Published on Language Vine – Yogeeyo!

Language Vine is a new website geared towards preparing travelers, from students to business executives, for their overseas adventures by arming them with language knowledge.

They’ve asked me to contribute to the Korean travel blog. Here is a version of the first piece I wrote for them. There should be more to follow.

“Yogeeyo!” Learn how to behave in a Korean restaurant

Eating out is a way of life in South Korea. On any given night, the restaurants are filled with patrons enjoying their meals and drinking beer and soju (Korean rice wine) with lots of chingoos (friends) until the early hours of the morning. Eating establishments fill every nook and cranny of the busy avenues, quiet streets, shady alleys, one-level buildings, and sky scrapers of Seoul. And many of them are open 24/7.

I will cover two of the basic types of restaurants commonly found in Korea. The first is what I would consider the Korean version of the Western diner. These places generally have the same menu with a few variations, and the food is quickly prepared for you. There are chains like Kimbab Cheonguk and Pomato, as well as millions of other one-of-a-kind, unique-to-the-neighborhood restaurants. Most meals will run you 3,000-5,000 won. Kimbap will run you 1,500-2,500 won per roll.

Here you can try many common Korean staple foods: ramyeon noodles, sometimes with tteok or mandu dumplings, or tteokkbokki, spongy rice cake in spicy red pepper sauce. Korean stews are called jjigaes. My favorites are sundubu jigae (soft tofu), budae jjigae (an army-base stew containing spam, hot dogs, and ramyeon noodles), and kimchi jjigae. Kimbap is rice rolled in seaweed and all kinds of vegetables. I prefer wonju kimbap (vegetables and spam) or chom chey kimbap (tuna and the very Korean sesame leaf). There many popular noodle dishes in Korea. For a unique one, try a cold noodle dish like Bibim Guksu, with a sweet and tangy chili paste and egg on top.

The other type of restaurant worth mentioning is the Korean barbecue. There are many in Seoul to choose from! Here, you grill beef, pork, or chicken yourself. Commonly eaten dishes include galbi (beef rib), samgyeopsal (fatty pork belly), and dakgalbi (spicy marinated chicken and vegetables). Prices can vary quite a bit, from 9,000 won per person on up to 50,000 won or more, depending on the quality of the cut of meat you order. But the best part is that you can also fill up on banchan, the famous Korean side dishes, like pickled radish and cucumber. In fact, some people choose their barbecue establishment based on the quality and variety of banchan.

Terms you’ll need to know:

Joo-say-yo = give me

The Korean equivalent of please.

Yo-gee-yo = come here

By Western standards, it may seem weird to raise your hand in a restaurant and shout out to the staff to “come here,” but in Korea it’s perfectly normal, acceptable, and quite convenient.

For example: “Yogeeyo! Mool joosayyo.” (Waiter! Water please.)

Hopefully, you’ll use this one a lot: Mashisoyo = delicious!

The restaurant staff loves it when a foreigner lets them know that the meal was excellent.

Olma eyo = how much?

Neh = yes.

Ah-nee-yo = no.

Gahm-sah-hahm-nee-dah = thank you!

Now get out there and eat some food! Take off your shoes if you have to sit on the floor. Chopsticks and spoons should be sitting in a container on the table. You may have to get your own water from the machine in the corner. Don’t be afraid if you see a slightly grumpy looking ajumma (older woman) tasting your food! She’s not hungry; she’s just ensuring that your meal is flavored just right. If you need something, hit the call button on the table or simply yell out, “Yogeeyo!”

~ by ripcitytoseoul on June 23, 2010.

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