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Drinking and Drunkenness in Korea

May 9, 2013

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AYY GURL CAN I BUY YOU A DRANK?

Woohoo! A fun question to talk about, not necessarily because we’re raging alcoholics and want to talk about how hammered we get (in fact, we’re quite responsible), but because we’re very fascinated with the drinking culture here in Korea as opposed to what we’ve experienced back in Canada.

In a nutshell, we’ve seen a lot more drinking in Korea than what we’re used to in Canada. Maybe we’re wrong, and maybe Canadians drink an absurd amount and we just didn’t move in those circles, but from what we remember, alcohol’s expensive. Damned expensive. Bars kick you out if you’re drunk and are liable if you do something from getting too drunk at their bar. There’s no public consumption of alcohol. In fact, last time we were in Canada we tried buying a bottle of wine. I had my ID on me. Martina didn’t. They wouldn’t sell me the bottle, because Martina might be a minor and they’d be responsible if they sold alcohol to someone in the company of a minor. What the flipping farts is that all about?

In Korea, though, soju’s cheap. Beer’s cheap. You can get drunker than you humanly should be for under 10 bucks if you want. You can walk around with alcohol. They sell alcohol to you so you can walk around with it. Get too drunk in their restaurant? No biggie, from what we’ve seen.

Also, the big issue with drinking in Canada is that you have to drive to bars most of the time, because Canada’s so godforsakingly huge that you have to drive to get ANYWHERE. In Korea, though, everything’s so densely packed. You can walk to a bar most of the time, or you can take a cheap taxi if you’re too far away, while taxis in Canada are prohibitively expensive.

So, probably because Canada has these things going against them for alcohol consumption, it seems like there’s a lot more drinking going on here. I’ve never seen so many drunk people before in my life. I’ve never seen so many people passed out in the streets from being drunk. People sleeping on benches or outside of restaurants, passed out on subways. I’ve never seen so many people vomiting in public. I don’t want to give off the impression that the streets are slaloms of barf piles, but I can really say that there’s a lot more public vomit than what I’ve seen before.

You know, we just watched a program about Amsterdam yesterday, and how tourists go there, often, to smoke weed, and it’s been advertised well as a druggie haven. Why not advertise Korea as a drinking haven? Come to Korea to get drunk! No, wait: that might not be a good idea…

On a more fun note, here are some cool drinking games that we sometimes play in Korea:

1) Baskin Robbins 31:

You know how to count, right? Then you should know how to play! Here’s what you do:
The person who starts the game counts either 1, 1-2, or 1-2-3. The idea is that, on your turn, you count anywhere from 1 to three numbers. So, if the first person counts 1-2, the next person can count 3-4-5, and the person afterwards can count 6, afterwards, 7-8.

It sounds dumb, I know, but there’s a point to this. Eventually, you get close to the number 31. Whoever is forced to count to that number loses and had to drink. So, the end of the game usually looks like this:

21-22
23-24-25
26-27-28
29-30
…NNOOOO DON’T MAKE ME COUNT IT NOOOO! 31! I lose! Agghh!

Get it? Count anywhere from 1-3 sequential numbers on your turn. The person who counts 31 loses and has to drink.

2) Sam Yook Goo (in English, 3-6-9)

Another counting game here (yay math!). Basic rule of the game is you have to keep the counting going, but every time there’s either a three, six, or nine, you have to clap according to how many of those digits there are in the number. So, a round would go like this:

1
2
clap
4
5
clap
7
8
clap
10
11
12
clap

Get it? Once you get to the 30s, though, things are more complicated:

28
clap
clap
clap
clap
clap clap (because that number was 33, see?)

Whoever messes up loses and has to drink YAHOO!

High Low

Is that what it’s called?

Very basic but simple game. In the cap of your soju bottle is a number between one and fifty. The person holding the cap tells someone to guess the number, and tell the guesser if it’s higher or lower. Then the next person in the circle guesses. Whoever guesses right wins, and can make someone else at the table drink. Woohoo!

Yeah! So that’s it for now, I guess. I’d write more but I’m drunk! Ha, no, not drunk. Can’t drink on this diet we’re on before Singapore! Anyhow, if there are any other games you can think of, let us know! There are some that we don’t know the rules of, like this odd game where you clap and move your head and say a fruit according to the number that was dictated to you…or something. It’s mind-bottling. I’ve seen it done a few times but every time I just give up.

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Drinking and Drunkenness in Korea

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  1. The drinking i hear about kind of terrifies me. Are all koreans calm drunks? Why would a club or bar want ppl passing out inside of them? Do the bartenders ever call cabs to get drunk ppl? WHERE ARE THEIR FRIENDS? I’ve seen dramas where one person just leaves the other drunk person asleep at the bar or outside…

    3 years ago
  2. I’m from Wisconsin, which hosts the highest number of functional alcoholics in the nation (seriously, we have more bars than grocery stores). I’v always thought it would be interesting to see how it compares to Korean drinking. Does the drinking start as early? My cousins seriously started drinking beer at about 12 and by high school no one batted an eye if they reached for something harder. WI law allows parents to serve their children, but they can’t drive after consuming until 21.

    3 years ago
  3. in Poland we drink a lot. to me it’s ok but one thing freaks me out – kids from elementary school who can drink more than I and spam facebook with ‘ohhh, yesterday was soOoOoO CooL, I vomited my lungs. shiiit, I have hangover’ D:

    3 years ago
  4. For the next TL;DR can you talk about the differences between Korean talent and singing competition shows and American and British talent and singing competition shows.

    3 years ago
  5. I don’t understand the 3-6-9 would it just be multiples of three? Or just numbers with the digits 3, 6, and 9? (I was confused when 12 showed up and there was no clap that’s why I’m asking)

    3 years ago
  6. Mind-bottling..was this on purpose? Haha, so funny though. But seriously, I’m not sure if I want to visit Korea and see the piles of kimchi colored vomit. *bleargh*

    3 years ago
  7. haha yay! I’ve been waiting to see a video of them drinking for sooooooooooooooooo long. like literally years lol.
    oh and Simon and Martina also in America we have the bag mixed drinks too ^^

    3 years ago
  8. :D can’t wait to play those games when I visit Korea ;)

    3 years ago
  9. Sorry I was alright up to the point Simon said He was the responsible one and my brain froze up….

    3 years ago
  10. Drinking games? Ring of Fire — that’s one I saw a lot during my first term at university. It was actually a whole lot more fun, too, because I couldn’t drink at the time and so I got to “oversee” the game instead. I can’t remember the exact rules, but you sit around in a circle and put a cup in the middle. Then you shuffle a deck of cards and spread them out face down in a ring, three or four cards thick and so that there aren’t any gaps, around the cup in the middle. Then you all grab an alcoholic drink and go round the circle turning over the cards. Depending on which card you turn over, various, some, or none of you will have to drink. People are usually absolutely hammered by the time this game is over. As far as I can remember, it goes like this (please excuse some rather crude terminology):

    Ace: waterfall (everybody has to keep drinking until the person who picked the card stops drinking)

    2: “you!” (you pick somebody else to drink)

    3: “me!” (you have to drink)

    4: Wh*re (all the girls have to drink)

    5: Thumb master (if you put your thumb on the ground, everybody else has to copy, and the last person to do so has to drink. This continues until somebody else becomes the thumb master)

    6: d*cks (all the guys have to drink)

    7: heaven (raise your hand — the last person to do so has to drink)

    8: mate (choose somebody to drink with you)

    9: rhyme (you pick a word and then you go round the circle. Each person has to say a word that rhyme with your word until somebody messes up. Then that person has to drink)

    10: category (you pick a word, such as Disney, and then go round the circle and everybody has to say something relating to the subject (e.g. mickey mouse, princess, Aladdin) until somebody messes up and has to drink)

    J: make a rule (you make up a rule that everybody has to follow for the rest of the game, or they have to drink every time they break it. Some of the best ones are “no swearing”, “not allowed to mention ‘drink’ or ‘down it'” — which results in amusing calls like ‘imbibe it!’ and “you’re only allowed to sing/rap as a means of communication” and “no speaking in English/whatever language happens to be the common language of the participants”.)

    Q: Quiz master (similar to the thumb master (there are variations of this, but this is the one we played with) — somebody is designated quiz master until another Q is picked, and if that person asks you a question and you don’t respond with “f*** off, quiz master”, you have to drink. Of course, this gets entertaining when swearing is banned.)

    K: Pour! (you pour a little of your drink into the cup in the centre. The person who picks the last king has to down the cup, or, alternatively, the person who breaks the circle of cards. Either way, it’s usually a very nasty combination of stuff that some poor person ends up drinking.

    There’s another quite popular game of “pennying”, which is when you drop a penny into somebody’s alcoholic beverage while they are holding it and they then have to down it. If they are not holding it, then you have to have thrown the penny in from a reasonable distance away. If their drink has already been pennied, or if you make a mistake in pennying, then you have to down it instead of them. There’s a drink that one of the colleges here does called a Balliol Blue, which is a pint of a bright blue mix of spirits and lemonade and various other things — quite nice when you sip it, but sickeningly foul if you have to down a pint because somebody’s pennied you, or so I’ve been told.

    3 years ago
  11. Riina – think its the same in Sweden (to old now to know how things are :))! But if anyone younger walks around they usually takes the bottle – or so it was anyway! But TRUE – you dont need alcohol to have fun! :D

    3 years ago
  12. Yup, all the Scandinavian use the ‘drink at home first’ before going out because alcohol is absurdly expensive here. We call it vorspiel (preplay) and then when the cubs/bars close at like 3am we go home and have the after party ‘nachtspiel’ (nightplay. Not as dirty as it sounds :p)

    3 years ago
  13. And you who cant drink yet – dont look into this one ;)

    3 years ago
    • OH and you DO have the nastiest drinking game of them ALL. Everything else can hide in shame.

      Star Wars-drinkin´ game ;) Here we go:

      * Everytime a storm trooper dies you have to drink ;)
      * Everytime a storm trooper miss you have to drink ;)
      * Everytime Luke Scywalker whines you have to drink ;)
      * And everytime Yoda talks wrong in grammar you have to drink ;)

      Baam your out. :D

      3 years ago
  14. Great tl:dr guys! but is still have one unanswered question. At what age can you legally buy alcohol? I know it’s different all around the world, like in the Netherlands you can legally buy alcohol with the age of 16 and if i’m correct it’s 21 in the states. So what is it in Korea?

    3 years ago
  15. I wonder if public urination is common, too…

    3 years ago
    • lol idk if it’s common but I’ve seen many youtube videos of foreigners in Korea filming ppl drunkenly peeing on subways and whatnot

      3 years ago
      • I’ve seen it too many times so I would guess it’s common

        3 years ago
  16. As “A MOM” that watches your videos, I have to say that you are going way way WAY overboard Simon in not showing drinking. Not even including your great video on what (alcoholic) drinks to mix at a convenience story patio, when one of your most famous sayings is “Ayy Girl, can I buy you a drank?”, anyone watchers/Nasties who do NOT expect alcohol consumption are not paying attention. No one expects the booze inquisition?

    Watch out if you play too many drinking games with water. I used to play Dai-Hin-Min with the Chinese Student Association back in high school but the loser had to drink a ginormous glass of water every round (and you were not allowed to leave to go the bathroom). At one point my boyfriend decided to start losing on purpose because he was concerned that I was getting water intoxication since my newbie @ss was losing so many times. I’m pretty ace at the game now, I levelled up quickly because couldn’t stand someone taking the fall for me, especially at cards :P.

    Also, that guy at the LCBO/whatever who denied you your wine purchase is a tool. My Dad took me with him to LCBO all the time when I was a kid/teen and when I buy some beer for my husband there these day, my 6-year-old doesn’t even get a second look, even at LCBOs in different cities. However, way to go Martina for looking so young! ^_^v

    This was a great video, I had no idea that soju was so cheap, that explains a lot. Informative and funny as usual XD

    Cyber_3 – NOT drinking Woody’s Mexican Lime Cooler…….not…..sob……..

    3 years ago
    • Most places don’t have a problem with parents buying alcohol when their kids are with them and a lot of places allow minors to drink with parental consent and the parents still present. The issue with Simon and Martina is that it obviously isn’t a parent/child relationship. Martina can say she is old enough to drink, but the cashier needs to have solid proof. A customer can spout out any age/birth date or whatever, but it doesn’t mean anything without the proof. If something were to happen and Martina was a minor, there is a chance that the alcohol could be traced back to that store and that cashier would be fired and fined.

      Martina should take it as a compliment though if the cashier felt a need to card her ^^

      3 years ago
      • If I had to make a guess, it would be the amount of wine you had lol. Especially if you were close to the counter and it looked like you’d be making a purchase.

        3 years ago
      • Whether you bring your minor friend in with you or hand them the booze in the parking lot, as long as the person paying is legal age and has ID (which Simon did), how can you tell if the person is a child or friend once you’re a certain age? I think that it’s impossible to enforce not buying liquour for underage drinkers. Besides, Simon and Martina probably had their wedding rings on, it’s not very common to be married under the age of 19 years old (drinking age) in Canada – also Martina could have gone outside ahead, what’s the dif? Either that guy had been reprimanded before or he is a tool.

        3 years ago
        • I agree, if underage drinking is going to happen, it will happen. There are so many ways people can get around it. But you can get fired for not asking everyone in a group/pairing. So, as a cashier myself, I’d take the safe route that guarantees I’m not getting fired that day for that specific reason. If the cashier is someone older looking at Simon and Martina, maybe they can’t guess their age. Or if they’re younger they could just be asking everybody because they’re newbies. Heck, the persons manager could’ve been standing right there, in that case they’d definitely be carding people. And most stores actually keep serious track of the people buying alcohol, so having one person leave the store and wait outside is usually a red flag that something is up. The store can still refuse the sale at that point. I’m not saying people don’t get away with stuff like that, but it still isn’t a safe getaway. Also, as I said, my part time job is as a cashier and I will say that the last thing I’m going to notice about a person is if they’re wearing a wedding ring or not, so that isn’t really an obvious sign to go by.

          If I had been the cashier, I probably wouldn’t have carded them unless my manager was there (edit: not because I know who they are but because by looking at them I can tell that they’re older than I am so obviously drinking age). I’m just saying that there are so many things that are behind that decision to card someone even if they aren’t the one purchasing it. It is mostly about keeping your job more than anything.

          3 years ago
        • In my state Queensland in Australia the fine for selling a person who is secondary supplying to a minor is just under $9000 for the employee and $50,000 for management. For a minor (under 18) it goes up to roughly $20,000. How hard is it to bring your damn ID when going to a liquor store?! People don’t get into clubs without ID, same principle as no idiot is worth $9000 for me!

          3 years ago
        • Oh, there are steep fines in Canada too, I’m just saying it’s hard to enforce because once it leaves the store, you have no control over where it goes. Some Liquour store employees card people who look borderline or too old to be carded (especially the ladies) as a flirt/compliment to make it look like the lady looks too young to drink, however, if the lady doesn’t have her ID, the employee is stuck and can’t make the sale – BACKFIREDED! Maybe this is what happened with Martina?

          In Martina’s defense, “ID” in Canada is either your driver’s license, your passport, or your Age of Majority card. If you have a driver’s license (like Martina), you don’t usually bother getting an Age of Majority card because it’s only useful for getting booze and into R-rated movies and your license is a more accepted form of ID. People rarely carry around their passport unless travelling because it could get lost or stolen and you generally don’t need use it except for travel. Maybe since she’s been in Korea so long Martina’s driver’s license has expired or if she wasn’t driving, she forgot to bring it, she’s approximately a decade older than drinking age, after all. So, not bringing ID, totally understandable in this case, especially since Simon had his. Since Simon doesn’t have a driver’s license, likely he has an Age of Majority card that just gets forgotten in his wallet until needed.

          Cyber_3 – doesn’t bother bringing her purse into every store if her hubby has his wallet…..

          3 years ago
  17. btw..i paid around $15 dollars for a bottle of soju….here in the usa.

    3 years ago
  18. o.o I’m not sure if you guys replied to the right post or I’m totally confused about this, but if it were the former it would make the drunk accusation even more solid haha

    3 years ago
  19. My Korean friends in college loved to make me drink while playing dibidibidip, or something like that…you know, the one with the poses. Koreans work hard, and they play harder in my experience! My friends who live there now say the same.
    Beautiful country, fun people, lovely welcoming atmosphere, and pretty accepting if you’re a foreigner.

    3 years ago
  20. So you guys mentioned bottle service and beer/soju being the main vehicles of alcohol consumption…what about the craft cocktail scene in South Korea? I think beer is gross and I don’t do shots (also gross), but I LOVE my martinis, blood & sands, sidecars, grand bohemians…if those were cheaper in South Korea (as in less than $12 a pop…my experience being with Boston/NYC) I would be over the moon.

    3 years ago
  21. gaaaah :P Korean restaurants in Istanbul sell a bottle of soju for 30 liras (roughly 17$) :(

    3 years ago
  22. HELLO!
    Me and my cousin are going to Korea, and we both have piercings in our noses (septum) and stretched ears.
    So we wonder what korean people think about piercings/bodymods in general.
    Thank you :D:D

    3 years ago
  23. I’ve seen a lot of drunk people here too. I live in Las Vegas, lots of drunk people especially on the Strip. And now I can partake in the festivity that is called drunkenness. I just turned 21 a week ago. :D

    3 years ago
  24. I was never a big drinker while in the states. I mean I waited till after my 21st birthday to have my first drink. Then Korea happened. My school found a reason to have dinners almost every other week. The good thing about my school was that half of the teachers did not drink. The bad thing was that the teachers that were better in English were the ones that did. It was a good thing that the secretary showed me how to make it seem I was keeping up with the teachers.

    As for the drinking games. My favorite is Sam Yook Goo. It helped me with saying the numbers in Korean. After my first time playing….that went very badly for me. I made sure I studied before went out with my friends the next time. lol

    3 years ago
  25. …. when my friends and I are of legal age to drink, I’d play these games with them :D :D :D

    3 years ago
  26. Oh damn. Makgoli. The only time I have barfed from drinking was a time that involved Makgoli.

    3 years ago
  27. Hey Simon and Martina! I have a question.. I’m not sure if you know much about it but.. are there any korean home remedies (for common ailments) that you know of?

    3 years ago
  28. How is n stage liver disease not a huge thing in Korea, those require liver transplants… o.O

    3 years ago
  29. last time i had a party with my korean friends, we played “bunny bunny”
    we sat in a circle and kept a drink in the middle. one person started by saying ‘bunny bunny’ pointing at themselves and then again ‘bunny bunny’ pointing at someone else in the circle. that person repeats, but also the 2 on either side of them have to say ‘carrot, carrot’. if anyone messes up or misses their turn they have to drink.

    it was really cute! my friend who is a substitute teacher adapted it and used it in his first grade class lol

    3 years ago
    • Actually as I’ve been reading these games I’ve been thinking that most of them can be adapted for children! So wrong, but hey, why not.

      3 years ago
    • I’ve been playing this game with friends at picnics and stuff since I was in high school, and I’ve never heard of it being a drinking game. O.o We call it “Kum Cha” though. And we use the words “bonny bonny” and “tooki tooki” instead. It’s a really great game!

      3 years ago
  30. Let’s see someone taught me a game that they said roughly translated to “The Game of Death” At any time while drinking someone can say “The Game of Death” and then everyone must point to someone else in the group. At the same time the person who announced the game must pick a number and say it out loud, while also pointing to someone in the group. Pointing to different people creates lines. Then you follow these lines, using whatever number was chosen and whoever has the last number (the number that was said out loud) drinks. Sorry for by bad explanation XD

    3 years ago
  31. Do you guise understand why every Korean song that slightly implies alcohol is banned, but when a brand of alcohol obviously and shamelessly direct a CF toward pre-teens (Big Bang’s So Fresh So Cool, 2PM’s Tik Tok), it’s not a problem at all?

    As for Korea being a drinking heaven: Simon, I though you did go to Poland! You can get beyond drunk pretty easily there as well! I lost count of people passing out in the snow when I was there…

    TL;DR question: is environment a big issue in Korea? You mentionned people dumping flyers in the streets, but I heard that people recycle, and I see a lot of ads that use a “green” image as a sales argument, but when I look closer it’s actually not eco-friendly at all… Well, tell me!

    3 years ago
  32. Ren

    Haha, “mind-bottling.” I see what you did there. And why do all these games have numbers?! I hate numbers.

    But actually, I can’t drink for medical reasons. So I’m relieved to know I won’t be so pressured to drink. I thought even other professions might be like that. I sometimes have a hard time getting my friends to understand that I can’t drink, even here in the States. Would Koreans understand? Or would it be the same as saying you don’t eat rice?

    3 years ago
  33. Slaloms of barf piles, ugh…I’m emetophobic and that is a horrible image *shudder*

    Simon and Martina, I know you’re English majors, so I hope you don’t mind when I point out that in paragraph 4 the plural taxis (in the last sentence of the paragraph) doesn’t need an apostrophe D:

    3 years ago
  34. “we’ve seen a lot more drinking in Kore” heeheehee!!! KORE!!

    so do the really drunk people not pick fights with anyone? or like make a big commotion?
    ……..and you don’t have to go to them and ask their not-as-drunk friend “what’s your friends attitude why s/he so dame rude? HAAAH?” ahaha!!

    3 years ago
  35. These games sound awesome! Do they play North American drinking games as well, such as Beer Bong, King’s Cup, Flip Cup, or Baseball? (I’m not an alcoholic, I swear!)

    3 years ago
  36. “26-26-28” someone here can’t count ;)

    3 years ago
  37. I think I found two typos…second paragraph first sentence : Kore (a) and sixth paragraph “haven”–> heaven
    Love that I finally I get to correct the teachers mohahaaaa ;)

    3 years ago
    • Hey, while I think you’re right about Korea*, haven is a word and works correctly in that context, so I think that’s probably what they meant to say. The only thing I noticed was mind-bottling which, as far as I was aware, was supposed to be mind-boggling*, but since this is about alcohol maybe that’s why mind-bottling was used =P

      3 years ago
    • no, ”haven” is a word.

      3 years ago
  38. Depends on the state. In NH it’s the same, no selling to anyone in a group if even one person doesn’t have ID (unless they are all obviously of age ie 40+). Also people get cut off/kicked out of bars if they are too drunk. Not to mention drunk driving laws which doesn’t help b/c everything is so far away. There are even tough laws about driving with alcohol in the car.

    3 years ago
    • I’m with Suze as well, it is the same in Ohio, or at least at Walgreen’s where I work. I’ve had customers at work who throw hissy fits because person of some age that we can’t tell doesn’t have their ID with them, so we can’t sell to the group. Then in an attempt to be sly one person of the group with an ID will try to come in and buy some…
      If something were to happen to the possible minor in that group and they really are a minor, the alcohol could be traced back to being purchased at our store. The cashier who sold the alcohol to the group without carding everyone would be fired and fined some thousands upon thousands of dollars. As a cashier, it is safest to always card.

      There are some exceptions though in cases of families. Like, if it is an obvious parent/child then it is ok. But that is because in Ohio it is legal for a minor to drink with parental consent and the parent still present.

      3 years ago
    • I with Suze on this one. Texas is some what similar, just depends on where you go and if the cashier really cares to check everybody.

      3 years ago
  39. I’ve played those games before while drinking in Korea. It’s crazy good times lol.

    3 years ago
  40. I would explain some games, but I’m underage

    3 years ago