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
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
utf8 Unicode 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 9.1.4, “Connection Character Sets and Collations”.