Culture Shock: Table Etiquette [South Korea]


  • DO NOT pick up food with your hands
  • Fruit is picked up with a toothpick
    • Turn your head away from others, and use your free hands to cover your mouth
    • Women do this while chewing as cute mannerism
  • DO NOT talk with mouth full
  • DO NOT blow nose your at the table
  • Refuse the first offering of a second helping
  • Try a little of everything
    • Its ok to ask what something is
  • Bones and shells should be put on the table or an extra plate
  • Finish EVERYTHING on your plate
  • Excessive talking is frowned on
  • Try to make as little noise as possible


  • The oldest person is served 1st
  • DO NOT begin eating until the Oldest/Most senior person has been served and has started eating or drinking
  • You must wait for the oldest person to finish eating before you can get up from the table


  • WAIT to be told where to sit
  • The most honored position is at the middle of the table
    • The host and the honored guest sits in the middle
    • The guest sits on the side of the table farthest from the door


  • NEVER point your chopsticks
  • DO NOT pierce food with your chopstick
  • DO NOT cross chopsticks on the chopstick rest
  • NEVER place chopsticks across your rice bowl
  • Return the chopsticks to the table when you drink, stop to speak, or after every few bites
  • To indicate you are finished put chopsticks on the chopstick rest or on the table

Drinking Etiquette

  • NEVER pour your own drink
    • Pour for others, make sure their glass is never empty
  • When someone fills your glass hold it with both hands to be polite (this is a rule used when accepting anything)
  • Turn your back to anyone of higher rank when drinking
  • NEVER fill a glass that is partially filled (Don’t empty your glass if you don’t want to drink)
  • A sign of respect is when a person of higher rank drinks, fills his glass and passes it to you, DRINK!

In A Home

  • Remove your shoes before entering the house
  • You can arrive up to 30 minutes late without giving offense

The Host

  • The host greets each guest individually’
  • The host pours drinks for the guest in their presence
    • The hostess DOES NOT pour drinks
    • The host accompanies guests to the gate/their car (it is insulting to wish your guest farewell indoors)

**Send a Thank You note the following day after being invited to dinner


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