So you’ve been invited to a business lunch with your colleagues visiting from the Seoul office. Or maybe you’ve just arrived in Seoul and your Airbnb host family would like to take you to dinner. Feeling anxious about the do’s and don’ts when dining with Koreans? Our quick guide to Korean table manners will have you handling it all like a pro.
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Many Korean dishes are served on one big plate among all diners, so small individual plates should always be prepared to allow everyone to take a bit of everything onto their own plates. Avoid ordering the same dish that someone else at your table has already ordered because variety is key, and they would probably want to try something you’d picked too!
Leave the last piece alone
Sharing food together also means there tends to be competition at the dinner table. What normally happens at Korean dinner tables is that everybody eats fast until the last piece of food is left on the plate. Nobody wants to be that person who takes the last piece!
Involve everyone in drinking
Koreans don’t like drinking alone, since the whole point of drinking in a group is to bond with one another. And when your glass is running dry, don’t fill it up yourself but let others do it for you. An effective way to make lots of friends in Korea is hold your glass with both hands and say “Chan! (짠!)” which means, “Let’s drink together!”
Call ‘Yimo’ (이모) at the restaurant
Go to any Korean restaurant in Korea and you’ll probably hear diners calling the waitress “Yimo”, which means “aunt”. Does this mean she has family ties with everyone there? Of course not! Addressing a woman who is more senior in age than oneself is simply a way to feel connected and closer to her.