Q: Is drinking important in Korean culture?

Wow, this post is long overdue.

I’ve mentioned in my earlier posts that drinking is a huge part of the Korean culture and it’s true. Koreans love to go drinking with friends. However, I think the reason why I thought it was bigger than it probably is, was because there was a period where it seemed like all everyone I knew wanted to do was drink. Now, I don’t really feel that kind of pressure. So in this post, I will explain what the purpose of drinking here is, what made me felt as if I needed to go bars to find friends in Korea, and how I got to the place I am in today.

First things first, Koreans drink for a variety of reasons however, the main reason, according to my friend, is for them to be able to connect with people and bond with them. Because of this, there is more social pressure than there would be if it was mainly a solo thing. I’ve noticed that bars here aren’t just a place for you to drink, but it’s a place to dine.

It’s an experience.

You go in with your friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, or random people, find a table order food, order drinks and chat together. For HOURS.

I remember when I had joined this language exchange group, they would meet at this bar downtown around 7,8ish, and sometimes I wouldn’t get home till around 2, 3 in the morning. They didn’t always stay in one place, but go for multiple rounds at different bars. I don’t drink alcoholic beverages, but since they seem to feel bothered by my lack of participation, I would get water and drink along with them. This worked since I was in a large group and there were other people were drinking, but it wouldn’t work one on one.

I mean, what’s the point of one person getting drunk and showing their embarrassing side while the other one is 100% sober?

Unfortunately, due to constant badgering about my non-drinking habit (even though I had explained myself multiple times) and unwanted pressure, I stopped going to the outings. This is why I felt as if I couldn’t make any friends and connect with them on a deeper level if I didn’t drink.

However, these days, I haven’t felt that kind of pressure as before. Maybe it’s because people don’t ask me to go drinking with them as often, or maybe it’s because my Korean is getting better so I’m seeing more options in different areas and can make more friends easily, or because of Corona, but these days, I haven’t had one person question my non-drinking habits.

I’ve found other ways to bond and get close to my friends in other ways like dancing, getting face massages, and going on trips with them. Sometimes they will want to introduce me to some of their other friends at bars and I go for the sake of socializing but they already know my stance on drinking. I guess they fill in their friends ahead of time because no one asks.

Also, I noticed that Koreans tend to feel more comfortable opening up themselves to others when they have alcohol to use as an excuse. It seems to me that it’s a bit harder for them to show certain sides of themselves without alcohol in them. Since Koreans feel the need to maintain a certain air about themselves in public, they aren’t able to do “crazy” things in public as easily as maybe we Americans are. But I’m sure that’s not the case for everyone.

So, let me clarify a few things.

Is the drinking in Korea a common thing? Yes.

Does everyone in Korea drink? No.

Do you have to drink to meet people and bond with them? No.

Are Koreans understanding and considerate of your preferences? Yes.

Can you live in Korea and never ever step foot in a bar? Maybe.

Whew, finally we’ve reached the end of this post.

Is it just me or are my posts getting longer? Don’t answer that. Haha.

I hope you’re still enjoying them.


Until next time,

See ya around, my friend~~

Posted by:ThatKoreanLife

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