Thursday, November 10, 2005

Korean Drinking Culture

Seeing as I am about to go out with friends to go to a soju bar, I thought it only appropriate to blog about it.

First of all, it is important to understand that Koreans drink to celebrate pretty much everything. Kind of like Australians!

The main alcoholic beverages are soju (really potent stuff - kind of like a cross between vodka, tequila and rubbing alcohol) and beer, but the traditional drink is rice wine. In Korean Culture this week, we made Gimchi (Chinese Cabbage in this chili sause stuff). It is a traditional dish, and served with EVERY meal (including breakfast). It has some pretty weird stuff in the sauce. Like fish liquid (soak small fish - like herrings or shrimp) in water for a while, then sqeeze all the water out again.) and loogie-looking-something (presumably musscles or the like). YUK!!! Making it was a lot of fun, though. (I miss cooking).

Anyway, as we began to prepare to make it (at 3pm), our professor goes "hey! let's have some rice wine!" so he sent someone to buy some. As we finished making the gimchi, he pulls the bottles out and it's generous dosages all round. I had a sip, but as I really don't like the taste of rice wine (or gimchi), I left them after class was 'over', happily drinking (and eating) away.

In Culture, we've learned that children/teenagers must first learn the traditional tea ceremony before they are allowed to go near the alcohol. It is (supposedly) to teach them how to control themselves while drinking and to learn how to drink properly. (From what I've seen, tho, it doesn't appear to work like they hoped). The professor asked us (the Aussies) who teaches us and how we learn how to drink alcohol in Aust. The class cracked up when we said we pretty much teach ourselves, and it comes with practice. He asked how we stop ourselves getting drunk and his reaction was priceless when we said that for the most part, we don't. Very funny.

I've picked up most of my knowledge of Korean culture outside of Culture class. I will now impart my wisdom.

In Korea, when you are out drinking, NEVER poor your own drink. It gives bad luck to the person sitting across from you. It also means that people are very vigilant in ensuring that others are never without something in their glass.
Also, if holding out your glass for a re-fill, you should hold it in your right hand and support the wrist with your left hand.

Last night Sera and I went out with friends to a farewell party. These are some of the games we played. You may or may not have heard of them.
  1. Titanic: Fill a glass 3/4 full with beer. Gently lower a shot glass into it. Go around the table taking turns to pour small amounts of straight soju into the shot glass. Whoever makes it sink has to scull it.

  2. 3, 6, 9: Go around the table counting up from one (1..2..3..4...). Instead of saying the numbers 3, 6 or 9, the person whose turn it is must clap (1..2..clap..4..5..clap..7...). Also clap on numbers 13, 16 and 19. Every number from 30-39 must be clapped. On 33, do a double clap (as there are two threes). Anyone who messes up must do a shot of soju or scull their glass of beer.

  3. Not Sure What This One's Called: Count how many people at the table. Last night we had 8. The game is that everyone (in random order, not just going around the table, so you never know who is going to say a number or when) must say a number, counting up from one. You can say any number (in its sequential order), but you are not allowed to say a number at the same time as someone else, and the aim is not to be the last one to say a number (ie: the number 8). If two or more people speak at the same time, you have to do a shot or scull a beer (If the two people are of the opposite sex, a 'love shot' - linking arms - is called for). If you mess up and say a number out of order or one that has already been said, you have to do a shot or scull a beer. If you are the last person (ie: having to say '8'), you have to do a shot or scull a beer. Whoever gets 'out' starts the next round of the game by saying 'one'.

  4. Dare: On the count of three (or whatever time marker you wish to use), everyone points to another person. The person with the most fingers pointing at them is dared to do something, usually involving drinking or embarrasing escapades in front of other patrons of the establishment. And often both.

Despite what this sounds like, I really didn't get that pissed.
The good thing about drinking in Korean bars is that they provide lots of side dishes (like chips/fries), some of which are free. It means that people are eating constantly while they are drinking.

Captain Chopsticks, going out again, to drink grape soju this time. Straight soju is just a little too much.

Well, I'm back. Here's some pics.

This is us, with food (most of it we've already eaten). I'm holding the Peach Soju. (yep - that's me in the green up the back on the right).

As I've said, side-dishes are served. You can see the remains of a chicken on the plate in the middle. We were also served this. Tell me what you think it is.

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