Expats and Pubs: A Love Story

117
CHB
Expats like to drink, but it’s about more than the alcohol. John Bocskay discusses the role of the pub in the expat social and cultural scene.

If you’ve been around Korea for any length of time, you may have noticed that the expats here like to drink. (Full disclosure: Yoo hoo!) It’s not unique to Korea, nor is it a recent phenomenon. In the Roaring ‘20s, Ernest Hemingway propped up Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, where Ezra pounded absinthe in the corner. A generation earlier, Rudyard Kipling shed his white man’s burden with the help of Singapore Slings at The Long Bar in Singapore. During his 1784-89 sojourn in France, Thomas Jefferson amassed an epic collection of wine and was known as an enthusiastic and gracious connoisseur.

I’ve often wondered if the expat tendency to hang around bars all night doesn’t spring from the same urge that led you to move abroad in the first place: that nagging feeling that if you don’t, you’re going to miss something. Of course there are other reasons. For the English-teaching crowd, many of whom are fresh out of university, drinking in Korea is sometimes an extension of the free-swilling culture of college life. For those in the business world, drinking can be a feature of their very jobs here to keep the wheels greased, the gears turning and the road smooth.

Regardless of one’s occupation or age, we also drink for the reasons that people everywhere drink: life is tough sometimes and for expats often more so. Outside of your element, the early weeks, months and years present a myriad of challenges, snafus, snags and hurdles that must be grasped and dealt with. Commiserating over a cold one has long been a way of solving or mitigating life’s troubles, or when all else fails, of drowning them in pleasant company.

Drinking also serves as the first window many of us have into Korea. Excepting the Muslim countries and the dry counties of the American South, drinking is a universal human occupation and thus often functions as the great bridge spanning even the greatest cultural divides. Language barriers melt away, cultural differences collapse, and we find ourselves on common (if slightly wobbly) ground with people we have otherwise struggled to understand.

But drinking isn’t nearly the whole story. For those of us living overseas, the pub itself serves as a vital institution. In Korean cities, expats tend not to cluster in the same neighborhoods – there are no Canadatowns or Little Englands – so we rally around other institutions, like churches and bars (and very occasionally both), as the locus of our new communities. Much as the writer Samuel Pepys considered pubs “the heart of England,” many local watering holes are now the heart of the expat scene, and as such, the attraction goes far beyond food, beer and darts. Pubs host poetry readings, book swaps, craft markets, live comedy, open mics, fundraisers, film screenings and writers’ workshops and provide venues for everything from performance art to punk rock.

Pubs are now also one of the ways that expats are pressing their cultural stamp on Korea, as their unique food offerings and eclectic brews both excite the palates of locals while pushing local publicans to expand their palettes. Like the Koreans in my hometown who planted their stake with dry cleaners and grocery stores, pubs are the obvious beachhead for this new class of expat-cum-immigrants dreaming of bigger things for themselves and their young families in their adopted home.

That said, I would be remiss not to emphasize one of things I love most about the pub scene in Korea in the year 2015. I leave you with the words of the immortal Homer Simpson:

Mmmmm. Beer.

The Latest Haps

NewsEntertainmentLifestyleFood/DrinkTravelSports
restaurant

Kim Young-ran Law May be Altered in March

The amount of the food allowance in the Kim Young-ran law may be altered from March in order to help domestic demand.

0 comments
Philippines Police

Korean Man Reported Kidnapped in Philippines Last Year Found Dead

A South Korean man who was reportedly kidnapped in the Philippines in 2016 was recently found dead by local authorities there.

0 comments
busan population

Busan’s Population Falls Under 3.5 Million

The population of registered resident in Busan has fallen under 3.5 million two months earlier than was originally expected.

0 comments
microphone

Monthly Ha Ha Hole Returns Friday Night

This Friday, January 20th, at HQ Bar KSU sees the return of the monthly Ha Ha Hole, Busan’s only live English comedy show.

0 comments
Image: Wikicommons

Shinhwa to Perform in February at BEXCO

Legendary K-pop boy band Shinwha is performing a concert in Busan on February 11th as part of their “Unchanging” tour.

0 comments
Image: BIFF

Busan International Film Festival Announces 2017 Dates

The Busan International Film Festival will begin a little later than usual this year because of the Chuseok holidays.

0 comments
212525

Video: Al Jazeera’s 101 East – Fleeing South Korea

Watch an episode of Al Jazeera’s 101 East which focuses on why Korea’s youth are fleeing their home country for life and work overseas.

0 comments
shop

Korea Grand Sale Underway Nationwide

The Korea Grand Sale is underway until February 28th and offer great discounts and cultural performances for visitors.

0 comments
vegetables

Where’s the Cheapest Place to Buy Food this Lunar New Year’s?

Are you wondering where the cheapest places food are to buy food for the Lunar New Year’s holidays?

0 comments
sulbing

Sulbing to Open First Location in Fukuoka

Sulbing, Busan’s famous patbingsu dessert chain, will open its first location in Fukuoka on February 3rd.

0 comments
Hard-Rock-Cafe-Korea

Hard Rock Cafe Offers “Global Day” Discount for Foreigners

Hard Rock Cafe Busan is offering a Wednesday night “Global Day” discount for foreigners.

0 comments
Image: Gorilla Beer Co.

Gorilla Brewing Hosting Special Beer Event Tonight

Gorilla Brewing Company is hosting an “all-you-can-drink” event tonight at the brewery in Millak-dong.

0 comments
Sapa Vietnam

The Traditional Cultures of Sapa Vietnam

Take a look inside the traditional cultures of the Vietnamese highlands

0 comments
incheon airport immigration

South Korea to Beef Up Security at Airports This Year

Officials said today, starting in April, South Korea will check information on inbound air passengers to sort out potential terrorists.

0 comments
market

2017 Winter Travel Season Events in Busan

Busan City is holding the “2017 Winter Travel Season Program – Morak Morak Busan Winter Story”, where tourists can enjoy eateries at traditional markets and hot springs in Busan through January 30.

0 comments
figure skating

ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships 2017 Schedule

The ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships 2017 is taking place February 16-19 at the Gangneung Ice Arena.

0 comments
baseball lotte

Giants Hwang Jae-gyun to Leave the KBO

Infielder for the Lotte Giants Hwang Jae-gyun has decided to leave the Korean Baseball Organization to challenge the Major Leagues.

0 comments
bobsled-team-run-olympics-38631

South Korea to Spend $780 Million on PyeongChang Preparations

The sports ministry said that South Korea plans to spend 937.2 billion won (US$779.7 million) this year in support for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games preparations.

0 comments

Comments

comments

HQ bar