Korean Confucianism puts a premium on respect for the elderly and for extended family ties. These days in Korea, societal pressures have torn apart the traditional concept of the extended family. However I was lucky to be able to learn table manners from my large family especially from my grandmother.
Age is still important and respected in Korea, therefore the most eldest in a group will start the meal first by lifting his (or her) chopsticks and taking food first and then the others may follow. Although this custom has been a little eroded nowadays, many Koreans households still follow these traditional Korean manners regarding eating.
There are some other dining customs that we still think are important in everyday life.
In Korea, the elderly tend to sit on the floor rather than in a Western manner, at the table, on a chair. When sitting like this Koreans will reserve the position farthest away from the entrance door for the elderly so the younger do not take these spots. This ensures that the eldest are not bothered by the bringing in of food and moving about of other guests.
When we have a meal with the elderly (and this includes our parents), we wait for the most senior to be seated before the other people follow. As I have said we do not lift our spoon or chopsticks or start eating first before the elderly person does.
We also do not signify that we have finished our meal until the elderly finish their meal. So what we do when we have stopped eating is to place our spoons in our bowls until the elderly person has that they are finished by placing their utensils on the table. Only then will we take our utensils and place them on the table. So we tend to manage our pace of eating so that we don’t finish our meals before the elderly.
When the meal is finished the then no one should leave their seats before the most eldest get up. When the eldest starts to rise, then we also all get up together to show our respect.
Our drinking custom is that the elderly tend to pass their drinking glass to a junior when it is empty. The junior holds the glass with two hands whilst it is refilled by the senior for the junior to drink.
As a junior you must never drink immediately, first you say “thank you” and then you must to turn your head slightly away from the eldest before drinking.
After drinking the junior must make some show of the glass been empty by inverting it and make a gesture of wiping clean before refilling it and returning the glass to the senior.
So hopefully you as honourable readers of my blog can have some fun showing these manners to your friends and family whilst enjoying my food recipes.