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We understand that this might be a sensitive post. Let us begin by saying that not everyone in Korea is a drunkard. What we want to talk about is the differences in the drinking culture here in Korea compared to what we’re used to in Canada. Not everybody drinks excessively here in Korea the same way not everyone in Canada drinks excessively. But, when you do go out for drinking here, be prepared for a different mentality, approach, and game plan. Follow these steps and you should blend right in.

1) Don’t Decline the First Round – Even if you’re not a drinker, you should accept the first glass poured for you. If you decline, you’ll ruin the drinking mood. Afterwards, you’re safe, and can back out. Cite religious or health reasons if you must, but – be warned – drinking is an important part of Korean socializing, and if you refuse then you won’t be considered sociable. This is high-school peer pressure to a whole new level. So, when you finally cave, and give in to drinking with others, watch out for the next step

2) Watch Your Hands – Never pour your own drink, for starters, and never let anyone pour their own drinks. Afterwards, when someone older than you offers you a drink, hold the glass with two hands. When you pour a drink for someone older than you, hold the bottle with two hands. It sounds odd, but you’ll get used to it. In fact, we recently met up with a friend here in Korea, and he was fully confused to see us holding our glasses when he poured out beer. Finally, refill someone’s glass if you see that it’s empty as well.

3) Don’t Stop Drinking - The big difference between Korean and Western drinking is how we handle our limits. See, the way I’ve been raised is to respect my limits; if we get to the point that we’re drunk then it’s time to stop, drink some water, and sober up. Mission accomplished! The Korean attitude is different here. Getting drunk is only half the battle. Once you are drunk, the real challenge is in how much more you can drink before you drop. And when you drop it is only a timeout for you; get back on your feet and drink some more.

4) Encourage Others – It is perfectly acceptable, and even encouraged, to drink beyond your limits here in Korea, as your friends will goad you on. We’re used to saying “Chug Chug Chug!” back home; here, you’ll often hear “One shot! One shot!” which – obviously – suggests that you should drink it all down in just one shot (but it’s beyond me why this is in English and not Korean). As well, instead of the “cheers” we’re used to saying, get prepared to say “Kon-Bay!” before you clink your glasses.

5) Drink in Public – There are no laws against public consumption of alcohol or against public drunkenness. Drunk and Disorderly conduct – though not appreciated – is common. After all, the restaurants people eat and drink in are too small to house all of their customers, so many people eat and drink outside. In fact, quite often we’ll see people drinking outside of convenience stores, as rickety plastic tables and chairs have been set out for people to sit and drink at.

6) Drink Any Day You Want – What surprises us the most about drinking here is that it is done every day of the week, and isn’t necessarily strongest during the weekends. When we walk around Bucheon on Wednesday nights we see people in business suits shouting Kon-Bay and slamming down shots of Soju, then staggering home just as they would on the weekend.

7) Have a Meal With that Drink – While we’re used to thinking in terms of having a drink with our meal, here in Korea the mentality is often to have a meal with that drink: the alcohol is the main course while small shared appetizers compliment the drink. Small fruit salads or crackers and chips will go nicely with that Soju.

This post was inspired by this movie here. We were walking around Bucheon on Friday night and saw two men violently hugging each other. We watched them for a bit and realized they were drunk. Then we realized that this had to be captured on film. You’ll see just how drunk people can get in public here in Korea. You should also know that, after we stopped filming, all four people walked right back into the bar for what we assume will be more alcohol. The worst part about it all is that we’ve seen this time and time again. Drinking is a big part of Korean Culture, and – as a result – so has become drunkenness.

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  1. hi,

    I really love your videos :) i´d like to know what does it mean for Korean to drink a lot? i always thought, that asian people cannot bear a lot of alcohol? thx and keep it up :)

  2. What I find interesting is that whenever I see such videos, read such blogposts or watch dramas, where characters just keep drinking like it’s nothing and feel ashamed if they cannot drink a lot I think to my self “oh God… That is so horrible! How can a culture be so accepting to consuming alcohol?” but then I doublecheck this list en.wikipedia(.)org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_alcohol_consumption and make sure for myself that my country is still above Korea in that list(I come from Lithuania). And then I keep wondering how come it’s like that? frome the videos and stuff it seems like korea is a country with more drunkness…
    Then I realised some things:
    1. According to the list, Lithuanians consume twice as much beer as Koreans. yet koreans consume twice as much spirits as lithuania. Beer by us is quite often is viewed not even as alcohol. It’s a drink that can be consumed on any day, almost any time (when I was working in a bar, our boss and my co-workers would be having a light drink even during the day… I used to be the only one to refuse it. and sfter work Everyone would end up drinking…). And we use Spirits only when we want to get drunk or we party-hard. Thus on daily basis it is rather difficult to see drunkards on the streets (since people consume the heavy drinks mainly during the weekends).
    Also, Lithuanians, just like Russians have a really high alcohol tolerance. Drinking untill you black out is not uncommon either, but that is not something people are proud of. they try to hide it. (one more reason why it is not so visible)
    2. It is Forbidden to drink in public here! You can drink in the bars in the clubs in the restaurants and to buy fresh beer during various fests, However it is forbidden to buy vodka and other stuff that you buy from the shops in public.
    3.Partys, a.k.a. drink till you drop event are held in saunas (which are usually located Outside of the cities) ore someone’s home, so you do not face these super drunk people on the streets too often. they usually stay indoors. unless they are the adventurous type and go out to vandalyze the city or pick on someone when drunk…

    I wrote all this just because I wanted to share that, what still sometimes baffles me.

    However Korea surpassed Lithuania in one other list.. a sad one, that Lithuania had been leading for many years. The list of countries by suicide rate… en.wikipedia(.)org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate

  3. just watch their drama, if they got stressed, they will drink some alcohol at stand in side of the street

  4. Well, in Portugal we drink a lot, after all we are wine making country and we love beer too. But drinking is usually associated with a big meal that goes on for hours and if at some point you stop drinking, actually people will respect you. Off course the guy getting drunk till he vomits and passes out will still call you weak, lol.

  5. I teach Korean business clients using tele

  6. Dylan Miller

    I teach Korean students

  7. It’s these type of things that sometimes make me embarrassed to be Korean.
    These type of things don’t only happen in Korea though
    In regular Korean restraurants in California you see groups of people getting drunk and do weird things
    It’s not as illegal in the USA of course, but it’s not very appropriate either, especially when there are little kids around

  8. To u guys, koreans are koreans, for us, we are korean, some ajashis are just… not korean…. oh god pretty embarrassing

  9. jessicamaylee
    jessicamaylee

    o.O okay? umm i got very confussed as i watched this but its still funny :D

  10. Thanks for this video. This actually serves as a really good eye opener to people travelling to East Asian countries in general. This catches our attention. Whether or not the rules are the same as the ones suggested here, it’s good to get used to the idea that things are VERY different (like where I’m from, Canada). I don’t know why other people are upset over this and pointing out that drinking is a cultural difference. Isn’t the whole point of this video to display a neutral standpoint on cultural differences? >___> 
    Anyways, please don’t stop making videos like this in the future. Your old videos were amazing too. Simonandmartina hwaiting!

  11. You have such a narrow mind. You cannot stand for international cultural average on drinking. Yeah, I saw many drunken Koreans strolling in public but the most ugly people drinking in public are foreigners. This is because I’m Korean. You might be more generous with foreigners carrying PET bottle of bear in public, as exactly the same way I see Koreans. That’s the only difference. 

    If there’s some thing weird, you should understand and respect them as curtural difference. Even Korean can say like this in Canada if they have cultural bias.

  12. One thing I know for certain is that in Canada, if you are employed and you are seen drunk as toast by your coworkers or, worse, your boss, you will instantly earn a reputation as a rowdy and irresponsible person.  It never works out well.  Even if you are just seen by onlookers or (sometimes) your friends you earn that reputation.  Is this true for Korea, too?

  13. Byeonguk Yook

    This is a video about public drunkeness not about drinking etiquette

  14. o_o I hope when I go to Korea I don’t get invited to go drinking..it sounds scary and unhealthy.

  15. @826f04f83f7129efa49bb1f1836dee42:disqus 새끼야 전라도 까지마. 여기까지 와서 전라도 디스를 해야겠냐

  16. Jisoo Han

    I'm Korean but I very enjoyed this vidio. lol they're quite funny. bty, you went down to very south rural area!

  17. I want to go and teach English durning my gap year (if I don't get into university first time round) but I hate drinking, what other excusses can you use? I have no religion. Could I used my age as I'm hoping to teach when I'm 18/19 years old, can I use this?__I'm also from the UK, is there any way I could use that, say its not my cultural way?__I love your videos and your the reason that I want to teach in Korea with TaLK (the sister company to the one your under)__Thank you so much ^^

    • Huzaima Mahrom

      How about you brush up on your English first before you teach it to others?

    • I know people who, when they're filling glasses with beer or soju, would ask to have theirs filled with soda instead, so they can still do the drinking motion, but not consume any alcohol.

      • And is that considered alright? I only ask because drinking is a complete no-no for me, even a glass. It always works out fine when I go out with my friends in Saskatchewan because they understand the reason, but I'm worried that once I get to Korea I'll be excluded for this fact.

        • Don’t worry. Not every Korean likes to drink excessively. (I’m Korean.) If you don’t want to drink even a glass, that’s totally okay. No one speaks badly about it. Also, you would make friends here whose nationality is the same or similar to you, and you might hang out with only them, not Korean people. It’s like Asian exchange students in the U.S. hang out each other. (cause it’s more comfortable.) Well, it’s case by case, but it’s kind of funny that you guys are so worried about it.

  18. Hi o/
    I watched several of his videos about Korean culture and I found most fascinating. (I would like to go to Korea)

    But personally this kind of behavior in public is a little scary.

    In my country (Brazil) a person who gets drunk in public is definitely not well regarded, in fact they can easily be cut from social circles (depending on the region of the country).

    So I would like to ask you a question:
    Do Koreans tend to ignore the foreigners culture? For example, if me and my friend (a boy) show some skinship in public (likeour way of greeting each other), we would be frowned upon even though (obviously) foreigners?

    Ps: You two are the best =D~ (and I really like Spudgy, he's so cute *-*)
    Pps: Sorry for my english >w<

  19. I am Korean but ashamed on Korean drinking culture as well.
    I believe this post won't be offense against Koreans caz we already know this isn't proud culture.

    @Jennifer I like ur point of view here:D
    "but you do have to take into account that many drink over in korea because of the high stress levels from work along with it being cultural. in a sense you could say its a way for them to release their every day stress"

  20. hey sam, i agree with you in that such behaviours arent acceptable. and it isnt liked very much there either. but you do have to take into account that many drink over in korea because of the high stress levels from work along with it being cultural. in a sense you could say its a way for them to release their every day stress. also a lot of companies take their employees out to go eat and drink=you have to go and drink.

    the drinking it IS a cultural difference because MANY koreans in the u.s. here drink often and a lot also (just maybe not everyday).
    drunkenness is just a result.

  21. I really appreciate an objective point of view that you have about drinking in Korea. I'm a Korean but lived in the US for many years, so whenever I see anything that has to do with alcohol while visiting Korea I get a lot of cultural shock. I'm honestly ashamed and disgusted with some of the behavior people exhibit while drunk in public. Really, it creates a negative impression of our country to foreigners, especially those that have no idea about the culture and customs there. And I don't think "cultural difference" is an acceptable excuse for such behavior, in any case.

    Since I don't drink, I don't know the drinking customs very well, but I noticed that my older male relatives that I visit really seem eager to offer me drinks nowadays. I really hate that, as you have written, it is considered rude to simply refuse to drink at all. I just can't understand my own countrymen's ways, so I guess I really became Americanized.

    Nice videos, and keep up the good work!

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