Korean Food Generosity

An informant who is from a Korean family was explaining her family’s tendency to try and overfeed guests as a sign of being a good host. Here she recounts an experience she had with food during a visit in Turkey:

“When I was in Turkey they do a similar thing where they offer you way too much food and they just keep offering it to you.

But one difference I found there between the way Korean people and Turkish people do it was that Korean people eat everything on their plate and it’s rude not to eat everything on their plate.

Turkish people will keep giving you food if you eat everything , so they always leave a little bit on their plate to show, ‘Oh I’m good’.

So they kept giving me all this food, and I just kept eating it all. And it’s like rude not to eat it, like to me. So I just kept eating it, and they just kept giving me more!”

My informant also recounted how people at Korean restaurants would get into fights over who would pay the check and how this was due to a concern with generosity. It seems that the confusion in this encounter was because generosity was a very important part of etiquette and appearance for both cultures. The same extreme concern could be found in Turkish culture as her experience shows. However, each culture had a slight variation on how generosity was controlled. Turkish people seemed to let their guests determine when they’d had enough, while Korean hosts would have to at some point determine to stop feeding their guests.