Korean Language Blog

Things You Want to Know When You Go To a Korean Restaurant Posted by on Jun 16, 2020 in Culture

After I took my in-laws to a 한국 식당 (han-gook-sik-dang: a Korean restaurant) for the first time, everybody fell in love with Korean food. However, I was surprised to find that my new American 시댁 식구 (si-daek-sik-goo: family in law) was so unfamiliar with the culture of Korean food. I certainly was not prepared to discover how much my in-laws needed complete step by step guidance in an authentic Korean restaurant. Today, I am going to introduce you to the intricacies of dining in Korean restaurants.


  1. Pick your seating option wisely in a Korean restaurant.

Or you better know how to sit 아빠 다리 (ah-pah-dah-ri: cross-legged) on the floor when you go to a Korean restaurant. Most Korean restaurants have two seating options: floor seating and table seating. You can choose whichever seating option is most comfortable for you. Although some traditional Korean restaurants, particularly in Korea, might ask you to choose the floor seating if you want to order Korean barbeque as your meal.


It is somewhat old-fashioned to find some Korean restaurants that are only equipped with low tables with the barbeque grills, requiring you to sit cross-legged on 방석 (bang-suk: sitting cushion). If you have a back problem, it would not be comfortable sitting on a floor for a long period of time, especially while eating. Most Korean barbeque restaurants in America I have ever been to have barbeque grill tables with chairs for those customers who prefer to sit on a chair.


  1. It is okay to ask for a fork in Korean restaurants if you cannot use chopsticks properly.


Image by Pixabay


Do you feel pressured to use 젓가락 (jut-gah-rak: chopsticks) at a Korean restaurant? Don’t stress over it. My mother-in-law is good at using chopsticks now, but she was embarrassed about not being able to use chopsticks at a Korean restaurant. Using chopsticks takes time if you never used them before. Do not be afraid to ask a waiter to get you a fork. They want you enjoy Korean food, not stress over chopsticks.


  1. Korean cuisine has a lot of side dishes that you did not order.


Don’t be surprised when your waiter starts bringing all those little 반찬 (bahn-chan: side dishes) you didn’t order. Once I helped my in-laws to decipher a Korean menu at the restaurant, we ordered food. In a moment, a waitress started bringing numerous side dishes. Everyone looked at me with confused, widened eyes.

Most Korean restaurants provide side dishes along with the main menu, whether you only order a bowl of stew or Korean barbeque. Side dishes are a part of Korean cuisine. You can even ask for a refill of the side dishes. Many Korean restaurants would hardly ever charge you for a side dish or its refill, but be mindful that when you ask for a refill that the food you don’t finish will be going to waste.



Image by Pixabay


  1. Who do I place my order with in a Korean restaurant?

It was a bit of culture shock when I first learned that I should wait for my waiter in restaurants in America. I believe this custom supports the culture of tipping in most western countries.

In Korea, tipping to a waiter in restaurants, excluding very high-end fine restaurants, is not common. If you go to a Korean restaurant in America, you probably have a waiter who serves you throughout your time at a restaurant. However, if you go to a Korean restaurant in Korea, it is a different story. You will see that more than one waiter/waitress in a Korean restaurant will serve you. It might be awkward for you to have a couple of waiters serve you in Korean restaurants, but it is common.

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About the Author: Flying Oyster

Hi, I was born and raised in Seoul, S. Korea. I have lived in Seattle for a while and I am traveling the world with my husband since 2016. It is my honor to share Korean culture with you all. Don't be shy to share your thoughts and comments! :) Talk to you soon. H.J.


  1. Esther Ingalls Smith:

    My husband and I lived in S. Korea (Anyang) in 2011 and 2012. We very much enjoy your blog. It is fun to read and remember our time there. We were going to go for a visit this spring, but Covid kept that from happening sadly. We have kids and grandkids in the Seattle area, we live in Central Oregon. Thank you for posting!

    • FlyHighOyster:

      @Esther Ingalls Smith Easter,

      Thank you for sharing. I am glad to hear that you enjoy my posts. I am currently living in southern Oregon and I love Oregon. It is funny how close we are:) I had to cancel my trip to Korea this spring as well. It was a huge disappointment. I hope this madness disappears soon. Have a great day!