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What are table manners in Korea?


In Korea, table manners are taken very seriously and are an important aspect of Korean culture. Understanding the proper etiquette when dining with Koreans is essential for building relationships and showing respect. In this article, we will explore the various table manners in Korea and why they are important.

Using chopsticks and spoons

Chopsticks are commonly used in Korea, and it is important to use them properly. Do not use chopsticks to point or gesture, as this is considered impolite. Additionally, it is best to refrain from sticking chopsticks upright into a bowl of rice, as this symbolizes death. Spoons are also commonly used, particularly when eating soup or rice dishes.

Serving food

When serving food in Korea, it is customary to offer the most senior person at the table first. If you are serving food to someone else, use your right hand to hold the dish and your left hand to support it from the bottom.

Drinking etiquette

Drinking is a common part of Korean culture, particularly during meals. It is important to use both hands when pouring and receiving drinks as a sign of respect. Additionally, it is polite to turn away from others when taking a sip of your drink.

Table setting

In Korea, table settings are typically minimalistic. Each person will have a bowl of rice, a spoon, chopsticks, and a small plate for side dishes. It is common for everyone at the table to share dishes.

Eating pace

Eating quickly or finishing your meal before others is considered impolite in Korea. It is important to pace yourself and eat at the same pace as those around you.

Conversation etiquette

During meals, it is customary to engage in polite conversation. However, it is important to avoid discussing sensitive topics such as politics or religion. Additionally, it is considered rude to speak with your mouth full.

Finishing your meal

When you are finished with your meal, it is polite to leave a small portion on your plate as a sign of respect to the host. Additionally, it is customary to offer to help with cleaning up after the meal.

Paying the bill

In Korea, it is common for the person who initiated the meal or who holds a higher status to pay the bill. It is also polite to offer to pay for a portion of the meal or to split the bill evenly.

Food allergies and dietary restrictions

If you have any food allergies or dietary restrictions, it is important to let your host know in advance. They will typically accommodate your needs and offer alternative dishes.

Body language

During meals, it is important to maintain good posture and avoid slouching. Additionally, it is polite to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.


Understanding table manners in Korea is an important aspect of building relationships and showing respect. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that you are presenting yourself in the best possible light while dining with Koreans.

What is considered most disrespectful in Korean culture?

In Korea, it is considered impolite or confrontational for juniors to make direct eye contact with seniors or touch them in any way. The country is known for being very racially and linguistically homogeneous.

What are traditional Korean table settings?

In Korean households, a typical meal includes rice, soup, and three to four side dishes. Therefore, a traditional Korean table setting consists of a bowl of steamed rice, a soup bowl, and utensils such as a spoon and chopsticks, which are arranged from left to right in that specific order for each individual.

Is it rude to leave food on your plate in Korea?

In South Korea, it is acceptable to leave some food on your plate or bowl after finishing a meal, which is different from Japan. Additionally, it is also allowed to bend over to eat rice if necessary, but it is never appropriate to lift the rice bowl to your mouth to eat.

What are some examples of rude behavior in Korea?

Behaviors that are considered impolite in your country are likely to be viewed as impolite in Korea as well. Actions such as spitting, shouting, physical violence, using foul language, and behaving in an unpleasant manner are certainly considered rude in Korean culture.

Is smiling rude in Korea?

In Korean culture, a smile can communicate more than just happiness or amusement. It can also signify shame or embarrassment, such as when someone makes a mistake. However, sneezing is seen as impolite in Korea.

What are Korean bad table manners?

It is not proper dining etiquette to eat directly from a large plate, even if the food looks tempting. Instead, each dish should be served onto a smaller plate before starting the meal.

Sharing dishes

Sharing dishes is a common practice in Korean culture, and it is considered impolite to only eat from one dish. When sharing dishes, it is important to use the serving utensils provided and not your own chopsticks or spoon. Additionally, it is best to take small portions and wait for others to finish before taking more.

Using napkins

In Korea, napkins are not typically provided at the table. Instead, people will use small towels or tissues that are often provided. It is important to keep the napkin on your lap during the meal and use it to wipe your mouth discreetly.

Chewing loudly

Chewing loudly or making noise while eating is considered impolite in Korean culture. It is best to chew with your mouth closed and avoid making any unnecessary noise while eating.

Leaving the table

If you need to leave the table during the meal, it is polite to excuse yourself and wait until others have finished their meal before leaving. Additionally, it is best to wait until everyone has finished their meal before leaving the table.

Complimenting the food

In Korean culture, it is customary to compliment the food during the meal. You can express your appreciation by saying “jal meokkesseumnida” which means “the food is delicious.” This shows respect and appreciation for the host’s efforts in preparing the meal.


Tipping is not a common practice in Korea, as service charges are often included in the bill. However, if you feel that you received exceptional service, you can offer a small tip as a token of gratitude.

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