Another dose of Korean culture for you...ARE YOU READY?!!

Korea is famous for 2 things...Kimchi and....wait for it.....SOJU! It's an acquired taste really...after you drink enough of it your taste buds sort of die and you get used to it. lol... however the best thing about being here is that they have what they claim to be the cure to hangovers. I've tried 3 of the main ones and I'll swear by one of them. The others I haven't yet tried because I fell in a love/hate relationship with one of them.

Let's start with Lesson 1: There are many brands soju depending on what area you're in. However these are the two main brands available. (I've had these in the States as well.) A little about the drinking culture here...if you are the youngest, you're probably screwed. In Korea it is rude to pour your own drink, however you don't ever have to worry about a dry cup because someone will always make sure that your glass is full. Sometimes if your glass is still half full after a certain amount of time, they will try to give you another glass. At this point you're supposed to drink the rest of it and receive another shot. In Korea they say "ONE SHOT!" to indicate that you must drink all of it. By the end of the night they're saying "ONE SHOT, ONE KILL!" as they are trying to floor you for the next week. There are so many rules to soju drinking I don't even know where to begin! Let's start with the basics I guess...

  1. Never pour your own drink. (If you're with friends you might tap your finger on the brim of their glass if they're pouring their own glass as sort of an OK for breaking the rule)
  2. If you're younger than the person pouring or you don't know them very well, you must use two hands to receive the shot.
  3. 3) When you pour the shot for someone else who is older than you or you don't know them very well, you must use two hands. If it is too far, you may place the hand without the bottle on the inside of your elbow or your chest.
  4. When drinking the shot, you must turn your head away. (Same older people/stranger rule)
  5. Sometimes they will offer you an empty glass, you will receive the shot and drink from that glass. Make sure to wipe the brim and dump out the remaining drops because you will now give the glass back to the person and pour them a shot. (This usually goes back and forth throughout the night with many different people)
  6. Sometimes people will try to feed you food after you drink your shot. Don't be's just something that they do

Here's a tip for surviving the night:

  • Drink water after every shot of soju. It will prevent you from getting dehydrated and lessen the killer headache you will definitely have the next day if you don't.
  • Run out and get yourself one of the drinks I am going to tell you about in the rest of this post. Don't let other people see you drinking it because they will call you weak and then in turn give you MORE soju. 
  • Make sure you eat a good meal before you start drinking (not only with soju, it's the same rule for alcohol)
Now...the hangover cures: (I'll give you a general idea of what's available first and then give you the one I think works the best.)

This is at a convenience store in Korea. They have a variety of drinks that may make you wonder what the hell they're for. Well let me tell you...this is how Koreans can still drag their hungover asses to work the next day. The 3 main brands are "Condition", "Morning Care" and "Dawn 808". They just started making this tea (헛개수) from some sort of herb for drinking the next day but it is no good/ I felt sicker after consuming it. These drinks range from about 4,000-5,000 won a bottle/can. 

1) Condition POWER

This was the first one I'd ever tried in Korea. It used to kind of work but not really. I mean there really isn't a magic cure for drinking 3 bottles of soju but this is supposed to help. It is made from that herb "헛개" which is in a lot of these drinks. It tastes almost like a Red Bull minus the fizz. It actually tastes pretty good but it's not that effective.

2) Morning Care

The name says it all right? It's supposed to be consumed (for best results) before you start drinking. I've never actually tried this one so I can't really say much about it. My student (I teach University students!) told me that this one is his favorite. It also supposedly doesn't taste that bad.

3) Dawn 808

This is the magic drink. This is the one that you have to drink if you want to survive the night and the next day. Apparently the man who made the drink tried 808 different formulas and finally found the perfect one. It tastes terrible herbal medicine but it has works charms every time. You can drink it before you start drinking, in the middle of drinking or even after drinking. I also heard that you can consume 2 in one night if it's a really severe drinking night however I haven't had to yet. Usually I wake up feeling queasy and my head is pounding but ever since I discovered this magic drink, I manage to still feel relatively human the next morning. Last time I had one of those Korean work dinners the night after a night out with some friends. I was feeling sick until about 5 pm and dinner was at 6 pm. I drank one of these suckers at the beginning of dinner and I was ready to rock and roll for the night. Try it out and let me know what you think. (Tastes the worst, works the best!! Soju Survivor recommended!)

4) 헛개수

This is for the next morning. It's supposed to help with your hangover. I find that the bitter taste of the tea really makes my stomach do flips. I couldn't stomach this when I was hungover. They have a few different brands of this as well. Just go to the convenience store and look around.

This post originally started as the introduction to the variety of hangover soups but then I realized I should give some tips for the night before and then move on to the next post for the morning after. So expect even more Korean culture lessons to come! Speaking of Korean lessons...soon I'll post some basic Korean phrases for you to help you get around easier. ^.~ 



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