Korean Dining Etiquette 101

Korean dining etiquette

Just before you down that galbi… Korean Dining Etiquette 101

Koreans love food. They love it so much that their passion for it became known worldwide. Given the significance that Koreans place on what they eat, it is then understandable that they also place high regard on dining etiquette.

I know that Korean food in general is truly irresistible and that the general atmosphere while eating can get cozy, but always remind yourself this basic tenet: never, ever forget your table manners. Remember those words of wisdom that your parents used to say to you at the dining table when you were younger? Those nuggets of wisdom can definitely come in handy. But given that Koreans have their own distinct culture, it is imperative to know how to best behave when you are eating with Koreans. Don’t just assume things, as they say, because the last thing that you want to happen is to offend your Korean host who just prepared a lovely Korean BBQ feast for you. So before you down that galbi, here is a brief summary of Korean dining etiquette that you should follow:

  1. Let the older people sit first

To be safe, always seat the last. Letting the older people sit first is a sign of respect.

  1. Express your appreciation before digging in

Don’t forget to say your gratitude to the host by expressing how much you’re looking forward to eating the food before you. In Korean we would say, “jal-meok-kket-sseum-ni-da”.

  1. Let the older people eat first

It’s the same thing for eating – always let the older people lift their eating utensils first.

  1. Never blow your nose while at the dining table

Or just excuse yourself if you really have to!

  1. Don’t eat like a caveman

You’re not in an eating competition. Always pace your eating so you can savour every flavour.

  1. Stop holdings the bowls

It’s time to stop the habit of holding your soup and rice bowls while eating.

  1. Double-dipping

Most Korean meals are communal, so do not double-dip.

  1. Consider others first

Offer to serve food to others first, including drinks, especially if you are dining with older people.

  1. Only take what you can really finish

Food wastage is a big no-no, so always ensure that the quantity of food that you put on your plate is something that you can really finish.

10. Hold with both hands

When you receive drinks or offer food for someone, then always hold the cup or plate with both hands.

11. Utensils on the table

Don’t put your chopsticks straight-up as they will resemble those sticks used for ceremonies for the dead. The general rule is that all utensils must be placed on the table.

12. Say thank you after a lovely meal!

Should this even be explained? Never forget to utter your best jal meo-geot-sseum-ni-da to your dining host.

Do you have any Korean dining etiquette stories to share? Or maybe you want to add something to the list above? Feel free to share your Korean dining practices on the comments section below!

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