10 Essential Korean Phrases For Dining Out In Korea

Easy and Useful Korean Phrases

 
 Despite being quite a K-drama fanatic, I can barely manage an an-nyeong ha-se-yo (안녕하세요 “Hello”) and jamkkanman (잠깐만 “Hold on a minute”). I also know the phrase ppalli ga (빨리 가 “Faster, go”) — but let’s be real, when will I ever use it to ask for lifesaving medicine like Song Hwa from Hospital Playlist? 

 

With my not-so-useful grasp of the language, I did not expect to converse fluently in Korean, but little did I know that even ordering food was a struggle. Thankfully, after 8 days touring the best local food joints in Jeollanam-do, I managed to pick up 10 essential phrases for any non-Korean speaker to order, dine and eat well in Korea. 

1. Excuse me / Over here! (Yeogiyo)

In Hangeul: 여기요 | How it sounds: Yeo-Gi-Yo | Practice pronouncing here


Whether you’re in a crowded Korean bar or a peaceful mom-and-pop shop, yeogiyo is a safe option to get the attention of a waiter or the cute oppa in the corner. Pair this with a gentle or unhinged hand wave (depending on how hungry you are), and you’re all set to say the next phrase.

2. May I have the menu, please? (Menyu juseyo)

In Hangeul: 메뉴 주세요 | How it sounds: Meh-New Chu-Seh-Yo | Practice pronouncing here 

Honestly, most Korean eateries either have their signature dishes written on their walls or a secret telepathic menu that local customers somehow get. So, be warned — asking politely for the menu works, but is a key giveaway that you’re not from the area. But hey, practise this and they might just be impressed. Who knows what doors that would open for your adventure!

3. I would like to order (Jumunhalgeyo)

In Hangeul:  주문할게요 | How it sounds: Choo-Moon Hal-Geh-Yo | Practice pronouncing here 

Now that you have the menu, hopefully, there are pictures to guide your dining experience! Or you could always use Papago’s image-to-text translator. When you’re ready, use the trusty “yeogiyo!” to get you the attention of someone working, followed by this simple phrase to cover your grumbling tummy. 

4. Give me this, please (Igeo juseyo)

In Hangeul: 이거 주세요 | How it sounds: Ee-Gaw Chu-Seh-Yo | Practice pronouncing here 

From here, the easiest way to navigate ordering is to point to the dish you want and say “igeo juseyo” and “ha-na” (one) with “tu-geh” (two), “seh-geh” (three) or “neh-geh” (four). Or, just use your fingers — you can’t go wrong there. 

5. Thank you for the food / I will enjoy this food (Jal Meokkessumnida)

In Hangeul: 잘 먹겠습니다 | How it sounds: Chal-Mok-Ke-Sem-Ni-Da | Practice pronouncing here 

Congratulations, the most intimidating part is over. After crossing your fingers, hoping the waiter heard you right, he returns with your dish…and it’s exactly what you wanted! Here’s where you can express your gratitude and relief by saying “jal meokkessumnida”. It’s very similar to “jiak”, “makan, makan” and “itadakimasu”. 

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Gangjin FUSO Farmstay

6. It’s delicious! (Mas-Iss-Eoyo)

In Hangeul: 맛있어요 | How it sounds: Ma-Shi-So-Yo | Practice pronouncing here 

I cannot count the number of times I’ve said this throughout of our trip to the birthplace of Korean food across the Jeollanam-do region. It is undoubtedly my most-used phrase of the trip. Saying “mas-iss-eoyo” loud and proud in any restaurant might help get you extra-large portions of refill, which brings us to the next handy phrase. 

P.S. Some extra phrases. Say the meal is so good, you need more words to express how shiok it is:

I like it! (Joh-Ayo)
In Hangeul: 좋아요 | How it sounds: Cho-Ai-A-Yo | Practice pronouncing here

That’s awesome / Wow! (Daebag)
In Hangeul: 대박 | How it sounds: Cho-Ai-A-Yo | Practice pronouncing here

7. More, please! (Deo Juseyo)

In Hangeul: 더 주세요 | How it sounds: Taw-Chu-Seh-Yo | Practice pronouncing here 

This may be my favourite phrase and can be used in almost any context — more ban chan, more mul (water), more soju. Most restaurants do refill the ban chan and mul or cha (tea) for free and all you need to say is “ban chan deo juseyo!” or replace ban chan with anything you want more of.

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8. Thank you for the food / I had a great meal! (Jal Meogeotseumnida) 

In Hangeul: 잘 먹었습니다 | How it sounds: Chal-Mo-Got-Sem-Ni-Da | Practice pronouncing here 

Now that you’ve had your fill, you can thank the waiters / owners for the wonderful meal. It’s the extra polite way to show that you were fed well and you enjoyed eating, and also a good segue into the next phrase.

9. May I get the bill, please? (Gyesanseo Juseyo)

In Hangeul: 계산서 주세요 | How it sounds: Keh-San-Soh Chu-Seh-Yo | Practice pronouncing here 

For most Korean restaurants, payment is made at the counters. Stretch your legs and gather your courage for the last burst of Korean. Throw in some terms of endearment such as ee-mo (auntie; for middle-aged women), sanchon (uncle; for middle-aged man) and sa-jang-nim (boss; for restaurant owners). “Ee-mo, gyesanseo juseyo!” No discount guaranteed, but it might earn you some extra brownie points. 

10. This one you’ll hear and here’s how to respond

You’ve brought the best Korean to dinner and all is going so well… until the ee-mo at the counter goes “Hyeongeum-yeongsujeung pil-yohaseyo?” (현금영수증 필요하세요?) or “Yeongsujeung pil-yohaseyo?” (영수증 필요하세요). 

Gwaenchanh-a! It’s okay, I know it’s hard to but don’t panic. Here’s what they mean:

Do you need a tax refund receipt? (Hyeongeum-yeongsujeung pil-yohaseyo?)
In Hangeul: 현금영수증 필요하세요? | How it sounds: He-Yum-Goon-Yong-Su-Chim Pi-Lu-Ah-Seh-Yo | Hear it here

The answer to this should be “aniyo” (no). If you refer to Google Translate, it actually translates to cash receipt. It’s similar to a tax refund for locals — so if you’re reading this article, I’m guessing that’s not you. 

Do you need a receipt? (Yeongsujeung pil-yohaseyo?)
In Hangeul: 영수증 필요하세요? | How it sounds: Yong-Su-Chim Pi-Lu-Ah-Seh-Yo | Hear it here

The answer to this should be “ye” (yes) if you need a receipt. 

Bonus: The difference in goodbyes — who’s staying and who’s going

Goodbye — I’m going (Annyeonghee Geseyo)
In Hangeul: 안녕히 계세요 | How it sounds: An-Nyeong-Hi-Kye-Seh-Yo | Practice pronouncing here 

Goodbye — I’m staying while you’re going (Annyeonghi Gaseyo)
In Hangeul: 안녕히 가세요 | How it sounds: An-Nyeong-Hi-Kah-Seh-Yo | Practice pronouncing here 

Level up your Korean game by knowing the difference between these two and any ee-mo will be impressed! We’ve partnered with the cool kids at middleclass.sg to share some other important phrases you’ll need to survive in Korea. They also have great articles on the must-trys and must-visits in Korea.

Essential Korean Phrases For Food

 

Whether you’ve been to Korea a million times or if it’s your first trip over, these 10 phrases are basics to not just surviving, but winning hearts in Korean restaurants. Similar to how we’re appreciative when travellers learn a little bit of Singlish, you can see Koreans light up when you try your best at speaking the language. Though barely scratching the surface with these phrases, you might just earn yourself another round of ban chan as seobiseu.

This article is brought to you by Korean Tourism Organisation.

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