TTMIK Culture Talk #1 – Drinking Culture in Korea


Today, in the very first Culture Talk at, we talk about the drinking culture in Korea. Some of the topics covered in this talk are drinking manners in Korea, popular types of alcohol, general prices of alcohol in Korea, substitute driver service, etc.

This talk is entirely in English, with the exception of a few Korean words. The Korean words introduced in this talk are:
소주 [so-ju] = soju
맥주 [maek-ju] = beer
막걸리 [mak-geol-li] = makgeolli
선배 [seon-bae] = someone who entered the same school or company as you, but earlier
후배 [hu-bae] = someone who entered the same school or company as you, but later
회식 [hoe-sik] = company dinner
폭탄주 [pok-tan-ju] = boiler-maker (mixed alcohol, usually of soju and beer)
안주 [an-ju] = side dishes or food for drinking occasions
숙취 해소 음료 [suk-chwi] = hangover control beverage
대리 운전 [dae-ri un-jeon] = substitute driver service

We hope you enjoy listening to this talk!
What other topics do you want 현우 and 효진 to talk about in the future Culture Talks?


TTMIK Culture Talk #1 – Drinking Culture in Korea
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  • 마이카

    This culture talk/lesson is very useful for foreigners like me who’s currently staying here in Korea. I hope I could hear more from you guys! =)) This is really great! Now, I know how to be polite (in drinking that is) since I’ve been very rude for not doing those sort of things! Thanks a lot to all TTMIK 선생님s =)

    • Sometimes we learn a lot from the mistakes we did. : ) Thanks for enjoying the talk and look forward the next talk.

  • David

    I was wondering. Do you tip in korea? In the US we give about 15% of the bill as tip… typically when its a large group it is calculated in the bill

    • No, we don’t have tip culture. I know that the service fee is already included to the total fee.

    • We don’t tip in Korea because service fee is already included but waitresses are not getting paid more than $5 per hour .. go figure

    • HIEN

      in vietnam we don’t give tip as well. it’s not normal to do this, it depends on the generosity of each customer when they enter a pub or foodstall.

    • HIEN

      We don’t give tip in Vietnam as well, it depends on the generosity of each customer when they enter a pub or bar.

  • 선생님들:
    안녕하세요.제가 중국 대학생입니다.동레이라고 합니다.
    저에는 술 마시기를 한번도 해 본 적이 없었지만 한국 술 문화도 좀 알아봅니다.
    한국 사람은 다 술을 마시는 걸 좋아한다고 합니다.특히 말걸리가 이제 점점 유명해집니다.그리고 제 인상중에 소주를 마셨으면 술취로 머리가 아프기 쉽죠?……
    폭탄주란 술의 이름이 너무 신기네요….폭탄이 “bomb”,맞아요? (이런 비슷한 부르는 방법을 대만에 들은 적이 있어요.——深水炸弹:이런 혼합한 술은 술성이 너무 강하니까 폭탄 같죠…. )
    선생님,제가 옛날 산 한국 스티커에 “박까스”란 음료수의 이름도 있는데,무슨 음료수인지 전혀 모르겠어요…좀 설명해 줄래요?감사합니다.^ ^

    • “박카스” 라는 음료가 있는데, 이 음료는 피로를 회복시켜주는 약이에요. 그래서 약국에 가야지 살 수 있어요. Redbull과 비슷한 음료예요.

      한국어 정말 잘 쓰셨어요. ^^ 제가 몇 문장만 자연스럽게 고쳐 볼게요.

      저에는 술 마시기를 한번도 해 본 적이 없었지만 한국 술 문화도 좀 알아봅니다.
      > 저는 한번도 술 마신 적은 없었지만 한국 술 문화를 좀 알고 있습니다.


      제 인상중에 소주를 마셨으면 술취로 머리가 아프기 쉽죠?
      > 제일 인상적인 건, 소주를 마시면 숙취로 머리가 아프기 쉽다는 것입니다.

    • 진 선생님,들을 꼼꼼히 고쳐 주셔서 감사합니다!
      틀린 곳이 아직 많으니까 수고하셨습니다!^ ^
      이 사이트가 진짜 짱이네요~친구들한테 추천할 겁니다~

  • 선생님,다음 번의 화제가 뭘까요?너무 기대하는데요….
    한국문화에 관심이 너무 많아요~^^
    요즘 ‘찜질방’에 흥미가 있어요..양머리가 너너너너무 귀여우니까요~

    • ㅋㅋㅋㅋ 찜질방 좋아해요? 저도 가끔 찜질방에 놀러가요.

    • 예,한국 영화 에서 양머리를 쓰는 인물을 봤어요.전 원래 그곳이 목욕탕인 것을 생각했는데 인터넷으로 물어본 후에 찐질방인 걸 알았어요….^ ^
      양머리가 귀 부분을 보호하기 위해서 쓰는 것인다고 합니다.귀여워 보여요~

    • 양머리는 귀를 보호하지는 않아요. 머리에서 나는 땀을 닦거나 귀엽게 보이기 위해서 양머리를 쓴다고 생각해요.

    • 아…그래요…알겠습니다~^ ^
      너무 감사합니다.^o^

  • Anita

    This is great. I love you guys.

    I have a question, though – what about paying? If I go drinking with my friends/sunbae/boss, do we each pay our own way? What about hwaeshik? Does the company pay?

    • Although there is not such a rule for paying the fee but when it comes to 회식, the boss would like to pay it but when the cost is too much expensive then the other people may share the price.

      When you have meals with friend, we often share the cost and when I have meals with juniors, I often pay the whole price if it is not that expensive.

    • Nisa Nurina

      seokjin ssi, would you like to treat me a glass of maekju? ^^

  • Mathieu

    Thank you ~~ One of my Korean friends told me about your website the other day because i told him i was interested in learning Korean. Its been very useful so far, and I have always thought about living abroad so these culture talks would be very useful for me to see the differences between the cultures, so when im able to visit Korea soon, i will be polite 🙂
    Also enjoying your other lessons. Keep it up !!
    Thanks again 🙂

  • AleiZZa

    I really love this about Korea culture, looking forward for new culture talk!!

  • Violeta

    Thank you for doing this culture talk, i’ve learned a lot

    I encourage you to make more culture talks because it’s really useful for people who are not korean and don’t quite understand some of the behaviour ok korean people in some situations.

    i’m looking forward to learning more =)

  • Giselle

    Wah! so helpful!! (^_^) next can you talk about height? It seems like a weird topic but my friends in Korea tell me that they really stand out because the are 5’8″ and up (they are both females). I am 5’7″ just a little under their height will i still stand out as being tall?

    • Actually, it is confusing because we use “centimeter” to measure height. Do you use “inch”? Thanks for recommending good topic!

    • KYR

      Not true Korean girls are not that tall. At 5’7″ you’re average or taller than average but not smaller. Goes the same for guys .. So don’t worry too much

  • Thanks this really helped!!!!!

  • hazy

    Actually, I like lots of things about Korea, but what I hate the most about Korea is the drinking culture.
    It is forbidden.

  • nara

    ohhh i wich i could uproad some pictures relate to this chapter.
    i can share ‘real’ drinking pictures ^^;;;
    such as 폭탄주 hahaha;; am i not allowed to comment with pics ??

  • Talene

    Hey guys, love this site I am learning so much, so, thank you. Will there be any more culture talks. I am planning to teach english in South Korea and would love to learn as much as I can 😀

  • Luka Genn

    So what do recovering alcoholics (or people who just don’t like drinking) do? It doesn’t sound like there is any way for them to have their choice not to drink honored and supported (discreetly) in work situations. This is pretty disturbing.

  • Bruce Ma

    Really enjoy your talking. The first time I listened to it ,I had made my decision

  • Seth

    When can we expect the next culture talk ?

    I’ve really been looking forward to one but I’ve not seen any in a while 🙁

  • Nargess

    Hard work! Good job, 🙂
    I really like korean culture.pls make some other culture talks! waiting for you!

    Comsahamnida coorigoo chalheso?!

  • Xanat Meza

    What happened with the other culture talks? They aren’t displayed. T-T

  • I watch lots of Kdrama’s & I have noticed that when a person is younger & drinking w/ an adult that they turn their bodies slightly to either the left or the right. I figured that this is out of respect for that adult. I wondered why they drink w/ them in the 1st place? Like my Dad knows that I drink (sometimes), but I would NEVER do it in front of him or w/ him. Is there like a point where saying “No thank you” just isn’t accepted in this situation?

  • Sonja

    Thank you for your work in bringing us this interesting and informative Culture Talk! I have a question that I see is similar to what a few others have already posted. It is against my religion to drink, but if I am in a situation with a boss or someone I respect who expects me to drink how can I say no in a polite way? Would they be offended if I didn’t drink with them?

  • I absolutely loved this “Culture Talk”. 감사합니다!
    Are you planning on doing more of these? It has been such a long time since this one was released. I know you guys are busy, I’m just so glad for all you do for us.

  • Wow I think that this is a great idea, i like to learn more when you stay with old people, the thing that you need to do, like in the dramas. thank you because you do the best work for us and we can learn more about it.
    Gracias, me gusta mucho.

  • 응웬 득 하이

    문화 대한 얘기가 너무 재미있었는데 왜 지금까지 한나 밖에 없습니까?
    계속 하면 좋겠습니다.
    한국어를 공부하게 TTMIK 죄고입니다! 감사합니다!

  • 소영

    안녕하세요? 부탁 하나 있는데요….. 이 문제에 설면 좀 해주시죠? 부모님과 얘기할
    때 존댓말 쓰는 법이 있잖아요. 그런데 요즘 특히 어린 사람들은 어른들에게 반말을 쓰게 돼었죠? 들으니까 좀 이상할것같아서요.. 대답 기다리겠습니다~ㅎㅎ

  • Cynthia

    I like this show how come there are not more …

  • Miosoty

    “Soju taste like life.” LOL that was so funny!!! xD

  • James Bond 007

    I want to give my Korean friend a cup. How do you write “Not for soju.”
    Do you think a cup is a good present? lolz.

    • Hello James Bond,

      I would say “소주잔이 아니에요” which means “this is not a cup for soju”.

      Of course, a cup can be a good present. 🙂

  • George

    Hope there will be more culture talks… 😛

  • Stephanie

    Best quote of the entire show:
    “Soju tastes like life”

    I dont’ think you can appreciate this until you live in Korea – totally understandable.

  • Sasipa

    exactly! hyunwoo looks sooooooo young…at first i thought he must be around my age

  • Nguyen Van Hien

    ur drinking culture is pretty close to mine. i mean there r
    some similarities between Vietnam n Korea, but u know
    when someone is tipsy, they don’t know how to be polite
    in their words or order. U think so?

  • 히엔

    in Vietnam, many people drink almost everyday, so some of them die at early age because of some disease affected from alcohol. Moreover if we drink in, we can’t control ourselves from doing bad or saying bad. At that time we don’t know who is old, who is young. U agree so?

    • Yeah, it is always not good to drink a lot. I also saw some people who was drunk so that they did not recognize other people.
      Actually, as I can’t drink well, I did not experience that situation.

  • Dear all TTMIK lovers,

    Maybe I just missed it, but the drinking culture in Korea also carries a social-psychological past and catharsis for many people. Especially for Men. It is true what HyoJinshi said about “SOJU TASTES LIKE LIFE” because of her explanation about bitter and sweet.

    It is one of the few cases Men can let their tears and grief go in public without feeling ashamed afterwards and be talk of the town at the office next day. Although, if they are together with male colleagues/friends.

    One and another has also to do with Korea’s past history (presented by the intrinsic 한) and the still on going cultural post traumatic (with pathological elements, defined as 화병) cultural genes within Korean families and society which is also to find in the one of the biggest Korean export products; Korean Drama’s and Balads.
    Even when you don’t understand Korean Lyrics (i.e., the music and 한 combined with the right mood can bring you in this specific sense that only is possible after 소주 or 폭탄주 ; )

    But back to the fun part of it, I have never seen any of my Korean friends so being tired of drinking and still want to continue 노래방 : ).

    Thanks for this great interactive language course! I think this is the best way to do distant/remote learning!


  • Jenn

    Thank you, this was very informative and interesting…however, what do you do if you don’t drink at all?
    For example, I personally don’t drink because it is against my religion. How would you go about refusing/explaining without offending anyone?

    • Hi Jenn,
      You would say “괜찮아요. 저 술 못 마셔요. No thanks, I can’t drink alcohol”.
      Thanks for your comment.