Korean Table Manners

Perhaps you’ve been there, seen  it on TV or heard from from friends that table etiquette in Korea is a little different. If you need to brush up on your skills for a  trip or perhaps have Korean friends or clients that need entertaining, and you’re trying not to make a mess of it, then KKday is here to help!

#1 Drinking Commandments

Flickr | kawaiikiri

There are quite a few rules when it comes to drinking alcohol in Korea, especially when you’re drinking with those older than you, here are 6 to remember:

  1. Make sure to top up everyone else’s glass not just your own
  2. When someone is pouring you a glass, hold your cup with both hands
  3. Before someone pours you a new glass, finish what is left
  4. When drinking, do not face someone older than you, look to the side, some people even cover their glass with their other hand
  5. When filling up other’s glasses, fill to at least 80% full, or it will seem as if you do not like them
  6. When filling up other’s glasses fill up in order from oldest to youngest

#2 Eating Alone


Although the situation has improved in recent years, eating alone can still come with a bit of a stigma, that you perhaps had difficulty fitting in or making friends. Some restaurants could even turn single diners away unless they were willing to pay (or eat) for a meal for two!

#3 Dining with Elders


You may have grasped by now that respect for your elders is of the upmost importance in Korea. If you’re nervous about an upcoming meal with Koreans of an older generation, try to remember these rules:

  1. Reserve the seat/space furthest away from the entrance door for the eldest.
  2. Wait for them to begin before you start eating
  3. Try to eat at a similar pace to them
  4. If you finish first, place your spoon in your bowl, after they finish, place your spoon on the table or in the holder
  5. When they get up to leave, stand up with them

#4 The Chopsticks Are Metal


Not only are the chopsticks in Korea usually flat, they are also often made out of metal. The reasons for which are not totally clear, although it is thought that the metal appearance may have come from previous kings of Korea using silver chopsticks, as silver is good for detecting poison and foiling assassination attempts. From then on, metallic chopsticks were perhaps seen as a sign of status, it is also believed the stainless steel chopsticks are easier to keep clean and certainly last longer than wooden ones.

#5 Don’t Lift Your Bowl to Eat

Flickr | Republic of Korea

While in many countries it is considered normal to pick up your bowl and eat from it with a spoon or chopsticks, in Korea some find that rude, so it’s probably best to leave the bowl on the table and use a spoon to eat.

There are quite a few things to keep in mind when dining or drinking in Korea, but remember our tips and you’ll be fitting in, with no problems, in no time!

For more on Korean food and culture check these activities out:

O’ngo Korean Cooking Class in Seoul

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