Dining in the Republic of Korea may be different than your experiences dining in the U.S. Some restaurants are very Western and you will feel right at home, others are very traditional and are a neat cultural experience in addition to delicious food!
Tips for your first trip to a restaurant in South Korea:
- Wear socks. In many Korean restaurants you will be asked to remove your shoes when you arrive, store them on the provided shelves or near others' shoes. Having nice socks (without holes) is good manners.
- If you will need one, bring a fork with you, and extra napkins.
- Plan to sit on cushions on the floor at a traditional Korean restaurant.
- Sit anywhere you like, in most restaurants if there is an open table you may seat yourself.
- To call a waitor/waitress over look for a button on the table. If there is not a button you can call out 저기요 "Jeo-gi-yo" which means "excuse me"
- To refill your water glass you may have a container of water at your table, or you may need to look for the water cooler, it's usually in a corner of the restaurant, and serve yourself.
- Your utensils (usually chopsticks and a spoon) are in a box or other container on the table.
- Rest your chopsticks on your plate or bowl, or on a napkin on the table. Do not stick your chopsticks in your rice when not in use because this is a symbol of funerals.
- Plan to share. Everyone receives their own bowl of rice, but other dishes at the table are shared among those at your table. It is not rude to reach across the table to serve yourself. It is also not rude to use your chopsticks in a shared dish.
- Your check is usually left at your table and you pay at the front cashier on your way out.
- Tips are typically included in the bill as "service" but double check
Tips for dining at a Korean's home:
- Bring a gift for your host/hostess. Do not be offended if they do not open it right away.
- If you bring a dish, bring one that can be cut into bite size pieces and shared with everyone.
- Baked treats are usually well liked because ovens are less common here than in the U.S.
- If you attend a wedding or funeral, it's customary to take a white envelope containing a sum of money. Handing cash to someone is considered rude except when paying a storekeeper for merchandise. Be conscious of Korean customs and etiquette, but don't become obsessed with adopting Korean ways.