Korean hospitality & business dining etiquitte
Koreans are some of the most hospitable people in the world, but Boyé Lafayette De Mente, author of "The Korean Way in Business", contends that the Korean hospitality can sometimes be perceived as aggressive to Westerners in the context of business. Below, you can find some general tips etiquette for dining and drinking with business partners in Korea.
Dinner is the largest meal of the day, and usually occurs between 6PM and 8PM.
It is traditional dining protocol that the eldest person or the honored guest takes the first bite.
The person who extends an invitation for a meal is expected to pay.
The Western custom of "going Dutch" (i.e. sharing costs) is foreign to the traditional Korean way of thinking, especially in regard to business.
Tipping is not common in Korea, though some diners leave a tip if the service is truly exceptional. A service charge of around 15% is automatically included in restaurant and hotel bills.
Koreans are enthusiastic hosts, and enjoy extending invitations to foreign visitors to join them in their homes. Be prepared for a feast rather than an everyday meal!
Business drinking is considered key to developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships between coworkers, suppliers, and customers. Refusing to drink without an acceptable excuse (e.g. a health problem, religious beliefs, etc.) can sometimes be considered impolite or anti-social.
It is common for the hosting group to refill the guests' glasses (usually in order of rank). When your glass is being refilled, it is polite to hold it with one hand and use your other hand to support your hand. If you would like to avoid excessive drinking, empty your glass and turn it upside down on the table.
A visit to a karaoke bar is a common occurrence after a bit of business drinking, and guests are expected to sing! If you do not want to go it alone, it is acceptable to pull up a colleague or a Korean business partner up to the stage with you.