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:
The Latest Haps
Lego will open it first official store in South Korea’s first LEGO Store at the Hyundai Department Store just south of Seoul, this Friday the company announced.
Kia Motors America continues to break records in sales for the division as sales in November reached a total of 52,504 units, a 15.3 percent increase over the same period last year. The brand’s seventh monthly sales record.
Foreign ministers of East Asian and Central and South American countries will gather in Busan next May.
Some female cast members of SNL Korea are under fire after a video of them sexually grabbing a popular K-pop boy bands genitals has sparked outrage on Korean social media.
The City of Busan has released its newest branding film entitled “Busan Brand Film” in hopes of promoting the city domestically and internationally.
Busan’s first, best, and only open mic comedy night returns tonight for its May edition at HQ Bar in KSU.
As an international traveler, you are used to the idea of various countries using different measures to refer to the same thing.
With many Korean BBQ places to choose from in the city, Kim Siljang Charcoal BBQ is a great, affordable place near Gwangan Beach.
Convenience store 7-11 has rolled out a nutritious option to its quick food grab line with a “Red Ginseng Chicken Breast” triangle kimbap.
France is renowned for its creative use of fresh market produce, and our hoteliers pride themselves on serving fare of the highest standard. Enjoy delicious food and elegant wines as you recall the highlights of the day.
Marine Bay Sands in Singapore has become the standard for not only luxury, but also noted as the place to go if you’re on a vacation to the southeast Asian tourist mecca.
Busan has a ton of great attractions to meet your tourist needs. Dynamic Busan Magazine introduces a few great places to get you started.
Busan Sports Council says that it will test-operate the Busan Indoor Tennis Facility in Sajik-dong for free starting today for 16 days to celebrate its opening.
Just in time for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, the South Korean luge team is about to get a German import.