At 연세어학당, I learned a sentence with an implied subject, an object, a conjunction in the object, an adverb, and a verb. I will never forget it, because it was the first "big sentence" that I had learned in Korean, something more than just "어디 가세요" or "그것을 주세요". At any rate, it was important in my formation as a learner of the Korean language and thus Korean culture.

The point is, I have found that the sentence itself seems to be entirely untrue. Many people use their chopsticks to place hot ramen or other noodles onto a spoon to cool them off; to do this, they use their spoon in their left hand and their chopsticks in the right hand.

So I've been vexed by this for two decades because of that sentence in a textbook.

Is this particular manner outdated or not, or perhaps if the sentence were just for the use of textbook learning and not related to any true Korean custom or manner.

젓가락과 숟가락을 따로따로 써야합니다.

One must use the chopsticks and spoon separately.

Is this sentence a true representation of a Korean manner or custom, and if so, what is the background and current state of that manner in Korean culture?

1 Answer 1


Yes, the "proper" table manner is to use the spoon and chopsticks separately. However, when people eat ramen, they don't usually care about table manners, just like people don't look for forks and knives in McDonalds.

I think people generally don't mind table manners that much, unless you're meeting, say, your father-in-law. After all, whether someone uses spoon and chopsticks at the same time doesn't hurt anybody. It's much less important than, say, not letting your kid run around the restaurant. (Also, traditional Korean society had a very deep aversion to left-handedness, and mandated everyone to use their right hand for everything. Obviously that's a problem in the modern society.)

Also, if you go to fancy Chinese/Japanese restaurants they will probably give you a kind of "soup spoon" that's totally different from Korean style spoons. In that case I guess "Korean table manners" isn't really applicable.

  • nice, do you reckon that "fast food manner-set" goes for Udon too? typically Japanese restaurants are a bit more fancy, but then again, they always have those spoons that stand up by themselves that you were talking about. are we supposed to let the spoon rest by itself, load it with noodles, and then switch to the spoon with the right hand if in high-class company? Dec 26, 2017 at 20:54
  • Eh, I don't know: you will have to ask a Japanese person for that. But I guess the good news is that most Koreans don't know either, so people won't be able to criticize you whatever you do!
    – jick
    Dec 27, 2017 at 4:00
  • Right. The order of forks and side of the plate they go on is a dying art in my country, too. Still, I didn't mean to infer a discussion on Japanese etiquette; in my experience, at least in my area, most Japanese restaurants are owned by Koreans. Dec 27, 2017 at 4:17
  • Two things for certain: never write someone's name in red, and never stab your chopsticks into your rice - they are both reserved for honoring those that have passed on. At least, that's my understanding. Dec 27, 2017 at 4:19

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