In my recent final Open Thread for Secret Love Affair, I’d mentioned in a comment, the Korean penchant for second and even third rounds, when doing gatherings.
In response, Beez said:
“That’s a good question for Dear kfangurl. Why? I understand when they want to go to a karaoke bar but other than that – why leave one bar just to go for rounds at another? Do they have different types of drinks at one establishment from another? (I’ve never been much of a drinker but in my limited experience, I’ve never had a bartender tell me they don’t have whatever I ordered.)”
Thanks for your question!
I’ll do my best to provide some context and clarity, but as you guys know, I’m not actually Korean, and so there might be nuances that I’ve missed.
As always, everyone, do feel free to share your thoughts, insights and perspectives in the comments below!
PS: For those who are wondering, I’m using screenshots from Misaeng for this post, because it’s such an iconic workplace drama.
The general culture around hoesik (회식)
회식 (hoesik; literally, gathering to eat) is part of Korean work culture. In effect, people are expected to participate in hoesik, as part of the job, even though the hoesiks take place outside of office hours.
While the situation in the last SLA Open Thread isn’t exactly the same as the typical hoesik, or workplace gatherings, that I’ll be using as the basis of our discussion, it still qualifies as a workplace gathering, because the scenario in question, was a farewell party among colleagues.
From what I understand, relationship building is considered a very important part of Korean work culture, and a lot of that relationship building takes place after office hours, during hoesik gatherings.
This is not limited to gatherings among colleagues; this also extends to gatherings with clients, potential clients &/or potential business partners. It is considered impolite not to participate in such events, because this is where a lot of the relationship building takes place.
Typically, a three-round gathering would consist of:
Round 1: Dinner
Round 2: Drinks (typically alcoholic)
Round 3: Noraebang (also known as karaoke)
The entire purpose of the hoesik, is to build relationships among the participants, and make the bonds between them stronger than if they only strictly interacted at the workplace. It’s basically a way to take the relationship out of the workplace, and establish more familiar bonds through the experience of eating together, drinking together, and letting their hair down, together.
Eating together is the first step away from the office, and there’s a sense of familiarity that comes from sharing meals with one another.
Because it’s the norm to concentrate more on the food while eating, a second round involving drinks, where people can talk over beer, soju or other beverage, is a natural extension of the gathering. Plus, in Korea, there’s the generally held belief, that drinking together, brings people closer to one another.
Drinking together also helps people to loosen up and speak more freely with one another. This is particularly helpful for more reserved types, who might be bolder to show their chattier side, with a bit of liquid courage.
Koreans also tend to love singing, and therefore the noraebang seems like a logical choice for a third round, because “it’s too early to say goodbye.” Drinking and singing together can also be seen as a way for people to relieve the stress that’s accumulated from work.
Generally speaking, saying goodbye after just having a meal together, is considered “too soon.” That said, people don’t always go for a third round, so it’s entirely possible for a hoesik to end after the second round.
All that to say, the second and third round is part of hoesik culture. People don’t go to a second place because the first place didn’t have the type of drink they wanted. They go to a second (or third) place because it’s too soon to say goodbye, whether that’s decided by the group at large, or the most senior person in attendance.
I hope this post offers you at least a measure of clarity around hoesiks, and the culture around second and third rounds, in Korean gatherings.
Like I mentioned earlier, if you guys have insights, perspectives or other thoughts to add, please share them in the comments!
1. If you feel that I missed anything, or if you have your own insights that you’d like to share with the rest of us, do tell us about it in the comments!
2. Do you have a question of your own? Drop me a comment here or on the Dear kfangurl page, or send me an email!