One of the most perplexing questions I get asked by Koreans is “Can you eat spicy food?” This seems like a strange question.
The main problem is the “Can you…” part. This makes it a question of ability, not preference. “Can you fly?”, “Can you speak Chinese?”, “Can you come to my party tomorrow?”. Asking someone “Can you eat spicy food?” is like asking them “Are you able to eat spicy food?”, “Is it possible for you to eat spicy food?” This almost sounds like a challenge, as if you are questioning their abilities.
I have heard many, many foreigners complain about getting this question.
“Can you eat spicy food?” (sounds like a challenge)
“Of course I can!”
It’s much, much better to ask “Do you like spicy food?” Then the question isn’t about ability, it’s about preference. Even someone who hates spicy food can eat it.
Personally I like spicy food. Most Korean food isn’t spicy to me, but some tastes pretty hot.