Culture / Eating / South Korea

Korea: It’s not for germaphobes

Korea could be called the land of sharing.

If you’re out at the bar and ask for water, even if you’re with four people, you’ll get one glass of water. Actually, with four people you might get two glasses. It isn’t that the servers think only the person who asked for water is going to drink it; it’s that they assume you can share it. (I should mention here that at actual restaurants, everyone does get their own glass and a jug of water as soon as you sit down.)

There are a lot of glasses on this table, but only two of them hold water.

There are a lot of glasses on this table, but only two of them hold water.

Sometimes everyone gets their own shotglasses, and sometimes you pass the same glass around. The passing the glass seems to be the older, more formal style.

Sometimes everyone gets their own shotglasses, and sometimes you pass the same glass around. The passing the glass seems to be the older, more formal style.

We went to an Italian restaurant with Matt’s co-teacher Rosa and ordered a set menu special for three people. It came with our choice of two drinks: one soda and one ade. The drinks came with three straws in each glass. There were free refills on the soda, so I’m not sure why they wouldn’t just give you three drinks, but that pretty much sums up the sharing culture here. What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine when it comes to food.

At Korean-style restaurants, there are always a variety of side dishes that come with your meal. These dishes are for the table, and everyone eats out of the same bowls. Even soups are often served communal style, so people just reach their spoon in and take a slurp.
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So much food.

So much food.

Lots of dishes for sharing.

Lots of dishes for sharing.

I’m pretty used to all this by now, so it doesn’t really phase me. But it does make me reminisce of the times my sister and I used to torment my dear germaphobe brother when we were kids. We knew that if we could just get one small sip of his soda, we would get the entire can. He couldn’t stand to drink it after our grubby lips were on it. Luckily, I think he’s outgrown that phase of his life. … I hope so or he’ll be in for quite the visit in September!

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