Drinking in any culture is a delicate affair. Too much and you look like a drunkard, too little and you may offend; and it’s amazing how hard it is to hit that sweet spot and how many times I have gone soaring past it.
Drinking in Korea is less of a social pasttime and more of an social gamble with the odds stacked against… for anyone who doesn’t know the rules that is.
Even with the long odds and inevitable hangovers, drinking in Korea is a great opportunity for most foreigners to Korea whether you’re new to a company or the newest English teacher.
Right off the bat, you should know that if you don’t get invited to drinks after your first month, you’re being left out. This may have to do with a number of factors but try not to take them personally.
When it does happen there are a few things to know:
YOU WILL (probably) GET DRUNK
Unless restraint is exercised by everyone in the group, you’ll notice a drop in everyone’s sobriety and it will happen surprisingly quick. Get a handle on how much you can drink and drink lots of water, you’ll need it. Drinking helps not only diluting the alcohol in your system and causing you to empty it out eventually, but it gives you an excuse to clear your head and get away from the table.
EXCESS IS GOOD TO THEM NOT YOU
Inevitably there is always a jackass who tries to get you drunk in order to “induct” you into the culture.
Fuck him and Drink less if you are inclined. You’ll be judged on your intake for the night not just the first hour. I have learned and lost every Korean drinking game due to a coworker.
THE NIGHT JUST GOES ON AND ON…
In Korea they have rounds like boxing, and like boxing people will knock out. First round is a restaurant, second round is a karaoke bar, and the third is a bar. Overtime at another bar is a possibility.
IT’S OKAY TO SAY NO
If you’ve reached your limit or want to slow down then do so. No one will be insulted, it’s just a matter of whether they let you go. In Korea peer pressure is just another way following the norm.
I have personally passed out in a doorway and have friends who have done so as well. The commonality is that we’ve all learned when to say “No”.
It is your decision to drink or even to go out in the first place. I have met tons of Koreans who don’t drink and still go out. It isn’t just a good opportunity to get to know your coworkers or make friends but for them to get to know you. And in Korea, the land of no personal space, it’s a good place to establish boundaries.
BONUS ROUND :
Avoid looking like this.