• Jonathan Shiek

Did You Know There Are Rules To Drinking In Korea?

Drinking is a pretty big part of the Korean culture, you can even see it in K-dramas, K-pop music videos, and even Korean variety/ entertainment shows. What you probably didn’t know is that there are a couple of unspoken rules when it comes to drinking with elders and superiors. Let us educate you on what you can expect when drinking in Korea!

Penalty For Being Late

As Malaysians, we are notorious when it comes to timing, hence the ‘Malaysian Timing’ term. So if you’re in Korea, especially for social or work gatherings, the latecomers will be expected to drink to ‘catch up’ with everybody else. If you’re lucky it would just be 1 full shot, but the standard is to take 3 drinks consecutively.

Down The First Shot

The golden rule in Korea is to down your first shot or drink in one go. I know it sounds pretty crazy, especially if you’re just a social drinker that takes your time sipping on alcohol. Thankfully, after that point, you can take your time and enjoy your drinks.

No Empty Glasses

If anyone sees an empty glass in front of you, they will immediately assume you need more and will get you another glass or refill it for you if you are older than them. If you are younger, you should be pouring the elders or superiors another drink if you see an empty glass. A quick tip on making sure you don’t get a refill is to leave your glass half empty!

Don’t Pour Your Own Drink

Adding to the point above, if your glass is empty, someone will eventually pour you a drink. A tip would be to fill up someone else’s glass and they would in return pour you a drink as well.

Credit: Beverage Daily

Glass Position Based On Age

This rule is pretty important in Korea, when you clink glasses, you should adjust your glass so that your glass is either lower or higher based on age. However, if you don’t now the age of the person, then this rule can be excused.

Credit: Korea Bizwire

Pour With Two Hands To Your Elders

This rule actually applies to many Asian countries, when you’re pouring a drink for the elders, you’ll have to use both hands. You may also use one hand to pour and the other hand on your elbow or chest as a sign of respect.

Credit: Asia Options

Accept Alcohol With Two Hands From Elders

Another pretty basic rule among Asian countries is to accept drinks with 2 hands, no matter if it’s just a small soju glass. If it’s not your elder, then you can accept the drink however you like but it’s still advised to accept with 2 hands regardless on the occasion.

Turn Away When Drinking With Elders

It’s a sign of respect to not look at your elders when you drink, almost like you’re trying to drink in secret.

Only Two Reasons Excused From Drinking

Apparently you can only decline to drink if it’s for religious reasons or medical reasons. Any other reasons will be frowned upon, so you should just say you’re on medication if you’re trying to avoid drinking.


#drinkingculture #Korea

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