There are default settings for character sets and collations at four levels: server, database, table, and column. The description in the following sections may appear complex, but it has been found in practice that multiple-level defaulting leads to natural and obvious results.
CHARACTER SET is used in clauses that specify a character set.
CHARSET can be used as a synonym for
Character set issues affect not only data storage, but also communication between client programs and the MySQL
server. If you want the client program to communicate with the server using a character set different from the
default, you'll need to indicate which one. For example, to use the
character set, issue this statement after connecting to the server:
SET NAMES 'utf8';
For more information about character set-related issues in client/server communication, see Section 10.1.4, "Connection Character Sets and Collations".