Drinking alcohol with seniors in Korea

Discussion in 'Korean Culture and History' started by mastercole, Apr 17, 2012.

  1. mastercole

    mastercole Master Black Belt

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    You are in Korea with seniors, at a restaurant. A senior has a glass of soju placed in front of you. What do you do? Do you drink it?
     
  2. ETinCYQX

    ETinCYQX Master Black Belt

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    I have absolutely no idea what the ettiquete is. But yes, probably.
     
  3. dancingalone

    dancingalone Grandmaster

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    I'm not Korean, but generally in Asian cultures you wait until your elders and seniors (not necessarily the same thing) take refreshment themselves before you eat or drink.
     
  4. ETinCYQX

    ETinCYQX Master Black Belt

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    Actually what I'd do is fervently hope one of my Canadian seniors is there too so he can give me some guidance.
     
  5. puunui

    puunui Senior Master

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    And when drinking alcohol with seniors you must turn away and drink, not drink in front of them or facing them.

    On the food thing, I can tell there were many times when we were starving after a hard day of whatever, but then we had to sit there and not pick up our chopsticks until the senior picked up his and actually started eating before we started in. Sometimes it felt like when someone puts meat on a dog's nose and makes him wait for the command before he can eat it. But that's just one of the many opportunities to show your understanding, knowledge as well as your respect and self discipline. Much of dealing with seniors is not losing your self discipline when faced with a pressure situation. When I see people lashing out at their seniors, I think to myself this person does not understand, this person is not like us.
     
  6. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    In Korea, if a senior places a drink in front of you, he is showing you great respect. You can drink it in front of him; assuming you are all at the bar or table together. But, you must make sure that his glass is kept full; you pour his yourself with your right hand, holding your left hand to your right wrist or on the bottle itself. Never pour with one hand unless it's your best buddy. Never pour your own drink, it is rude.

    If you are seated in the traditional manner (cross-legged on floor), do not be surprised (if you are a man) if the man next to you puts his hand on your upper thigh. This is not what Americans might think; it is a friendly gesture only, it has no other meaning. You do not have to reciprocate, but don't jump up and punch the dude out either. Men sometimes also walk holding hands; it doesn't mean what it does in the US.

    In South Korea, when work is done, all the men go out to dinner and drinks together, mostly every night. If a man is married, his wife might come to the restaurant and make the dinner for the men at the table. If a man has a serious girlfriend, same thing. It was rare for me to see female engineers, but there were a few. The men didn't exactly know how to treat them, so for the most part they were treated like honorary men; their gender was basically ignored.

    Kimchee is good, bulgogi is good, sojo is like pain thinner. OMG it's horrible. I brought back two bottles.

    I spent some time in Masan. Fun place, nice people. I'd love to go back again someday.
     
  7. ballen0351

    ballen0351 Sr. Grandmaster

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    That was one big difference between the Korean Marines and the US Marines. When we went to chow the lowest ranks ot to get there food first and eat first. The Korean Marines the lowest ranks had to serve the higher ranks first then they could eat.
     
  8. mastercole

    mastercole Master Black Belt

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    Generally I try not to drink around big seniors. If we are anywhere except a Noraebang and they give me a drink, I wait for them, toast take a sip and then set it aside. If I am at a Noraebang, I am careful not to drink much and less than the seniors so I can watch out for them after. If I am traveling with a team, I never drink anything.

    Maybe if we are hiking through the mountains in Korea and we run across a makoli jipp, I might get a cup of dongnongju with a snack.
     
  9. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    When in Rome....
     
  10. puunui

    puunui Senior Master

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    I would still turn away when drinking in the situation that you are describing. I believe they made allowances for you because you are an american. But if both the junior and senior were korean born, then the junior would be expected to turn away and cover your mouth with your hand when drinking alcohol.
     
  11. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    Good to know, thanks. I bought a book from Lonely Planet before my trip and read up on the culture and what I should and should not do - by the way, I do that for every overseas trip I make - China, Japan, Germany, Brazil, etc. I recommend the books; they really helped me out. And most of the things I read about what to do and not do were totally true. I actually had a young vice president put his hand on my leg while we were eating dinner. If I hadn't had some idea it was coming, I might have jumped out of my skin; we Americans are not into that kind of thing as a general rule. But I had read about it, so I forced myself to relax. Like I said, Korea is a great place, wonderful people. Sojo is nasty, though.
     
  12. dancingalone

    dancingalone Grandmaster

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    Could someone explain why you should turn away from your senior before drinking alcohol? I understand it is a respect thing, but is there a cultural story behind it? And is this a Korean thing or is it more widespread?

    When I took a business trip years ago to Tokyo I freely consumed spirits with my clients and did not turn away. Oops?
     
  13. Gemini

    Gemini Senior Master

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    The first time I experiemced this, I had no idea what my senior was doing. He explained that while he was senior at the school, outside the school, I was senior (being older) and it was disrespectful for him to drink in front of me. That was a long time ago. Now that our ages are ( relatively speaking) closer together, I insisted he drink with me. He laughed it off and agreed.

    This is not a custom practiced solely in Korea. I grew up in a household were this was also the case.
     
  14. puunui

    puunui Senior Master

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    I don't know if there is a story behind it, other than it is considered rude or disrespectful to consume alcohol in front of your senior. Same thing for cigarette smoking, you have to either not do it or turn away and when you take your drag.
     
  15. puunui

    puunui Senior Master

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    It is, and they are. Do you plan on going back? Do any martial arts training while you were there?

    It's not my favorite drink, let's put it that way. Gives me a headache after.
     
  16. Grenadier

    Grenadier Administrator Staff Member

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    Koreans love their alcohol, that's for certain. Think of them as the equivalent of the Irish folks in Europe. :)

    When it comes to alcohol these days, the custom of turning away to drink isn't practiced nearly as much anymore as it used to be. These days, it's considered polite to simply hold the cup in both hands, while drinking in front of your seniors.

    My parents told me that the idea behind turning away was seen more as a way to humor your seniors / elders, that it would look like you were trying to sneak a drink away from their eyesight. In turn, the senior would take it as a sign of respect, that you wouldn't dare drink face to face with them.
     
  17. mastercole

    mastercole Master Black Belt

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    Years ago I was out with a bunch of Jidokwan seniors at a Noraebang (a special kind) in Seoul. We all sat around a large table and the biggest senior would pour a glass of beer then drop in a shot glass of Johnny Walker, cover the glass with a napkin as it foamed up, them poke the napkin with a toothpick causing the foaming mix to spray out. Then he would pass the glass to someone who had to drink the whole thing in one go, take the shot glass out and turn the beer glass upside down on top of their head. This went on for a while as the night got more interesting!
     
  18. puunui

    puunui Senior Master

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    Same temper too.

    I think we still have to do it within the taekwondo context, at least with the seniors. If my juniors want to drink in front of me, I don't mind, but I do take favorable notice when a junior does follow the custom and turn away while they take a sip of their drink. For hapkido, there is no drinking, at least in front of GM Ji. One of the nine rules is no consumption of alcohol. Some students blatantly violate this rule in front of him, which I don't think is a good idea.
     
  19. ETinCYQX

    ETinCYQX Master Black Belt

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    I have to admit I have never looked away when drinking with my direct senior. Mainly because I didn't know that was the custom.
     
  20. puunui

    puunui Senior Master

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    Is your direct senior korean? If not,I wouldn't worry about it so much. But the next time you do drink with him, try and turn away and drink and see if he knows what that means.
     

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