Korean Customs - Dining

Below are some tips to keep you from getting funny looks while eating with a Korean family.

  • Rather than pouring their own drinks, Koreans pour for one another. It is a bad breach of etiquette to pour your own drink.
  • The eldest at the table eats first. No one even picks up their chopsticks until the eldest does.
  • Dinner in a traditional Korean home or restaurant is quite different from American-style dining. Guests sit on cushions around a low table. Many different foods are served, each cut into bite-sized pieces. Each person has his own bowl of rice, but helps himself to other foods directly from the serving dishes. Koreans traditionally use chopsticks and a large-bowled spoon the size of a tablespoon. They eat rice with the spoon.
  • During the meal, rest your chopsticks and spoon on top of a dish. When you have finished eating, lay the chopsticks or spoon on the table to indicate that you have completed the meal. Never stick chopsticks or spoons in a bowl of rice - this is done only during ancestral memorial services. Don't worry about reaching in front of others or asking for a dish to be passed.
  • When dining in a restaurant, it is considered polite for one person to pay the entire bill. It will often be the person who is younger or subordinate to the rest of the group. Sometimes the person paying is the person who suggested going to eat in the first place. However, "Dutch Treat" is becoming more common among the youth.
  • Tipping Koreans is just not done. That includes restaurants and delivery people. In most hotels, tips are included in the bill.
  • When eating with Koreans, refrain from blowing your nose (even though the spicy food may make your nose run) or coughing. If you have to cough, turn away.
  1. General
  2. Respect
  3. Marriage
  4. Dining