Whether you’re out partying with friends or you’ve been invited out with your co-workers, you might want to use this word when you’re out drinking in Korea! This week we will also take a quick look at drinking culture in South Korea and how to make a good impression.
The Korean word for ‘cheers’ is ‘건배‘ (gon-bay) and is used fairly often as a result of the drinking culture in South Korea. Those of you who have seen dramas or films will have most likely seen evidence of this culture! While not everybody in Korea is an excessive drinker, social conventions and expectations might make it difficult for someone to know their limits and stop when they’ve had enough. As with the Korean language, drinking is another area where one is expected to show respect to those older and/or of a socially higher position than oneself. You can trace this mentality of respecting your elders back to the Confucian beliefs of the Joseon Dynasty, beliefs which are still present in today’s society in Korea because of the long domination of Confucianism in Korea’s history. You might be asked out for drinks with your boss and co-workers, in which case you’ll be expected to drink out of politeness. To westerners, this concept might sound strange but it’s a large part of Korean culture. The idea is never to pour your own drink and to make sure that nobody else pours their own drink (ie, do it for them). It is seen as impolite to refuse a drink when it is offered but there are ways to get around this if you really don’t want to drink… If you can’t drink because of religion or medication, this is a perfectly acceptable reason. There may be more leniency if you are a foreigner (though it’s always polite to engage with the culture of where you are resident!). If you have no viable excuse, at least accept the first drink; you don’t have to down it straight away, you can sip. The custom of keeping everyone’s glass full of alcohol can be played to your benefit, because if you don’t drink too quickly, you won’t be offered as many drinks and can remain in control. There are a number of drinking games that mainly (but not only) popular with college students that also encourage drinking excessively. Fortunately, South Korea has hangover remedies pinned down to perfection! You might find yourself relying on ‘hangover soup’ or a number of hangover remedies sold at drugstores everywhere…
Have you had any drinking experiences in Korea yourself? Or have you heard any funny stories? Let us know in the comments below and practise using your new Korean knowledge from our WOTW series.