An ultimate restaurant culture guide to help you avoid any potential goof-ups or miscommunications for whenever you are dining in any restaurant in South Korea!
It is a well-known fact that food brings people together, no matter where you are. At the end of the day, we all like to enjoy good food with people. And the food is one of the best ways to learn about a country and its culture. The beauty of travels involve trying the local cuisine, learn about its preparation, and finding the meaning behind it.
Whenever you are in a foreign country, you can feel a bit lost when it comes to trying traditional cuisine. Especially whenever you are out in a restaurant, you can end up miscommunicating by not understanding the local culture.
Restaurant Culture in South Korea
South Korean culture is very different in many aspects, including eating customs. Even the most experienced foodies can feel a bit lost when dining at an authentic Korean restaurant. This post will help you understand more about the restaurant culture in South Korea.
Sit Wherever You Want
In most Korean restaurants, you can walk in and take a seat. There’s generally no host or hostess to seat you in restaurants in South Korea even when they are not filled. If a seat is open, it’s yours for taking. Traditional style restaurants also offer floor seating, so don’t forget to remove your shoes.
Get The Waitress’ Attention
Now that you’re sitting on a table, it’s time to call the waitress. In some restaurants, there is a button on the table. Sometimes, it is cleverly placed on the table leg, napkin box, or even the wall. If there is no button, you need to grab their attention by being firm and confident. You should say as the Koreans do – hearty jeogiyo (저기요 – excuse me). If you just hold up your hand, no one is going to notice you. A server is not assigned to you, so you can grab any server who is passing by.
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The culture in South Korea is much different from what you expect in other part of the world. In local Korean restaurants, you may have to set your table, fill your glasses of water, and even refill the dishes on your plate. Napkins and utensils are on the table or in a hidden drawer under the table. You should place the utensils on the top of the napkin.
Share Your Food
If you are eating with locals, sharing food is a local custom. Korean culture places a lot of emphasis on sharing food when you are eating in a group, be it at home or a restaurant. It means eating from the same bowl and sitting around a big round table. There are lots of small, different dishes (side dishes – banchan) and a big grill in the center of the table so that you can grill your meat. As the side dishes are shared and are served in unlimited quantities. So, no need to worry about sharing as you have unlimited food.
Cook It Yourself Food
Some Korean dishes are served uncooked where you have to fry, cook, or boil it on the spot. Dishes like bibimbap, samgyeopsal, and budae jjigae allow you to prepare your meals according to your preference. Although you are enjoying the Korean culture, if you are unsure about a dish in a Korean restaurant, feel free to call ‘Sajangnim,’ the owner, and ask about it.
Water at the End of the Meal
If you want to eat like a local in a restaurant, then wait until the end of the meal to drink water. According to the Korean culture and customs, locals believe that drinking too much water in between meals is bad for digestion.
By the end of the meal, you can find the bill typically on your table. It can also be placed on the seating divider or hanging on the table leg. You will have to bring the check to the front door so that you can pay on your way out. You should not hand over your credit card to the server for paying the bill.
Unlike restaurants in the US, there is no need to tip, and they don’t expect you to tip them. The service fee is included in the bill.
Just like any other country and culture, there are certain etiquettes you must follow so that you don’t end up offending your host! Our concise guide on restaurant culture in South Korea will certainly help you with that.