INTRODUCING: Korean Culture, Society, History

Dining Etiquette in Korean culture


   Welcome to Korea-Canada blog, I am Malibu.Unicorn and am a Korean-Canadian born in Korea. Before the first blog post let me introduce myself. I am excited to blog about range of topics from dining etiquette to  societal consequences of university entrance exams in Korea. I am passionate about finding alternative solutions to current education system in Korea. 

What is the dining etiquette in Korea? 

**Disclaimer: This is merely a post outlining norms seen in dining tables in Korea. This article does not intend to compel anyone into normative behaviour.**

Let’s imagine, you are dining in a Korean restaurant. These are some pointers to help you dine like a Korean. 

  • You don’t necessarily have to be wait to be seated by a server however, after grabbing seats kindly let them know how many guests there are.
  • Once you sit down, it’s expected of you (especially if you are the youngest one) to lay down utensils (spoon and chopsticks) with a napkin underneath. Spoon is placed to your left and chopsticks on the right.



Side dishes + Main dish

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 4.44.59 PM

Spoon on the left, chopsticks to the right


  • Before the main dish is served, 반찬 (= “Baan-chaan”) will be served. Careful not to conflate it as an appetizer, you can have some but not finish it all before the main dish is served.
  • Once the food arrives, you say 잘먹겠습니다 (= “Jal-meok-get-seum-nee-da”) direct translation is “I will eat well”. It’s kind like saying Bon Appetite in Korean.
  • While dining, don’t rush yourself or take too much time while eating. As Korean culture tends to be collectivistic, you are expected to eat at a similar pace as others.
  • Don’t waste food – pick up moderate amount of side dish and make sure to finish all your food. In Korea, it is considered impolite to waste food.
  • Finally, you say 잘먹었습니다 (= “Jal-meok-ut-seum-nee-da”) direct translation is “I ate well”. As gesture for acknowledging hosts or server.


*Drinking session

  • If you dine out with colleagues, family friends, or friends in Korea and decide to have soju or beer in your meal. These are some tips to help you blend into the culture
  • 1. When someone offers you to drink (ex. your boss, colleague), you are expected to drink as it is considered rude to reject the drink.
  • 2. If an elderly person pours you a drink, hold the glass with two hands
  • 3. When doing “Cheers” and you are the younger than any other individuals, it’s a norm to cling to lower part of the glass
Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 4.43.50 PM

“Cling” towards the bottom part of glass if you are younger.

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 4.46.09 PM

When an older individual or an individual in a higher position than you (ex. boss) pours you a drink, grab the glass with two hands.

3 replies »

  1. Thanks for this! I have been looking for proper etiquettes in Korean dining to help me not make any mistakes when I dine with Koreans and when I visit the country. Looking forward to more helpful articles like this!

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