What Koreans Say Before Eating ? 6 Expression You Should Know

Asians eating happily

Invited to have lunch at your Korean friend’s house? Or maybe you scored a dinner date with a hot Korean guy?

Whatever the eating appointment, knowing the right expressions to show appreciation for your food is important. Not only does this leave a good impression. It also prevents you from offending someone!

So before you dig into your jjajangmyeon, read up. Learn about 6 expressions that Koreans say before eating to have a delicious Korean dining experience.

1. 잘 먹겠습니다

Asian boy eating

Pronunciation: jal meok-kket-seum-ni-da

Literal translation: I will eat well.

Why Koreans say this:

You’ll hear this 99% of the time when dining at Korean places. Koreans say this show their appreciation for the person who made their food. It doesn’t have to be directed to a specific person. So they use this expression whether they’re eating with the cook or not.

If someone treated them to a meal, Koreans also say this to express their thanks. They also use this to say that they’re happy to eat with each other when dining as a group.

Worried about sounding impolite in Korean? This expression uses the formal ending 습니다 (seum-ni-da). So there’s no need to fret with honorifics if you’re using this expression.

How the expression is made:

잘 (jal) = well
먹다 (meok-da) = to eat
겠 (kket) = expresses the speaker’s intention
(스)ㅂ니다 (seum-ni-da) = formal ending

2. 먹자

Dining with friends at the restaurant

Pronunciation: meok-ja

Literal translation: Let’s eat!

Why Koreans say this:

Want to eat together with your friends? Or encourage them to start digging in? Koreans say 먹자! to invite someone to eat.

Warning: Don’t say this to your boss or someone older than you! This expression uses an informal ending, so its only meant for friends. A more formal way to say this is 먹어요 (meo-geo-yo). But if you’re dining out with colleagues, use 먹읍시다 (meo-geup-shi-da) instead.

How the expression is made:

먹다 (meok-da) = to eat
자 (ja) = let’s do something

3. 맛있게 드세요

Young Asian couple having lunch together in cafe

Pronunciation: ma-sit-kke deu-se-yo

Literal translation: Please eat deliciously.

Why Koreans say this:

Koreans usually say this to their equals, such as their coworkers. Think saying “Bon apetit” or “Please enjoy your meal.”

How the expression is made:

맛있게 (ma-sit-kke) = adverb meaning ‘deliciously’
드세요 (deu-se-yo) = please eat

4. 많이 드세요

Korean friends eating pizza

Pronunciation: manh-i deu-se-yo

Literal translation: Please eat a lot.

Why Koreans say this:

많이 드세요 is similar to the previous expression. But it’s more often used by the person who bought or cooked the food. By coaxing someone to eat a lot, it’s also like wishing that they enjoy their food.

How the expression is made:

많이 (manh-i) = adverb meaning “many”
드세요 (deu-se-yo) = please eat

5. 맛있게 먹겠습니다

Asian woman eating breakfast

Pronunciation: ma-sit-kke meok-kket-seum-ni-da

Literal translation: I will eat deliciously.

Why Koreans say this:

This is another expression that Koreans often say before eating. It has a similar meaning as 잘 먹겠습니다. It’s also like thanking whoever made your meal by saying that you will enjoy the food.

How the expression is made:

맛있게 (ma-sit-kke) = adverb meaning ‘deliciously’
겠 (kket) = expresses the speaker’s intention
(스)ㅂ니다 (seum-ni-da) = formal ending

6. 잘 먹을게요.

Eating Korean food

Pronunciation: jal meog-eul-ke-yeo

Literal translation: I will eat well.

Why Koreans say this:

This is another version of 잘 먹겠습니다. It has the same meaning but with less formality. Still, you can safely use this expression without sounding impolite.

How the expression is made:

잘 (jal) = well
먹다 (meok-da) = to eat
(으)ㄹ게요 (eul-ke-yeo) = a future tense ending expressing the speaker’s intention

Other Korean Table Manners You Should Know

Now that you know what Koreans say before eating, you are ready to learn more about Korean table etiquette! So before picking up your chopsticks, here are 10 other Korean table manners you should know.

1. Your superiors and older people eat first

Businessmen having a launch party.

When dining out in Korea, observing social hierarchy is the key. This is the most important dining etiquette to avoid offending a Korean.

Remember to let your boss or someone else older than you eat first. Once they’ve taken their first bite, you can now begin munching on your food!

2. Sit at the right place at the right time

Asian grandmother eating

Still on the subject of social hierarchy. When eating together as a group, Koreans sit based on their social ranking. The youngest or most junior sits closest to the door. Meanwhile, the oldest (or your boss) sits farthest away.

Aside from your seat’s location, the timing is also important. Make sure that your superior is already seated before you settle down on your seat.

Scared of messing up the seating etiquette? We know that the seating arrangements can be tricky. But as a trick, just wait for everyone to sit down first. The leftover spot will be for you!

3. Follow everyone’s eating pace

Asians eating happily

Finishing your food faster or slower than the rest of your group might leave a bad impression.

If you’re eating too fast, it can look like you’re trying to rush. It may seem like you’re not enjoying their company or you’d rather be somewhere else.

But if you’re eating too slowly, gobble up! Your host might think that you’re not enjoying the food.

4. Minimize sound

Asian girl eating fried sausage near window at home, lifestyle concept.

Don’t believe what you see in mukbang shows! Eat with as little noise as possible. Open-mouth chewing, slurping sounds, and other loud noises are actually frowned upon in Korea.

You May Also Like: 10 Korean Stereotypes That Are Not True

5. Your rice bowl stays on the table

Eating with bowl on table

Unlike in other Asian countries, lifting your bowl or plate closer to your face is frowned upon. It’s better to stoop lower to the table than to hold your rice bowl in your hand.

6. Turn away to sneeze, leave to blow your nose

Sick asian little child girl wiping and cleaning nose with tissue on her hand

There might be instances when your nose becomes runny due to spicy food. But Koreans can be mindful about sneezing and blowing their nose to avoid germs.

So remember these two rules: Turn away from the table if you have to sneeze. And if you have to blow your nose, excuse yourself and do it in the comfort room.

You May Also Like: Korean Etiquette – 15 Things Not To Do In South Korea

7. Eat from your plate, not from the hot pot

Asian family eating hotpot

Sharing a big pot of food with your Korean friends? It’s customary to put all the food on your individual bowl or plate before eating. Chowing down directly from the serving platter is considered rude.

8. Don’t stick your chopsticks into your bowl

Korean spicy crispy chicken on rice.

If you’re finished eating, don’t leave your chopsticks inside the rice bowl. It looks similar to funeral rites or memorial rituals. So Koreans consider this as bad luck.

Not sure where to put your utensils? Leave them beside your bowl or plate – at the same spot where you found them.

9. Refill others’ drinks – with both hands

Pouring Soju

The Korean dining experience isn’t complete without a few shots (or more) of soju! It’s common courtesy to make sure that your neighbor’s glass is always filled. But you should only offer a refill if their glass is empty.

In the same way, it’s your neighbor’s responsibility to fill your glass. They might lose face if you pour your own. But there are other times when it’s ok to do so. Just observe the others in your group and see if they’re doing it first.

And when pouring alcohol, use both hands. Similarly, hold your glass with two hands when someone refills your glass.

Read More: How To Drink Soju – Full Guide

10. Don’t reach too far for food

Asian family eating

Want to taste a dish that’s at the far end of the table? Reaching too far across the table to grab a dish is considered impolite. It’s better to ask someone nearer to hand the dish over to you.

I hope you enjoyed this article about what Koreans say before eating.

Korean food is absolutely delicious. But unless you’re inviting bad impressions, that doesn’t mean you’re free to carelessly chow down!

We hope the expressions and table manners we’ve listed here are enough to help you gobble up your samgyeopsal and chimaek with ease.

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