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Dig in, everyone

Sharing food is all about virtue; never mind the risks
Jan 12,2003
The following is a tip on traditional Korean language and customs in response to a query from a Ms. Barbarella, who wrote to us from Gunsan:
Q. Ms. Barbarella:
Whenever I go to a gathering at a restaurant or to some other big social function, I see people eating off communal platters, picking through dishes on the table with chopsticks that have already been in their mouths several times. Aren't Koreans worried about passing around germs?
A. IHT-JAD:
Sharing is an integral part of Korean culture, especially when it comes to food. The custom to eat from commmunal plates dates to the country's poorer years. By contrast, the formal Korean table setting consists of a large plate or bowl with a generous amount of food, and portions are served on individual plates or bowls for each person at the table. Most Koreans still consider it a high virtue to share food, and worry little about spreading illness in the process. But sharing plates and utensils is beginning to become a public issue. Still, though most Koreans feel uncomfortable not sharing, it is not rude to ask for individual dishes or utensils.