Why Korea is better than Canada (at drinking)

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Hi everyone. Another quiet weekend without much to report.

When I was preparing to leave for Korea (a little over 9 months ago) I spent a lot of time thinking about what life would be like here. Mostly I would think about where I was going to live, what I was going to eat, what I was going to do etc… I tried to visualize life here.

The one thing I never visualized was how ‘ordinary’ things would become (Note: I use the term ordinary very loosely – ordinary is a relative term in Korea). For the most part I am incredibly ‘settled’ into my day-to-day life here. I never imagined that I would find it hard to come up with topics for my blog – I figured every day would be chock full of new experiences (which it was, for about 8 months). Couple this feeling of monotony with the short days and cold weather of November and December and you have a recipe for boring blog posts. That being said I do have a few plans on the go at the moment which should make for really interesting experiences – but I hate blogging about things I am planning to do because… who cares? It isn’t interesting until I’ve actually done it.

This weekend was a pretty relaxing affair. On Saturday I went to the beach. It is getting cold in Korea, but still nowhere near what I am used to this time of year. I spent two hours with my pant legs rolled up beach combing in the surf. I know I’ve said it before, but barefoot beach combing in December presents a really strong argument in favor of Korea being Paradise. I found a ton of beach glass which I hope will make its way back home. On Saturday night a friend of mine was having her birthday party near Haeundae beach. A night of drinking, fooseball, darts and beer pong (yes, bars in Korea have special beer pong tables – completed with cut-out cup holders to keep beer from spilling). Consequently, Sunday was spent largely in my apartment drinking water and saying “Ugh…..”

The partying and drinking aspect of life in Korea is one thing I really haven’t touched on too much in this blog. One reason for this is because when I first started the blog I worried that if I began giving detailed accounts of the drinking shenanigans this blog would devolve into a journal of the partying exploits of a twenty something year old – and why would you want to read that? You’ve all been 20 before: you know what its like. The other reason is that I go out drinking a LOT less than many of the expats in Korea. Maybe once or twice a month. Compared to the once or twice a week of most EPIK teachers (and most 20-30 year olds in general). Today I’m going to throw caution to the wind and disregard those two reasons. I think the drinking culture is interesting and that you might want to hear about it,  so allow me to tell you about the party scene here, and some of the differences between social drinking in Korea vs. social drinking in Canada.

The first and biggest difference (between drinking with friends back home and drinking with friends in Korea) is the price. Alcohol is so cheap (especially if you stick to the Korean brands) that you can go out and drink all night long without a major hit to your wallet. Most of us have experienced a heavy night of drinking in Canada only to wake up and realize that instead of spending the estimated 40 dollars you ended up spending over 100. Well here in Korea you would probably be hard pressed to get higher than 40 dollars – even the biggest benders will probably come in at under 60 bucks – especially if you stick to bear or soju. I probably spend around 15-20 dollars on an average night out (4-5 beers worth if you drink the Korean brands). The fact that alcohol is so cheap also completely does away with the ‘pre-drinking’ phase of a standard Canadian Friday night. Since you aren’t paying very much at the bars there is no need to buy cheap alcohol in the store to get buzzed at home before hitting the clubs. No more pre-drinks has two notable side-effects; 1. there are fewer house parties and 2. Nights out tend to start earlier.

Not only do night on the town start earlier in Korea, they also go later. This brings me to the second big difference between drinking at home vs. Korea; the regulation of alcohol. Unlike Canada, alcohol is not regulated in Korea (like, at all). It is sold in bars, restaurants, groceries even convenience stores (and if you’ve been following this blog at all you know that convenience stores aren’t exactly hard to come by here). In fact, many convenience stores put out tables and chairs on the street and turn into mini street bars at night. As a matter of fact, some of the most fun I’ve had drinking in Korea has been in front of convenience stores. There is no loud music to shout over, there are tons of people walking around to watch and there are no lines at the bar (by bar I mean checkout counter). Also different in Korea is the ability to drink in public. This is an amazing concept that I would love to see implemented in Canada. It’s so nice to be able to order one last beer at the bar and then just take it outside as you walk to the next club. Or drink on the street in front of a convenience store and watch the crowds, or drink on the beach and listen to the ocean, or drink on a hiking trail on a mountain. The final difference in the regulation of alcohol is the lack of anything even remotely resembling ‘last call’. Due to the lack of regulations on selling and serving alcohol the bars really only need to close when the staff is too damn tired to keep serving. Even if the bars do finally close, well, the convenience stores are 24 hrs. Keep the party going!

Just this weekend I woke up Sunday morning and took a walk to a nearby bookstore. I passed a convenience store with two foreigners drunk as skunks with an entire nights worth of empties around them (it was 10am). So the next time you are out in Canada and have to shove your way through the crowded, noisy bar to pay 6.50 for a beer at 12:55am only to chug it down in order to finish it before you have to leave when the bar closes at 2am, think real hard about coming to Korea – social drinking CAN be better.

Thats all for now, I hope you enjoyed this entry – I’ll be back in a  few days with another update.

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About bnbnower

A recent graduate of Carleton University, set adrift into the real world with no tangible goals or properly defined aspirations, I decided to set off for South Korea where I am teaching English as a second language. In my spare time I read, rock-climb, play frisbee and watch movies and television.
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3 Responses to Why Korea is better than Canada (at drinking)

  1. Tyler says:

    Oh, how the memories are flowing back to me now almost as quickly as the copious alcohol we drank – I misinterpreted your title as a bit blasphemous until I realized what specifically you were referencing, and I think you forgot one important matter, and that is of the “beer etiquette” in Korea – half full glasses, serving each other, etc. – but I think you may have touched on that on another blog haha.

  2. bnbnower says:

    That title is misleading – I should change it to (at drinking establishments).

  3. Jim Kingdon says:

    There is no doubt that Korean’s are more civilized when it comes to social drinking. My question is, can they handle it? Being the only 2 people in a city of over 4 million to witness it, will we ever forget “sleepy boys” 3 hour subway ride…..

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