If you’ve ever had the chance to visit Korea, you know how important eating out is to Korean culture. Going out to eat is the perfect way to catch up with friends, get to know your coworkers better, or even survive the “I don’t want to go grocery shopping” struggle that we’ve all suffered through a time or two (or 10). There are already tons of blog posts on the web about the cultural differences related to eating out, so I’m not going to go into that here. I’m going to list 5 things that I think are great about eating out in Korea.
1. No annoying waiters. One of the best things about eating out in Korea is that there is no one constantly bothering you every 5 minutes or so wondering if you are enjoying your meal. Most Korean restaurants have a bell at each table, and you push it if you need any assistance. You need more water? Push the bell. You ready to order? Push the bell. You need more gochujang? You get the idea. No one is hounding you to hurry up with your food, and there’s no need for them to keep coming to your table, allowing you to enjoy your meal in peace. If there isn’t a bell, politely calling out “Chogi-oh!!” to quickly grab their attention.
2. The bill is already at the table. As soon as you order your food, the waiter goes to put your order in and then comes back to place the bill on your table. I’ll admit, at first I was taken aback when the waiter put the bill on the table before she even brought me my water. But now, I actually appreciate having my bill ready. It gives me the freedom to literally leave whenever I want, without having to go through the hassle of flagging down a waiter and wait for me to bring me my bill.
3. No tip. I know, there are plenty of places in the world where there is no tip. But coming from America, where most waiters and waitresses rely on tips to make a living, I was used to adding at least 15% to my bill when determining how to pay. And although that allowed me to be able to use mental math to determine percentages pretty quickly, it didn’t necessarily help my pockets. However, this is one less thing that I have to worry about in Korea. Waiters and waitresses get salaries, which means that there’s no need for a tip. And you won’t get any complaints about that from me!!
4. Sides, sides, sides!! When you go out for Korean food, you will almost always get a plethora of side dishes. These sides, referred to as banchan, are seen as an essential part of the meal and are also bottomless, which means you can have as much as you want. These dishes are meant to be shared by everyone. Although the banchan may vary depending on the restaurant, there are usually at least 3-7 and you can always count on kimchi making an appearance!!
5. Service!!! Ok, let me explain. In Korea, service refers to goods or services that are free of charge. When eating out, there will be times that you may get extra food and/or drinks for Free.99!! That’s my favorite price!! This doesn’t happen everytime you go out and it depends on the restaurant and the manager/owner, but that makes it so much more exciting when you do get something for free. **In my experience, it’s much more common to get drinks and light snacks for service.**
6. There’s always free, cold water. You may be thinking that this isn’t such a big deal, but there are few things that grind my gears as much as having to pay fir water in a restaurant. This isn’t something specific to Korean restaurants though, there’s literally water dispensers in every single place of business.
For me, these are the top 6 things that I enjoy about eating out in Korea. Sure, there are some things that I don’t like, but that’s for another day and another list. Comment below, what do you enjoy most about eating out in Korea?