Etiquette, Conformity and culture in Korea - 59

Conformity in many ways, dictates that one should not leave the drinking session before their senior (higher manager) leaves. Drinking in Korea though, is limited to an extent in some situations. Drinking alcohol for Drinking in Seoulexample does not tend to occur very much in the home; universities tend not to have bars directly on campus; and places such as Norebangs are mostly alcohol free. There is no denying though, that both food and alcohol are a definite part of the vibrant Korean culture.

Drinking etiquette in Korea

If you are a foreigner and visiting Korea, make sure to try the Korean alcohol. Be aware though, if you are drinking with Koreans, that there are some customs which may need to be considered. As a foreigner, you will probably not be expected to know all of the customs, but it is good way of ingratiating yourself with the locals if you do.

  • You should not raise your glass higher than your senior’s glass (remember that ‘Senior’ in Konglish means someone who is older than you and who is usually thus in a higher work position).
  • You should not pour your own drink. You can pour for others but you do not pour for yourself, as this is considered rude.
  • In Korea, when offering a drink to a ‘Senior’, we must hold the bottle with two hands. This is a sign of respect
  • If you do pour the drinks, you should not fill the glass to the top. Usually Koreans pour halfway or three quarters the way.

The above point was a cultural shock for me. In UK or Ireland, not pouring to the top would cause problems. A barman would probably be fired after a while because many people would complain. In Seoul, I ordered a pint of Guinness and at 15,000 won for the pint (about £8 or U.S.$ 12), I was stunned that it was handed to me with about two inches of foam and when the foam went down the glass was only three quarters full. When I did ask for it to be filled up the barman seemed angry with me.

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