KOREAN RESTAURANT CULTURE – 4 THINGS TO KNOW
1. Table Bell
Many Korean restaurants have a bell on the table. This bell, just like the overhead call button on an airplane, notifies the waiter that you are calling for service. Press the bell, and your table number is shows on a screen and sounds the ‘ding-dong’ for extra effect. Some restaurants even show your table number for the water as shown in the picture above.
If you see a bell at your table, press it when you want to call the waiter. However, if there is no bell, call the waiters saying, “Ju-gi-yo” which literally means “Hey!” This may sound rude, but it isn’t, and you will find the waiters will come to you. While there are many different Korean words to call the waiters, this one works well for everyone regardless of gender or age of the waiters. If you press the bell once or twice and there is no response, you may need to press it several times if the restaurant is busy. But don’t overdo it - if you press too much, the server will not be happy with you. Once you have been to a restaurant with this handy little device, you will wish they all had one!
2. Pay your bills at the counter
While some western fare restaurants take the check at the table, most Korean restaurants have you pay at the counter. You don’t have to ask the waiter to bring the check. They will leave it on the table for you to bring to the counter when you’ve done eating. Based on my experience, this is a much faster process. Koreans love to enjoy their food, but they also love efficiency. Also – if you're dining out in Korea, don’t worry about the tip...you're all set just to pay the bill.
3. Self Services and free side dishes
In Korea if you want to eat more side dishes like Kimchi, veggies, etc, those are free! However, in some restaurants, if you want to eat more, you have to go to the serving counter and serve yourself. Actually, in some restaurants, it is buffet style, and you serve yourself everything. Most restaurants have self-serve food bars.
4. Wear the Apron
Some restaurants have aprons ready to use to keep the dining experience from impacting your dry cleaning bill. Many Korean foods are in a broth and some soups may even be prepared at the table so that apron will come in handy. So, don’t be surprised if the waiter hands you soup AND an apron. If you don’t get one, ask for it and they’ll bring one to you without batting an eye. If you don’t want to wear one, you may look out of place!
Source: Somi Kim from Real Daily Life in Korea