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What do Koreans say before every meal?


Korean culture is rich in tradition, customs, and etiquette, especially when it comes to food. Before every meal, Koreans have a specific phrase they say that reflects their appreciation and gratitude for the food they are about to eat. This article will explore the meaning behind this phrase and its significance in Korean culture.

The phrase Koreans say before every meal

The phrase Koreans say before every meal is “jal meokkesseumnida,” which translates to “I will eat well.” This phrase represents the importance of being grateful for the food that is being provided and enjoying it to the fullest. It also shows respect to the person who prepared the meal.

The history behind the phrase

The tradition of saying “jal meokkesseumnida” before every meal can be traced back to ancient times. Koreans believed that food was a gift from the gods and should be respected as such. They would always express their gratitude before eating to show their appreciation for this gift.

The significance of showing gratitude

In Korean culture, expressing gratitude is of utmost importance. Saying “jal meokkesseumnida” before every meal is a way of showing appreciation not only for the food but also for the people who prepared it. It is a way of acknowledging their hard work and dedication in providing a delicious meal.

The importance of communal dining

Koreans place great emphasis on communal dining. Meals are often shared with family, friends, and colleagues. Saying “jal meokkesseumnida” before every meal is a way of bringing everyone together and creating a sense of unity and harmony.

The role of food in Korean culture

Food plays a significant role in Korean culture. It is not just about nourishment but also about socializing, bonding, and celebrating. Korean cuisine is known for its variety of flavors, textures, and colors, making it a feast for the senses.

The etiquette of dining in Korea

Korean dining etiquette is steeped in tradition and customs. It is important to use chopsticks correctly, never leave food on your plate, and wait for the oldest person to start eating before you begin. Saying “jal meokkesseumnida” before every meal is just one of the many etiquettes that Koreans follow.

The role of rice in Korean cuisine

Rice is a staple in Korean cuisine and is served at almost every meal. Koreans believe that rice is the most important part of a meal and should be treated with respect. Saying “jal meokkesseumnida” before every meal also shows appreciation for the rice that is being provided.

The importance of balance in Korean cuisine

Korean cuisine is known for its balance of flavors and ingredients. It is a combination of sweet, sour, spicy, and salty flavors that create a harmonious dish. Koreans believe that a balanced meal is essential for good health and well-being.

The role of kimchi in Korean cuisine

Kimchi is a spicy fermented vegetable dish that is a staple in Korean cuisine. It is served at almost every meal and is believed to have many health benefits. Koreans consider kimchi to be an essential part of their diet and saying “jal meokkesseumnida” before eating it shows respect for this traditional dish.

The importance of family meals in Korean culture

Family meals are a significant part of Korean culture. They are an opportunity to connect with loved ones and share stories over a delicious meal. Saying “jal meokkesseumnida” before every meal helps create a sense of togetherness and gratitude for the time spent together.

The role of hospitality in Korean culture

Koreans are known for their hospitality and generosity. They believe that guests should be treated with the utmost respect and provided with the best food possible. Saying “jal meokkesseumnida” before every meal is a way of showing appreciation to guests and making them feel welcome.


Saying “jal meokkesseumnida” before every meal is an important tradition in Korean culture. It represents gratitude, respect, and appreciation for the food being provided and the people who prepared it. Korean cuisine is a feast for the senses, and communal dining is a way of bringing people together. By following the etiquette of dining in Korea, we can learn to appreciate food not just for its nourishment but also for the cultural significance behind it.

What do Koreans say when the food is good?

In Korean, the formal way to express that something is tasty or delicious is by using the word “맛있습니다” (masitseumnida), which you may encounter in contexts such as food presentations, interviews, or announcements. Essentially, it means that the food is very enjoyable.

Do Koreans say grace before eating?

In Korean culture, it is customary to say ‘Jal-mukkes-seub-nida’ before a meal, which translates to ‘I will eat well’ or ‘I will enjoy this meal’. This is a polite gesture of gratitude towards the food and the person who prepared it, similar to saying grace, ‘Bon appetit’, ‘Itadakimasu’ in Japanese, or a simple ‘Thank you for the food’.

What is Itadakimasu in Korean?

If you are comfortable with your proficiency in Korean, you can express your desire to enjoy the meal by saying ‘jal meokkessumnida(잘 먹겠습니다)’ before beginning to eat. This is similar to the Japanese phrase ‘itadakimasu’ and roughly translates to ‘I will eat well’.

What is Korean slang for eat?

Muk-stagram is a term coined in South Korea in the early 2010s by combining the Korean word “muk-da” meaning “to eat” and “Instagram.” It is gaining popularity among the younger generation, especially the MZ generation.

What is Korean slang for dinner?

Matjeom is a frequently-used Korean slang term for food, specifically referring to a delicious lunch. It is a shortened version of the Korean phrase “masinneun jeomsim.” If it is dinner time, the slang term “matjeo” can be used, which is a shortened version of “masinneun jeonyeok” or “delicious dinner” in English.

What do Korean say after eating?

In Korea, it is common to say “jal-meo-geot-ssum-ni-da” after finishing a meal, which translates to “I ate well” in English. This phrase is the same as the one used before eating, but in the past tense. To learn how to form the past tense in Korean, refer to our lesson specifically on that topic.

In addition to saying “jal meokkesseumnida” before every meal, Koreans also have other customs and traditions related to food. One such tradition is the use of a shared bowl of rice. In Korean culture, it is common for everyone at the table to share a bowl of rice, which symbolizes unity and equality. This tradition emphasizes the importance of sharing and working together as a community.

Another tradition in Korean cuisine is the use of banchan, or side dishes. Banchan are small plates of food that are served alongside the main course. They can range from pickled vegetables to grilled meats and seafood. The variety of banchan adds to the complexity and richness of Korean cuisine, and they are often shared and passed around the table.

Korean cuisine also places great importance on the concept of “umami,” which refers to the savory taste that is often described as “meaty” or “brothy.” This flavor is achieved through the use of ingredients such as soy sauce, miso paste, and fermented foods like kimchi. The umami flavor is an essential component of many Korean dishes, and it adds depth and complexity to the overall flavor profile.

In Korean culture, there are also specific rules around drinking alcohol during meals. It is customary for the oldest person at the table to pour drinks for others, and it is considered polite to turn away from the person pouring while they do so. Additionally, it is important not to pour your own drink but instead wait for someone else to pour it for you.

Overall, Korean cuisine and dining culture are steeped in tradition, etiquette, and customs. Saying “jal meokkesseumnida” before every meal is just one aspect of this rich cultural heritage. By learning about and appreciating these traditions, we can gain a deeper understanding of Korean culture and cuisine.

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