the situations that call for them throughout the day.

  • Whenever you greet people with a hi or how are you or how’s it going, also think how to say it in Korean: 안녕하세요!

  • Whenever you say yes, also say 네; and when you say no, also say, 아니요. Yes with 네 … No with 아니요

  • Whenever you say thank you to a colleague at work, also think of the two phrases in Korean: 고맙습니다, 감사합니다

  • When you are introduced to someone of a higher rank, think of this set: 안녕하세요. 처음뵙겠습니다. 잘 부탁드립니다. (upper arrow)

  • When you are at an event, people gather in a circle and go around the room to introduce themselves, think of this phrase: 안녕하세요. 반갑습니다. 잘 부탁합니다 (equal)

  • And what are the two phrases you hope you wouldn’t have to say anymore? Of course they are: 한국말 못 합니다 / 한국말 잘 못합니다

OK, That’s it for this episode! I look forward to connecting with you again next time.

고맙습니다! 다음 에피소드에서 만나요! Thank you, and See you next episode!