Korean Drinking Culture Explained

Hello, I'm Ari, your friendly Korean reporter. I'm busy with preparing for my first online Korean contest. But I miraculously made time to share Korean drinking culture & etiquette. It will be helpful when you socialize with Koreans after hoping-to-end-asap pandemic.

1. What's your drinking limit?

We have a must-ask question whenever we drink alcohol with someone for the first time: 주량이 어떻게 되세요? (What's your drinking limit?) It's asking about how many bottles or glasses of soju or beer you can drink for the night. I don't know why it became a routine to ask this question, but I think it's because we want to adjust how much we drink for the night according to the counterpart's drinking limit. If the number is more than 2 bottles of soju, you're considered as a heavy drinker.

2. We drink from a cup, rather than a bottle

korean drinking soju

I saw some American dramas where people drink a beer from the bottle. Although there are some Koreans who do the same, the majority of us rarely drink beer from the bottle. When you order a beer at a pub/bar in Korea, you'll mostly get a cup full of beer or a beer bottle along with a cup. When it comes to soju, we almost always (except when we're out of our mind) drink it from a tiny cup (about the 1/4 size of the one in above image), because soju is a very strong alcohol.  

3. Some useful drinking etiquette

When you're hanging out with friends, there aren't any rules to follow, but when you're with a boss or older people or at a formal setting, there're some etiquettes to follow. For example, a younger person tends to pour beer or soju into an older one's glass and when it happens, the younger grabs a bottle using both hands. When the younger drinks in front of the older, the younger drinks turning his/her head to the side. So Korean age-based hierarchy system is applied whether we're drunk or not.     

4. Let's play drinking games

kdrama drink soju

Young Koreans enjoy playing games while drinking with friends. Some of popular drinking games are Noonchi game, Baskin-Robbins 31, and Son Byung Ho game. 👉How to play Son Byung Ho game: Players start the game while opening their one hand. Each player says a sentence taking turns and if the sentence is about you, you should take down one finger. A player who took down all 5 fingers becomes a loser and should drink a cup of alcohol. The sentences are like, "Take down one finger if you're wearing glasses," "Take down one finger if you haven't been in a relationship for over one year" It's all about making other players take down fingers. 

5. I got blacked out drunk

korea drinks alcohol soju

There are some funny Korean sentences about drinking. 필름이 끊겼어 literally means 'The film got cut off' but it actually means 'I got blacked out drunk.' 걔 술고래야 literally means 'He/she is an alcohol whale🐋' but it actually means 'He/she is a heavy drinker.' 술이 덜 깼어 literally means 'The drink didn't wake up fully' but it actually means 'I'm hungover.'

It's all for today! Have a sober weekend & Don't forget to sign up for LegitKon, online Korean contest which is held on March 28th! Test your Korean skills and culture knowledge and be a brave Korean learner! 안녕



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