Matt and I don’t cook very often in Korea. For one, it seems to cost just as much to buy the food to cook at home as it does to go to restaurants. Two, the restaurant food is delicious and includes lots of veggies so we don’t feel that it is unhealthy to eat out. And three, well, we’re kind of lazy.
But being lazy hasn’t stopped up from feeling a little rude when we have to yell to the wait staff when we want something. In America, it’s a server’s job to anticipate restaurant guests’ needs and to check in fairly often with them. In Korea, if you wait for a worker to come to you, you could be waiting all night.
But that’s not to say they aren’t attentive or happy to get what you need, it’s just another cultural difference. When you want something, many people simply yell “yogi-oh,” which means “look.” This felt way too rude to me and Matt, so we have learned the — what we consider to be more respectful word — “sajanim,” which means boss or proprietor. You yell, the worker comes and then you ask for (or gesture to) what you need.
Other things of note:
The culinary tools of the trade in Korea are chopsticks and a spoon.
The spoon is used for soup and rice. And we’ve found it fashions quite well as a knife in a pinch.
Occasionally someone will bring us a fork at a restaurant. We usually just smile politely and put it aside. Our chopstick skills are fine, and we don’t want to perpetuate any beliefs that Westerners can’t use them.
If you’re eating something that needs to be cut, such as a bowl of long noodles or strips of meat, you will also get a pair of scissors for the table. The scissors are actually quite convenient.