Korean Table Manners

A list of the most basic rules of Korean dining etiquette.

Politeness is very important to Koreans and there is a lot of emphasis placed on sharing meals and drinks. Although some of the older traditions have relaxed in recent years, this list of Korean table manners includes etiquette still in use today.

  • 01 of 14

    Wait to be seated

    Mom & child having meal in Korean restaurant
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    Wait for the oldest person/people to sit down first before you take a seat at the table.
  • 02 of 14

    Before you begin

    Before you eat, especially at someone's home, it's polite to say that you are looking forward to the meal. In Korean, people say Jalmukesumneda (I will eat well).
  • 03 of 14

    Beginning the meal

    Wait for the oldest person/people to lift their spoon or chopsticks first before you start eating.

  • 04 of 14

    During the meal

    Don't blow your nose at the table. Ever.
    Continue to 5 of 14 below.
  • 05 of 14

    Don't rush or linger

    Try to eat at the same pace as everyone else, especially the elders.
  • 06 of 14

    Soup and rice bowls

    During the meal, don't hold the bowl of soup or rice (as you might do in other Asian countries like China or Japan).
  • 07 of 14

    Double dipping

    Korean meals have many communal side dishes, so don't dig into the bowls and touch a lot of the other food while you're taking your own.
  • 08 of 14

    Refilling your glass

    Always pour drinks for others first, especially for those senior to you.
    Continue to 9 of 14 below.
  • 09 of 14

    Offers of alcohol

    It's not considered polite to refuse an alcoholic drink offered to you, especially from an elder.
  • 10 of 14

    Accepting dishes or drinks

    When someone senior pours a drink for you, hold out your cup with both hands to accept (this also holds true for someone passing you a side dish or something else at the table).

  • 11 of 14

    Pouring drinks

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    When you pour for someone senior to you, place your other hand lightly under your pouring hand or under your opposite elbow.
  • 12 of 14

    Placement of utensils on table

    Don't stick your chopsticks straight up into your bowl because that resembles traditional Korean ancestor ceremonies. When you're done, utensils go back on the table.
    Continue to 13 of 14 below.
  • 13 of 14

    Don't waste food

    Don't take so much food that you can't finish, as that is considered wasteful.
  • 14 of 14

    Acknowledging your hosts

    If someone has hosted you in their home or treated you to a meal out, it is customary to acknowledge your thanks after the meal. In Korean, people say masegaemugusuyo (I ate well).