Yonsei KLI prepped us well in level 2 by introducing to us what we should and shouldn’t do while having a meal, and it wasn’t hard to follow as most of it are similar to what East Asians are accustomed to. Yet, even though the East Asian cultures are similar, there are still minor differences to take note of and here are two that might take a bit of getting used to:
- Do not hold your rice or soup bowl in your hand while eating.
- Do not hold both your chopsticks and spoon at the same time.
In the Japanese and the Chinese culture, it is common to be holding up your rice or soup bowl while you eat rice with the chopsticks or drink soup from the bowl, but in South Korea, you should really be eating rice and drinking soup with a spoon. And as much as it might seem natural to hold your chopsticks in one hand and the soup spoon in the other while having noodles and such, it is bad manners in the Korean culture.
Given how traditional the Korean society can be, it is important to watch out when you are dining with someone who is more senior than you, although people of the younger generation are more relaxed about following these rules (in fact you will see some of them breaking these rules). Sometimes it’s also about paying attention to who you’re dining with and adapting to the situation; it’s one thing to learn about table manners in textbooks and another in real life. You don’t want to appear too reserved and old-fashioned with friends and acquaintances of the younger generation. There will always free spirits who don’t pay much attention to such details.