An estimated 1.6 billion people use chopsticks around the globe. While most Asian countries use wooden or plastic ones on a daily basis, Korean chopsticks are made of solid metal and have a flat, thin shape like the handle of a knife and fork. They’re heavier than your average wooden chopsticks and usually come with a matching spoon.

Metal chopsticks have been used in Korea since the 6th century AD. They were found in the tomb of a king from this era, although his ancestors used wooden ones. There are several theories about why metal utensils became more popular: perhaps they were considered more hygenic, for example, or more of a status symbol for the wealthy in this era.

While we aren’t too impressed by anyone’s ability to use a knife and fork correctly, being able to use Korean chopsticks to eat correctly is said to use 30 joints and 50 muscles in the fingers and hands. The wooden takeaway ones don’t count, so invest in a pair of decent metal ones to give your hands a workout. See the correct technique right here.

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Basic table manners with Korean chopsticks:
Don’t pick them up until the oldest person at the table has picked theirs up.
Don’t use them to stir shared dishes or poke at shared dishes indecisively.
Don’t hold them at the same time as your spoon, especially in the same hand.
Don’t stick them upright in a bowl of food as this looks like a funeral rite.
Put them down on the table between eating, don’t wave them around or point at anything with them.
No walrus impressions (unless your elders start it first)

Of course, chopstick etiquette is just one important element of table manners in Korea. Here’s a great guide to 11 basic rules to get you started.


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British writer and editor living in Japan. Currently studying Japanese, Korean, K-pop dance, and the fine form of 이성종's legs.