5 Things never to do when eating with Koreans
Safely navigating foreign cultural practices and traditions is never an easy task, and some of the trickiest moments can be found around the dinning table. Eating with Koreans is no exception; however, with these 5 simple points in mind you can not only enjoy the amazingly delicious Korean food in front of you, but also rest assured that your company is enjoying you!
1. Don't eat before the oldest person
In the Korean culture age is very very important. The older a person is, the more respect you should show him or her. When it comes to eating, it's important to show that respect by letting the oldest person eat first. I know it may be hard, but just wait patiently until they have taken their first bite! If you're worried about asking Koreans how old they are, don't fret. It is not considered rude, but part of normal culture.
2. Don't pick up your plates or bowls while eating
While in other Asian countries it might be normal to pick up your plates or bowls when eating, in Korea it is not done normally and even considered to be rude by some. You may have noticed that many Koreans eat their rice with spoons! The next time you eat with Koreans make sure to keep all the tableware firmly on the table, only using your utensils to bring the food to your mouth.
But as with all things exceptions can be found...the lid of a pot can be your best friend when that late night ramen craving hits!
3. Don't stand and eat
This one might seem like common sense, but when eating with others around a table (especially in someone's home), you should not eat while standing. Koreans have a saying that only beggars eat while standing and it is considered rude not only to the people you are with, but also to the person who made the food.
4. Don't drink alcohol facing someone older than you
Have you ever wondered why in dramas you often see people turning their head away before downing a shot of soju? Well, you can thank table manners for that! It is considered proper to hide your alcohol consumption from those older than you at the table...yes...even if they are the ones pouring and telling you to drink! You might even catch a glimpse of someone hiding their glass behind a raised hand for that extra level of modesty.
5. Don't take the last bite of food when sharing
Once again this has to do with respecting elders. Make sure to let the oldest person at the table have the last bite when sharing food. That being said, it is very likely that they will offer the guest or someone else to take the last bite. Even if this is the case, make sure you say no a few times before accepting the offer! As a general rule of thumb, for food and otherwise, it is considered polite to refuse offers a few times before accepting. Likewise, if you're offering something and a Korean tells you no, make sure to ask a few more times! This will help you not seem over eager or just plain rude.
These simple guidelines should help make your next Korean gastronomic adventure smooth sailing! Have you ever run into an awkward situation while sharing a meal with Koreans?