Table Manners - South Korea

South Korea

In formal settings, a meal is commenced when the eldest/most senior diner at the table partakes of any of the foods on the table. Before partaking, intention to enjoy their meal should be expressed. Similarly, satisfaction or enjoyment of that meal should be expressed at its completion. On occasion, there are some dishes which require additional cooking or serving at the table. In this case, the youngest/lowest-ranked (non-child) diner should perform this task. When serving, diners are served the meal (including and beverages: water, tea, or alcohol) in descending order starting with the eldest/highest-ranked diner to the youngest/lowest-ranked.

Usually, diners will have 1 bowl of soup on the right with 1 bowl of rice to its left. Alternatively, soup may be served in 1 large communal pot to be consumed directly or ladled into individual bowls. Dining utensils will include 1 pair of chopsticks and 1 spoon. Common chopstick etiquette should be followed (See Chopstick Etiquette), but rice is generally eaten with the spoon instead of chopsticks (as eating rice with chopsticks is considered rude). Often some form of protein (meat, poultry, fish) will be served as a main course and placed at the center of the table within reach of the diners. Banchan will also be distributed throughout the table. If eaten with spoon, banchan is placed on the spoonful of rice before entering the mouth. With chopsticks, however, it is fed to the mouth directly. The last piece of food on a communal dish should not be served to oneself without first asking for permission, but, if offered the last bit of food in the communal dish, it is considered rude to refuse the offer. Bowls (of rice or soup) should not be picked up off the table while dining, exception for large bowls of noodle soup (See Korean noodles). Slurping while eating noodles and soup is generally acceptable, is not uncommon to chew with mouths open.

If alcohol is served with the meal, it is common practice that when alcohol is first served for the eldest/highest-ranked diner to make a toast and for diners to clink their glasses together before drinking. The clinking of glasses together is often done throughout the meal. Never served alcohol to yourself. Likewise, it is considered rude to drink alone. Instead, keep pace with other diners and both serve & be served the alcohol. Alcohol should always be served to older/higher-ranked diners with 2 hands, and younger/lower-ranked diners may turn their face away from elder/higher-ranked diners when drinking the alcohol.

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