G20 Culture Shock: 20 Things that you should know about Korean Food Culture

Monday, November 08, 2010


Welcome to Korea! I know that many people that are coming for the G20 plan to venture out of their hotels to see the real Korea. I wanted to give you 20 tips so you won't be too shocked about the Korean food culture. Don't worry, it's safe and it's great to learn about the food through the culture. Take a Korean friend (or you can take me).

20. Wear clean socks free of holes at all time, you might end up in a restaurant where you'll have to take off your shoes.
19. You're going to have to use thin metal chopsticks and long stemmed spoons for eating. You might want to take a different set of utensils if these are too difficult.
18. People might greet you by asking if you had eaten rice (bap mok-eossoyo?), it's not because you have rice in your beard or on your clothes.
17. You shouldn't pour your own alcohol. Drinking is a very social event and you don't want to exclude yourself.
16. The little button on the table is to call your waiter- it's so cool!
15. Waiters won't anticipate your needs like water or tissues or temperature, you should push the cool button and tell them what you need.
14. You might have to cook your own food in the grill in the center of the table in a restaurant.
13. The scissors are only used to cut food and they didn't borrow them from the barber shop next door.
12. All the little side-dishes you get before your meal are not your appetizers. They are supposed to accompany the meal. You won't get charged for them and in some restaurants they'll replace them for free.
11. The stone bowl that bibimbap comes in might be extremely hot. Don't try and touch it.
10. If you are the oldest person at the table, you'll get special treatment like people will wait for you to start eating before they do, they'll let you speak first, your glass will never be empty, young people will turn their heads when they drink--BUT, you'll be expected to pay the bill.
9. Learn these phrases: Anyeong Haseyo (Hello); Hwajangshil Odieyo (Where is the bathroom?); and Kamsahamnida (Thank you). 
8. Ladies, you might have to sit on the floor, so you might want to refrain from wearing skirts that are too short or take something to cover yourself.
7. Patbingsu, (red bean shaved ice dessert) tastes better if it is all mixed up.
6. Your fish and meat might have bones in it. Sorry, but they won't debone it.
5. Soju is evil. Even though they might say one-shot, you shouldn't drink too much of it. I recommend you fill your glass with water on the sly just to be safe. Potangju (The Soju Bomb) is exceptionally evil.
4. The longer the wait and the line to get into a restaurant tells you how delicious the restaurant is.
3. Koreans eat when they drink, but you are not expected to eat everything at each restaurant. Koreans believe that drinking on an empty stomach is bad for your health.
2. Older gentlemen might allude that the food you are eating is good for male virility. Everything that they eat is good for health or for male virility. Just smile and nod.
1. Finally, Relax and have fun. Eating is a social event and a means of getting to know each other. There are no hard and fast rules for eating, just eat the way you would like. Also, you might get asked to eat some very bizarre foods, it's not out of spite, but of caring. Humor them and take a bite. Enjoy your time in Seoul and Happy Eating!

Dan
(P.S. If any delegates or guests for the G20 summit are reading this, hello! Also, Barack Obama, you are doing a great job and you make me proud to be an American.)

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