Korean Culture from an American Perspective: Colors

For the most part, Korean colors make sense. For example, the color sky blue is 하늘색 in Korean. 하늘색 literally translates as "sky color". However, when it comes to some common pants colors, Koreans named things a bit differently.

My wife bought a couple pairs of pants for me the last time we were in Korea. One was khaki, and the other was green. She asked me how they fit, and I told her, "The khaki ones fit fine, but we should return the other pair." After I said that, she picked up the khakis and put them in bag to return them to the store.

"What are you doing?" I asked, confused. "Those pants fit fine."

"But you said the khaki pants," responded my wife, as she put the khaki pants back into the bag to go back to the store, "fit okay."

"Yeah, I did. So why are you returning them?"

"I'm going to return the beige ones," said my wife, gesturing to the khaki pants.

After a bit of back and forth, we discovered that the color Americans know as "khaki" is called "beige" in Korea and the color Americans know as "green" is called "khaki" in Korea.

Confused? Yeah, I was too. Here's a picture labeled with the Korean color names to make it all a bit easier to understand:

Korean color names for what I would call khaki (left) and green (right).

So, here's a table just to make everything crystal clear:

American Name Korean Name Korean Pronunciation
Green 카키 Khaki
Khaki 베이지 Beige

Did you find this interesting or have a similar story to share? Let me know in the comments!

Photo by Jerrit Peinelt