Soju Think You Can Dance?

By: Julie Dickinson, Foster Undergraduate

Korean drinking culture is intense…and I could write about it forever. It’s one of the most unique and highly ritualized drinking cultures in the world but in addition to being highly alcohol fueled, the practices really do say a lot about Korean culture as a whole. Drinking in groups (which is the preferred way of drinking in Korea) is really all about respect. It reminds me a lot of ballroom dancing…there are certain ways of doing everything and certain mannerisms, which translate into much larger meanings. I’m not going to attempt to tell you all of the rules because I would butcher them but I can convey the general gist of what I gathered.  As like most things in Korea, age is everything. Your age relative to the other members of your group will tell you who’s buying the drinks, who’s pouring the drinks, and who’s going to need to tap out first (usually involuntarily). It is very common for colleagues to go out together after work and I was lucky enough to be invited on some of these outings. Work is not discussed but rather jokes are told and games are played and everyone needs to have as much fun as the boss is having (which is quite often an exceptional amount of fun). One must never pour ones own drink, one must never let the other drinks at the table become empty, and one must never drink in a group without buying a meal for the table. The drink of choice is Soju: the most widely sold alcohol in the world (almost exclusively sold in Korea if that tells you anything) and in my opinion one of the worst tasting things you’ll ever encounter. The best (and I would say 90%) of drinking outings end in Karaoke. The only shame in Karaoke is holding back, one must go all out in one’s Celine Dion impersonation. And the number one rule in drinking with one’s colleagues? One must show up to work the next day looking impeccably fresh and pretend that one did not see one’s boss dancing on the tables the night before.