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Table Manners


The traditional table manners of Korea are characterized by reverence to seniority and appreciation of food served.  Of the old records on dining manners, the following is quoted from 'Sasojeol' written by scholar Lee Deok-Mu in 1700.'  According to him, table manners are divided into 'before dining,' 'during dining' and 'after dining.' 


Table manners


Etiquette before dining You should have clean face and hand before being seated at table.  Do not eat raw liver, omasum and kidney of cow, or raw fish too much to decrease appetite for main dish.
Etiquette during dining

However busy you are, you must not delay eating when meal is served.  It should be avoided to take a meal after food has become cooled off or dusted.  There are old sayings to give caution in this regard, like telling the eater 'Meal for the ghost is waiting,' or 'That food seems to have been presented to altar.'  In addition, you should not make other attendants wait at dining table.  When you are angry, you must cool down first and keep peace of mind before starting to eat.  Do not shout or sigh at dining table, nor should you put down spoon and chopsticks suddenly on table.  However hot the served rice or soup may be, do not blow it to cool off.  Do not chew food too slowly as if you dislike the food, nor should you chew too hurriedly as if you are being chased.  Do not rap on the table with chopsticks, nor make the noise of spoon's hitting tableware.

Etiquette after dining

After finishing meal, you should adjust spoon and chopsticks orderly lest their tips may be extended outside the table, to prevent their hitting doorpost when bringing them back to kitchen.  Please remove leftovers stuck between your teeth with toothpick, thereby clearing mouth odor and preventing decay of teeth.



Table manners (quoted from 'Mussangsinsik' etiquette in Joseon (Chosun) dynasty)


1. Do not droop down your head too much over food dish.
2. Do not let your head approach vessel while taking food into your mouth.
3. Do not put spoon and chopsticks deep into your mouth, nor should you put used spoon (attached with rice grain) into a bowl which is being shared with others.
4. Try to pick up food at once, and avoid searching around dishes with chopsticks.
5. Do not eat food too hurriedly but enjoy leisurely dining with cheerful conversation with the attendants.  Take care lest your spittle eject while speaking.
6. Please be careful not to touch dishes with your sleeve when you pick up food.
7. It is not polite to press others to eat.  Do not offer another food to guest while he/she is eating food.
8. It is desirable to avoid foods that generate strong smell, such as leek or garlic, before you join a banquet or party.  Nor should you spray too strong perfume on your head or dress.
9. Be careful lest your hair or lower end of your clothes should touch served food.
10. When attending group meal, it is not polite to leave the table alone earlier than others.  It is desirable that you lay spoon and chopsticks on dish and wait for others to finish.  Etiquette requires all participants to finish meal at the same time.
11. Do not pick your teeth in the presence of others.
12. Do not read newspaper or book at dining table when there are other attendants.