Korean Manners and Etiquette Part 1:Dining


When in Rome do as the Romans do.

It’s always polite, and also possibly advantageous, to abide by the customs of a society when one is a visitor. In today’s blog we will therefore talk about Korean manners & etiquette which are largely based on Korean Confucianism. One of the concepts included is for example respect for the elderly.

So without further ado let’s have a look on Korean dining Manners & Etiquette:

1. Wait before you seat

If you are in a company of older people wait for the oldest to sit down first and then take a seat.

2. Before the meal

Before you start to eat it’s polite to say that you are looking forward to the meal. In Korea people will say ‘Jalmukesumneda’ which translates to I will eat well.

3. During the meal

1. Again, wait for the oldest to lift their chopsticks or spoon first before you start eating.

2. Try to keep pace with elders while eating. (It could be considered rude if you finished your meal before elder people have. If possible, keep eating a bit more).

3. Never hold the spoon and chopsticks together in one hand. Use the spoon only for rice and soup.

4. Also don’t hold the bowl of soup or rice in your hand (as you might do in other Asian countries like China or Japan).

5. Never stick your chopsticks up straight in a bowl. (This is done during offerings for the ghosts and past ancestors).

6. Take food within reach and do not stretch your arms out too far.

7. Always pour drinks for others first, especially for those older than you.

8. It’s considered impolite to refuse an alcoholic drink offered to you, especially from an elder.

9. When accepting a drink or a side dish from the elderly hold your cup or dish with both hands.

10. After your meal, return your spoon and chopsticks to the spot where they were placed.

11. When using a toothpick, cover your mouth with one hand and discard it afterwards so others won’t see it.

3.1 How to properly hold chopsticks

  1. Place one chopstick inside of thumb and reach to 4th finger.
  2. Place the other chopstick between the index finger and middle finger and hold by pressing with your thumb.
  3. Freely move chopsticks by pressing thumb and only using your index and middle fingers.

4. After the meal

As their is a polite phrase to start your meal there is also one when you finish your meal. This time Koreans will say ‘Jalmeogeosseumnida’ – which translates to I ate well.

We hope our examples will help you understand Korean society better and help you assimilate easily into this exotic culture of ours!