Food is an important part of every Korean’s day. They usually eat with family, friends or colleagues, and rarely eat a meal alone.
Here are 9 things to remember in Korean dining etiquette, which will hold you in good stead the next time you’re in Korea and visiting some Korean friends:
Respecting your elders is a huge part of Korean culture. So ensure you wait for all your elders to sit down before you grab a chair. Also remember to wait for the older person/persons to pick up their chopsticks or spoon. It’s imperative that they start the meal.
If you’re eating at someone’s house, it’s considered polite to say that you’re looking forward to the meal that’s about to be served. Try saying Jalmukesumneda, which means “I will eat well” in Korean.
Since eating a meal is considered a group affair, it is not uncommon for stews, soups, and meat dishes to be served in large bowls, placed at the center of the table. Feel free to eat directly from the main dish, or serve yourself a smaller portion on your individual plate.
Since you’re eating in a group, always pace your meal. Don’t rush through it but don’t be too slow either. Eat with the rest of the group.
Once you’re done with your meal, remember to place your spoon or chopstick back in its original position. This means there should be no trace of the food that you’ve just eaten.
If there is alcohol or any beverage on the table, remember that according to tradition, you’re not supposed to refill your own glass. Someone else is supposed to do that. So if you find someone else’s glass empty, refill it. Especially if it’s someone older than you.
When someone refills your glass, especially an older person, hold out your glass with both your hands. Follow this practice if someone is passing you a side dish too.
Korean meals usually include Banchan, or side dishes. This usually ranges from 2 to 12 or more. And the higher the number of side dishes, the more significant the meal. These small dishes are usually served at the same time and are meant for sharing by all at the table.
The concept of sharing a bill or ‘going dutch’ doesn’t exist in Korea. Usually the older member of the group pays the bill.
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