And we’re back with our TL;DRs! Couldn’t do them for a while because we were in Japan for a bit, but we’re back, now, and talking about more stuff that you ask us to talk about. This time, Korean Table Etiquette. Sounds like a boring topic, but we had some fun talking about it. Here’s the original question:

TLDR Question

Also, we mentioned the crappiness of that bad video we did from long time ago. Yes, we’re embarrassed that our videos were like that before, and we’d rather not watch it, but if you haven’t seen it then you have no clue how bad our videos used to be, though our focus and method was different back then :D We’re a lot more comfortable on camera now. Anyhow, check it out if you haven’t seen it yet:


So, we add a bit more to what we talked about in this video. We gave a few examples, like try giving out chopsticks and tissues to others, be prepared for a different style of buffet eating, and just generally trying to be as considerate of others in a meal-sharing environment as possible.

We did get a hint of one other rule/suggestion from Soo Zee when we spoke with her about it today, but she was a bit iffy about the details because she wasn’t too sure about it, since she’s not in a typical business setting. She mentioned that there’s typically a seat at a table where the people that pay for the meals usually sit. It’s not, like, the head of the table, but it’s something like to the left of the door…or something. She wasn’t sure. We then began to joke about how if this was the case we’d all run into the restaurant and dive into the seat as far the hell away from the paying seat as possible, and we’d all be scrunched up on each other like “NO YOU’RE CLOSEST! YOU PAY!” But then we got distracted and started talking about something else, so that’s all the info we can give you about the crappy money seat as possible. If anyone knows anything about it, or if you have any other stories about confusion you had with Korean table etiquette, please let us know!

  1. With regards to the sitting arrangements, the seat furthest away from the door, (like in a meeting room), is considered “the best” and is usually reserved for the senior or higher ranking person or a VIP guest. I believe the idea is that the seat nearest to the door, tends to get “disturbed” or “interrupted” when someone walks in or out, or when the door opens, someone will normally talk to the person closest to the door.

    Hence usually the CEO or Department Head..etc usually does not sit near the door but the furthest seat from it.

    I think that usually apply to “Who the waiter passes the bill/check to when he/she enters the dining room”, either he/she will hand it to the person closest to the door, because he/she is nearest or, maybe the waiter will hand it to the person seated the furthest away from the door, since it will normally indicate he/she is the most senior person, and would normally be the one paying?

  2. LOL I guess I pass food out and take care of others before me just naturally. I went to a yakinikku-ya and I left hungry because I cooked and passed out all the meat, soup, rice, etc. to everyone and left little to nothing for me. Woops.

  3. Who are your favorite Korean Singers or Bands? Do you have a secret Korean crush you guys hide from each other. Do you luv that Korean person more than each other? Why do you luv or admire that person. I know Martina LUVS T.O.P (Can’t blame her, his voice is sexy as a sex god C;) I IUV G-Dragon for all my life, but I don’t see no one in my school luving him :C PLEASE TL;DR THIS!

  4. Funny story about the constant food sharing. When I visited Korea nearly 10 years ago we were constantly eating out with our huge group of people which had Americans, Brits, Fins, and Koreans. We all, of course, shared a lot of food and I really thought nothing of it. I also didn’t think much of feeling sick for a couple of days after, Korea to Texas jet lag would be considerable. Then I stayed sick, went to the doctor and turns out I had caught mono in Korea! Obviously it could have been any one of the people I was with that gave it to me but I was a little miffed that when I eventually caught mono it wasn’t from kissing any cute Korean boys, just drinking and eating with them. :/

  5. Martina your hair is always so freakin adorable. I love the pink!

  6. awkward story time!
    I once went to lunch with all the school staff and was sitting next to the VP. I don’t usually drink but he kept saying “one shot~!” Being younger, and at the bottom of the school totem pole, I thought ‘hey, I should do as he says’ and I downed the glass, much to the surprise of everyone at the table. My mentor teacher’s eyes got so big, and he later told me that when drinking with superiors, you’re not suppose to do one shots.
    I don’t know if this had anything to do with my age (college student), gender (female), province, or something else but I found that odd. No one had warned/told me anything like that before..

  7. Hey, guise! I have a question for TL;DR. I’m afraid it’s not light hearted but I think it’s relevant. How is South Korea dealing with the North Korea’s crazies lately? Is it actually scary or is it just talk? I’m curious (and worried!).

  8. hey this article lists South Korea last on the female “glass ceiling” issue most advanced countries face, martina what was it like working as a female teacher in South Korea, and do you guys notice any distinct sexism? or is it not different from canada/the US, in that while its not perfectly equal yet, there isn’t a huge issue (for most jobs).

  9. TLDR Question;
    Here in America some people have gages or plugs in their ears. Do korean people also have these and would someone be looked down upon if they had these?

  10. Hey Simon and Martina :) I have a serious question for you. During the past 3 months I’ve been looking for a university that I can go to and get my masters degree. I’ve also been looking for some summer school programs to learn Korean and I stumbled on to some problems. When asked what country I am from the only options that I got were U.S., Canada and England, but I am Bulgarian. I don’t understand how come I can’t attend most universities in Korea(and those I can are pretty darn expensive), just because I wasn’t born in an English speaking country, and yet I have a Cambridge certificate in English and I’ve lived for years in countries like U.S.A., England, and more.
    So I guess my question is why does South Korea make it so hard for people from other nationalities to study and work there? Do you have friends who are foreigners from non-English speaking countries and was it hard for them to get there?
    I hope you see my question

    Thank you for all the great videos!

    • I don’t really know anything on the subject, but just passing by, Did the program specifically ask which nationality you are? If not, I think you can say that you are from either England or USA. I think that the reason is probably because they only offer courses in English, and they think (stupidly) that only people who learned English from those countries might have no trouble with understanding. If asked in person, I suggest just saying that although you were born in Bulgaria, you lived in such and such countries. They wouldn’t find any fault in your spoken English, would they? ;) Good luck!

  11. Hey, Guys. We are moving to Korea this summer with our 1 1/2 year old baby. Do you have any tips for living in Korea with a baby/children? (convenience of using strollers/car seat usage/family friendly activities/things to pack/differences from North America) Thanks!

  12. I’m going to Korea in August, and I was wondering how difficult it is to be a vegetarian there? Like if someone was grilling meat for me and I refused because of my diet, would that be considered rude or are there a lot of other vegetarians in South Korea?

    • I notice a lot of Koreans have taken up being vegetarian these days. Some inflexible adults might think it weird, but who cares? It might not be easy, though. I have a few vegetarian colleagues, and when we go out for meals, quite many restaurants wouldn’t have any dishes without meat. If someone invites you for a special meal or if there is a meal in your honor, though, you should let them know in advance that you’re a vegetarian in order to avoid awkward situations.

  13. What is the beach/swimming attire like in Korea compared to Korea? Because on an episode on “Shinee’s One Fine Day”, Onew and the producers were very startled when they saw people wearing bikinis/swim trunks with no top.
    Is it startling for Korean citizens to see people (foreigners in particular) wearing swimwear like that?

  14. I wonder if anyone else has issues with when to use chopsticks vs. a spoon…

    For example, I was eating lunch with a Korean friend yesterday and I had bibimbap! So, as advised by my co-teacher the other day, I started struggling to mix it all up with my chopsticks (because a spoon will “break the vegetables”?) And he took it from me and mixed it with a spoon for me. And then! I started eating it with chopsticks.. it’s all clumpy and not so hard to do.. But then he laughed and said that me eating the bibimbap with chopsticks would be the equivalent of someone using a knife to eat their food instead of a fork in a western meal.

    • Bibimbap from Jeonju is famous, and Jeonju people mix theirs with chopsticks! :) So I’d say no.. though I’ve never seen anyone actually eat the bibimbap with chopsticks. I eat regular rice with chopsticks cuz I just got used to doing so since childhood, but I’ve noticed that everyone else eats their rice with spoons. Nobody pointed that out to me, though. Maybe eating rice with chopsticks is accepted because the japanese do so.

  15. hey guys,

    how’s about a post on how to maintain a low-carb lifestyle in korea? i’d love to know how you’re able to find ingredients and order at restaurants.

  16. Hey-O Martina & Simon! I was planning to do a trip to Seoul/ Tokyo in the fall, but with all the crazy political stuff going on I am a bit nervous. Here in the US, they’re really hitting on the growing tension between the N. Korea & S. Korea (read: & the world) in the news, but I’m not sure of how much of it is just media hype/ exaggeration. I know you guys don’t do a lot of “political”-ly TL;DR stuff, but what is your opinion on how big of an issue this is (and should be) for N. Americans wishing to travel there in the coming months? p.s. Sorry about the winded question!

    *Special shout out to the Spudgemeister and Meemersworth!*

  17. GU JUN PYO <3 boys before flowers!!!!!! thats an awesome drama

  18. It’s been a decade since our family loved to canada. when my lil sister was having a birthday party, mom brought a plate full of fruit with bundle of forks by the side. One of my sis’s friend looked at it funnt, saying that it’s unhygienic to eat from the same plate….lol.

  19. can you please respond??? itd make my day!!! and im from toronto also!!


  21. Hello Simon and Martina!
    I was wondering if you could tell us if you’re planning to stay in Korea for the rest of your lives and having kids and what do you think will happen if you do have a kid. Would you want them to have a Korean education or would you want to move back to Canada and raise him or her there?

  22. What can you tell us about idols/celebrities going into the army? I know that all South Korean males (with a few exceptions, like health issues) have to serve a mandatory stint in the military, but what are they doing in there? Latrine digging? Gun shooting? Are they completely isolated from society while they’re serving? Why did Rain get to have a radio show?

  23. Hey, guise! I have a question for TL;DR. I’m afraid it’s not a light-hearted question but on the light of what’s been going on lately, I think it’s relevant. How is South Korea is reacting to North Korea’s crazy threats? Are South Koreans used to the crazies or is it actually very serious? I’m curious because cannot even imagine how I’d feel if I lived there.

    Much love from Brazil!

  24. yay! My favorite segment is back!But Wouldn’t it be cooler if you got the whole crew together to answer TL;DRs?? =)

  25. Your hoodie’s really cute.

  26. When you first moved to South Korea did you ever feel you were out of place? Like, did you feel left out from your school because you were foreigners. If you ever felt you were being racially abused whether from your colleagues at that time or strangers on the street? I know theres racial abuse in every country but I wanna know how is it differently handled in South Korea compared to North America.

  27. Martina should totally do a regular K-Drama segment, like once every two or four weeks or so. Just talk about K-Dramas you’re watching or have watched. A bit like Music Mondays. You just talk about the drama, review it and give it a rating. It would be awesome to hear reviews about dramas we’ve watched and enjoyed, or it would even be good for discovering new dramas.

    To avoid it getting too spoilery you can divide each video into two halves, the first setting up the general premise of the show, how you felt about it and whether you’d recommend it or not and then cut to the second half of the review (with a booming Simon voice announcing “SPOILER ALERT”) and you can get into more detail, if you’ve already completed watching the drama.

  28. Hi, my question for TLDR is:
    Why did you go to Korea in the first place? I know you both were teachers, but was it always your plan to become teacher in another country, so you searched for a job there? Or did you even got hired from Korea? and why Korea? Martina likes manga/anime, drama and music from Japan and Korea since teenageyears, so it could have been Japan instead.. *I’m so curious yeeaaaaah!!!*

  29. :O Your grilling meat comment reminded me of Big Bang. Hahaha.

  30. I would say that I’ve never had too many bad experiences with my Korean roommates when we lived together, or when I went to Korea to visit them last summer at the table. I think everything you guys mentioned is correct–turning while drinking, making sure your glass is not above someone who is older than you, etc. As for eating food, I would say even more so, I’m not sure if this is just my experience, but often times we don’t even have a ladle to pour the soup into our bowls. We just ate directly from the middle bowl of food no matter what it was. I’m not a very squeamish person when it comes to sharing food with others, so I don’t care, but I know that many foreigners might feel weird sharing food like that–especially people from the US. Ah there are some differences, I just remembered one, a lot of Korean people don’t care about masking the sounds of chewing food at the table. I was taught from a young age that I had to never make any nose while I chewed on food, and to always keep my mouth closed, but it seems like a lot of my Korean friends do make a lot more noises while they eat than I’m used to. If you’re all silent, you can hear them making smacking noises. I think now though, I got used to it, but I remember when it first happened my Japanese friend and I commented to our close friends asking them why they made so much noise while they ate–I wouldn’t recommend asking people you’re not close with though….

  31. Here is a question related to Korean dramas/K-pop and international fandom.

    How aware are Koreans of the huge craze for K-pop and K-dramas from non-Koreans? Some people are a little less surprised post “Gangnam Style”, but in my experience many Koreans are always super surprised that I LOVE Korean dramas and K-pop. There is also a GIANT online community of bloggers, tweeters, commenters, and international fans who are constantly conversing about K-drama and K-pop. I guess I ask because it seems to me that the Korean entertainment industry seems to want to break more into the North American scene (and non-Asian international scene too), but don’t quite seem to realize how big it already is. I think you sort of pointed this out before from the BEAST MV “Beautiful Night” where they hired people instead of using their fanbase. I know some companies are starting to realize it (like LOEN putting English subs on their MVs, and YG has English customer service on their webstore), but is there a way to let Koreans and the Korean entertainment agencies realize just how HUGE the international fandom is?

  32. lol i remember that video!! wow, that’s so long ago now!!!! I still remember the story of Simon smacking his arm, while in Canada! makes me laugh every time I imagine the cashier’s face!!

  33. i just find this particular caption funny lol “you do dot the break johnnie brown” *pushes simon

  34. That passing chopsticks and taking care of others is what we do in Malaysia too. Doesn’t seem too different from Korean culture. :)

  35. So whenever my parents visit me, my dad and I make it a point of going out to lunch together. Since I’ve told him about you guise (and I showed him the Gangam Style video). The last time we had lunch, we got Korean food (from Oh Geul Boh Geul!). I did a bit of reading beforehand about table manners and I think I handled myself pretty well.

    My question, though, is how do you politely eat pork bone soup? It got to the point where I was picking up the bones with my fingers. And I’m pretty sure that’s rude.

    The next time my dad and I do lunch, I want to try the pork bone soup from the Owl of Minerva and I don’t want to be eating it wrong.

  36. One thing it took me a while to get is that sometimes people will say “Oh, no, you don’t have to do that!” when I’m being polite, but really they want to accept but they’re doing their best to be polite too. Like when I have a seat in the bus and a grandma who is like a million years old is standing beside me, I’ll start to get up and often she’ll be like, “Aniyo, anja, anja!” but ain’t no way I’m sitting while that granny is standing, so if I politely say “No, please,” and get up she’ll sit down. Similarly, my homestay dad would always try and clink his soju glass lower than mine to be polite, so I had to quickly clink mine lower and then throw it back before he can reclink lower again. Like fighting over who’s the one to pay, you have to be sneaky sometimes ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

    • When I’m on a bus or subway and I want to offer an elder my seat, like you said, we can’t just say “Would you like my seat?” because they’ll just refuse. I’ve taken to just standing up and then gesturing to my empty seat. They tend to accept if you do it that way. (I remember one time doing that on a bus, and it was a long enough bus ride that, when it was her stop, she stood up and gestured for me to sit back down in the seat!)

  37. A lot of my (Caucasian) Australian friends really hate sharing drinks or food. One of my friends, if her boyfriend accidentally took a sip of her tea, she’d have to pour it out and make herself another one. Because of my exposure to Korean culture through my husband and Korean friends, I’m so used to sharing food the way Koreans do. Things like all eating out of the same soup pot and with my husband, always sharing drinks. If I ask him to go get us some drinks, often he will just get 1, because he expects us to share and drink out of the same glass sometimes.

    The flip side is Koreans sometimes running into problems when they are in Australian culture. I’ve taught my husband about “double dipping” and how it’s really rude, but it’s something a lot of Koreans do, simply because they don’t know. So many times at a party when there is both Koreans and Australians, there may be chips with dips and things like chicken tenders with sauce… and Koreans will dip the chip or chicken, take a bite and then dip it back in! Oh the horror! Haha. So I guess if you feel really bad about doing the wrong thing in Korean culture, just remember it goes both ways and Koreans can have difficultly in Western culture too. My poor sister-in-law had such problems eating a steak at the dinner before our Australian wedding, I had to take her plate and cut it up into little pieces for her. But if you are with nice people they won’t mind about the mistakes you make.

  38. Here’s a TLDR question for you. How common are orthodontic braces among Korean teens and preteens? A lot of Korean celebrities seem to have either really crooked teeth or have really obvious veneers. It made me curious why more don’t (or didn’t) get braces. Are braces something that just aren’t common in Korea? Thought you two might have insight on this, since you’ve worked with this age group. Thanks!

  39. Slurping: It’s ok to slurp in Korea. But deliberately making loud slurping noise would be viewed as unpolished.

    And I smell a kdrama segment in near future….

  40. This is similar to chinese etiquettes. we have to take care of the older people if we are younger. and we do share meals.

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