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Drinking in Korea

Drinking is virtually a national sport in Korea, and there seems to be virtually no stigma attached to getting stinking drunk in public, particularly for men.

There are no shortage of drinking establishments, from sidewalk tents to trendy nightclubs, and this seems to be the recreational activity of choice for many English teachers in Korea.

It is not an uncommon site to see men in business suits passed out in gutters on a Sunday morning, and piles of vomit in the subway stations. Beer is cheap and plentiful, although virtually all beer available in Korea is a light pilsner.

Besides beer, the other most popular drink in Korea is soju, which is akin to cheap vodka. Beware - soju, which comes in small clear bottles, will get you very drunk and violently ill very quickly. Many English teachers still bear physical and emotional scars from the ‘soju experience.’

More traditional drinks include makkoli, a milky white rice drink and dong dong ju, another traditional rice based alcohol. Alcohol is usually served with anju, or side dishes, which usually include nuts, dry squid tentacles and dry seaweed.

Important Note: In Korea, if you invite someone out, you are expected to pay. If you are invited out, don’t expect to pay, or attempt to contribute to it. The bill for a group is always paid by one person only, if you attempt to pay for the bill in front of your host you can seriously embarrass him or her.

Furthermore, it is quite rude to fill your own glass with alcohol in Korea, or to leave another person’s glass empty. Everyone is continually filling each other’s glasses. To show respect, hold the bottle or pitcher with two hands when pouring and hold your glass with two hands when receiving.