Most countries have their own table mannerisms and Korea is no different.
If you are already living in Korea or planning on making a trip, no doubt you will get hungry (probably). Eating among the Koreans in Korea may seem a little intimidating or scary at first for some people who are used to having their meals sitting around the lounge watching the box. Sitting on the floor cross-legged can seem just as uncomfortable and awkward as sharing the same dishes with everybody else who are seated at the dinner table. And certain Korean customs that were possibly introduced via Confucianism, the backbone of Korean society, often dictate how one should hold themselves at the often cramped table. Too bad if you are the youngest or the mangnae 막내, as your responsibilities may include preparing, setting, pouring (two hands please), dishing, bowing and cleaning all while operating under the influence of multiple shots of soju that were forced down you by the wise elder (don't be surprised if someone throws up in your Kimchi soup bowl). But thankfully, Korean food is so delicious, it may all be worth it in the end. And as time passes, after a few conbaes 건배 (cheers in Korean) and an extremely full stomach, the buttons are loosened, everybody begins to relax and the seemingly strict traditions are forgotten about for the next hour.
So if you have come to Korea on business, to study at a Korean language school or just for a short vacation, below are a few rules to help you adjust to this unique cultural experience and not stand out like an evil foreign devil.
A basic meal consists of a bowl of rice and a bowl of soup for each person, a few side dishes and a mains to share. If you are helping to prepare the food on the table, here are some basic rules -
Koreans generally eat together sitting at the table. As mentioned, they generally share their food which may seem awkward for some foreigners depending on their background. After a few times, you do get used to it and if you accidentally drop some of the main dish's sauce into the pancheon dish because of your crappy chopstick skills, no worries, have one of the Ajummas 아줌마 (middle-aged, married women) prepare some Bibimbap 비빔밥 for tomorrow's lunch.
Because of the close, intimate setting (as pictured above), there are some general guidelines to follow in order to create a comfortable atmosphere -
It's good to eat every last grain of rice in your bowl with your spoon. In the past, rice was very precious for Koreans and one couldn't even imagine leaving even a grain of rice in the bowl. It's common and polite for others to say "Eat more" which is simply just an expression of love. It’s totally up to you if you want to have more or not.