If you are traveling to Korea or living in a Korea, you are most likely want to go to a Korean restaurant in Korea. However, it is always nervous and cautious when you are at a new place and try something new for the first time. Make sure you don't look like a fool by following this guide on how to eat/order Korean food like a local!
* This post only applies for typical Korean restaurants. Western restaurants in Korea and more upscale restaurants in Korea may not apply.
Unlike western restaurant culture, you would have to take a seat as you walk into a local Korean restaurant. Don't stand there and wait for the host or hostess to seat you. If there's an open seat, it's yours for the taking.
Sitting at a table waiting for the waitress to come around? Just sitting there and waiting for them to come get your order won't help here.
The first thing you have to do is look for a button on the table. if there is a button, press it and they will come to you. If there is no button, you would have to actually call them like locals do. Say Jeogiyo (저기요 - Excuse me). Don't worry if you think that this is impolite. As long as you are not screaming/yelling at them, they will come and take your order.
* You are not designated a server which means that the waiters/waitresses share in the serving duties.
* Another friendly way to address a waitress is to call them Unni/Eonni (언니 - older sister) or Emo (이모 - aunt). But Tbh they really don't care what you call them.
Oh No. How am I going to eat my food when there's no utensils prepared? Don't worry. The utensils are typically found at the table you are sitting at. Look around, then you will find a box with a lid on the table.
Once you find the box, place a napkin on the table and put your utensils on top of it. Most Koreans do this to add another level of sanitary. (The restaurants are clean).
* If you can't find a box on top of the table, look under the table or they might be placed in a drawer of the table.
* If you are at a restaurant where they use wooden chopsticks (KBBQ places), create a DIY chopstick rest to keep the table clear of stains and meat grease.
Tap water in Korea is safe and taste real good. Perfectly equipped water supply system allows you to drink tap water. This won't cause any stomachache. Water isn't that pricey as well. So asking for water is free in every restaurant.
It is easy to find a sign saying "Water is self (-serviced) at pretty much all restaurants. For some of you noticed that cost of food in Korea is rather cheap compared to general goods. Many inexpensive restaurants adopt self-service system for some side dishes and water to save labor costs to keep the price low.
You can just grab a water bottle from the fridge or from the water purifier by yourself.
Be prepared to share food with others. Korea is a big sharing country which means you will see a lot of people sharing plates/pots of food together. Don't freak out. This is just a normal thing in Korea.
However, if you are eating meals with Koreans, You should be aware of what you are serving with. Make sure to use a clean spoon for serving side dishes.
* Ask for an extra dish (앞 접시 - ap jeobsi) and take what you need if you are uncomfortable with this.
Banchan is side dishes served at all Korean restaurants. They are all included in the cost of the meal and you can ask for more if you liked them ("Free refills").
Korean restaurants won't have any desserts. I mean if you have room for desserts, you didn't do dinner right. :P But if you really really one some desserts, don't worry. There are many dessert places anywhere on the streets (Heaven).
Vanilla Ice Cream of Brown at Line Cafe, Garosu-gil, Seoul, South Korea.
If you call over the waitress asking for the check and or hand over your credit card to pay, they will still help you out with paying but some might just tell you to go upfront.
Most Korean restaurants in Korea have the check already at the table. They mark whatever you ordered and leave the check on the table. In some cases, you would have to bring that check with you to the front door to pay on your way out.
Korea is not a Tipping country which means that you don't have to leave a tip after you finish a meal. If you want to, of course you could. however, it is not mandatory. Nobody expects for tips while serving in Korea.