“Do You Tip in Korean Restaurants? Naah, Just Leave a Kimchi-Size Surprise!”

By John Goldsmith •  Updated: 11/03/23 •  4 min read

Do You Tip in Korean Restaurants? Naah, Just Leave a Kimchi-Size Surprise!


In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating topic of tipping in Korean restaurants. Tipping customs vary across different countries, and it is essential to understand and respect local traditions when dining out abroad.

Understanding Korean Restaurant Culture

Korean dining customs and etiquette play a crucial role in shaping the no-tipping culture prevalent in the country. In Korea, meals are often communal experiences, with a focus on sharing dishes and enjoying each other’s company. A typical meal consists of various banchan (side dishes), rice, soup, and a main dish. It is customary to wait until everyone is served before beginning to eat.

Respecting Local Customs When Traveling

When visiting foreign countries, it is essential to familiarize ourselves with local customs to avoid unintentionally causing offense. Tipping practices around the world can vary significantly. While tipping may be expected or even mandatory in some countries like the United States or Canada, it may not be customary or necessary in others.

Tipping Practices Around the World

A comparison of tipping norms reveals that while some countries rely heavily on tips as part of their service industry wages, others do not have a strong tipping culture at all. Countries like Japan and China typically do not expect tips for services rendered, while countries like the United States have complex expectations regarding gratuity percentages.

The Concept of Tipping in Korea

In Korea, tipping is not customary in restaurants or many other service industries. The lack of a tipping tradition can be attributed to cultural factors such as Confucianism’s emphasis on mutual respect and hierarchical relationships. In Korean society, providing excellent service is considered an inherent part of one’s job responsibility rather than something that deserves additional compensation.

Advantages and Disadvantages of No-Tipping Culture in Korea

The no-tipping culture in Korea presents benefits for both travelers and locals. For travelers, not having to worry about tipping can simplify the dining experience and potentially save money. Locals appreciate the transparency of prices without hidden service charges. However, there are potential drawbacks, such as the impact on service quality due to a lack of financial incentives for restaurant staff.

How to Show Appreciation Without Tipping

While tipping may not be customary in Korean restaurants, there are alternative ways to express gratitude for good service. Simple gestures like saying “thank you” or complimenting the food can go a long way in showing appreciation. Additionally, small gifts like traditional postcards or handwritten notes can leave a lasting impression on restaurant staff.

Tourist Experiences with Tipping Confusion

Many tourists have encountered situations where they struggled with Korea’s no-tipping culture. Stories abound of visitors attempting to tip only to receive confused looks or refusals from restaurant staff. To avoid misunderstandings or awkward situations, it is crucial to research tipping customs before traveling and follow local practices.

Conclusion: Embrace Cultural Differences but Remember to Be Polite

In conclusion, understanding and respecting local customs is vital when traveling abroad, including familiarizing ourselves with tipping practices in different countries. While tipping is not customary in Korean restaurants, there are alternative ways to show gratitude for excellent service without leaving a monetary tip. By embracing cultural differences and being polite guests, we can have enjoyable dining experiences while respecting local traditions wherever we go.

As you explore the world’s diverse cultures and cuisines, remember that each country has its unique customs and traditions surrounding tipping practices. So next time you dine at a Korean restaurant, leave your wallet intact but don’t forget to show your appreciation for the delicious meal and excellent service!

John Goldsmith