Hanshik 101: Korean table etiquette for beginners

Hanshik 101: Korean table etiquette for beginners

Image source: koreaboo.com

Korean people value manners in a lot of instances, but most especially during meals. While many older dining traditions have relaxed over the years, some are still in use in modern-day Korea. So if you’re planning to have a hearty meal with some of your Korean friends, here are some basic table manners you can impress them with.

Acknowledge your hosts

It is common custom to say jalmeokgesseumnida or “I will eat well” when in front of those who prepared or paid for your food. You can also say jalmeogeosseumnida after you’ve finished eating.

Age matters

Koreans highly value the elderly—even if it means your friend is just a few years or months older. In Korean culture, the older person calls the shots. They are the first to be seated and the first to take a bite. Before the eldest in the table starts eating, the rest of the group has to wait.

Youngsters can’t say no to the offers of their seniors. Be it a piece of pork or a shot of soju, refusing an offer from an older person is a huge no-no. Accept food or drinks with two hands– always.

Drink with respect

Ever wonder why they drink sideways in Korean dramas? It still has something to do with age and seniority. It is common custom for the younger person to hold their cup or glass with two hands and drink sideways (see this picture as reference) when drinking with someone older.

Image source: thrillist.com

Never lift soup or rice bowls

Unlike in Japan, China, and other Asian countries; it is considered disrespectful when people hold their soup and rice bowls. These should never be lifted, and must stay on the table at all times. Use a spoon to finish soup or rice in a bowl.

Sharing is caring

Koreans lay out several dishes for the whole family to enjoy, and it is just normal for them to eat from each other’s plates or soup bowls. However, one should never take a “double dip,” or dig into several food bowls and side dishes at once.

Put your utensils in their rightful place

Do not stick out utensils like chopsticks or spoons because it resembles a traditional ancestral ceremony. After you’re done eating, lay your utensils on the table. Also, never put both your chopsticks and spoon in one hand.

Hi, I’m Heather Taras. I go to school for drug counseling, and I’m also a big fan of Hallyu. Visit this blog for more on Korean food and culture.


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