Cheers! (Drinking in Korea 1)


Whether it is at work or at university, whether you are new at your job or tired of the daily routines, in Korea there are always reasons to go out as a group and have ‘a drink’. So people would ask you

술 한 잔 할래요?
(Sul han jan hal-lae-yo?)

which means, ‘Do you want to have a drink?’

술(Sul) is a term for all alcohol drinks and 한 잔(han jan) is ‘one(한) glass(잔)’. 잔 is glass in terms of ‘cup’ so it is all cups made of glass. You don’t use 잔 for windows or fake jewlery. The Korean word for glass in terms of material is ‘유리’. 할래요(hal-lae-yo) means ‘want to do’. (Remember, the 요(yo) at the end indicates the polite form.) So 술 한 잔 할래요? means, ‘Do you want to have(drink) a glass of drink?’
Instead of 할래요, you can use 마실래요(Ma-shil-lae-yo) which means ‘want to drink’ and is grammatically more correct. In spoken Korean, however, you can use both.

When you are finally at a bar people would ask you (this could even happen while having dinner)

술 잘 하세요? (Do you drink alcohol drinks well?)
(Sul jal ha-seh-yo?)

or to be gramatically correct,

술 잘 마시세요? (Do you drink alcohol well?)
(Sul jal ma-shi-seh-yo?)

Which is actually asking you if you can drink a lot. Remember, however!! Even when it comes to drinking, you cannot forget that modesty is always required, unless you are at a job interview. If you cannot drink a lot of alcohol but you still like to drink and enjoy, you can say

잘 못 마셔요.
Jal mot ma-shyeo-yo.
(I can’t drink well. / I can’t drink a lot. Koreans will take this as ‘Yes, I can drink a reasonable amount.’)

If you actually CAN drink to a reasonable extent which would be from a guys standard, about one to two bottles of soju or many cans of beer (for women one third to a half of that), you would say

좀(조금) 마셔요.
Jom(Jo-geum) ma-shyeo-yo.
(I drink a little.)
좀(Jom) is ‘little’ and is the short form for 조금(jo-geum). But even if you say ‘a little’, people would take it as being modest and understand it as “can take SOME alcohol.”

If you can’t drink much or don’t want to drink, make some believable facial expressions or gestures and say,

못 마셔요.(Mot ma-shyeo-yo.)
which means, ‘I can’t drink.’ or

안 마셔요. (An ma-shyeo-yo.)
‘I don’t drink.

Please, don’t be too honest to say
네, 잘 마셔요.(Ne, jal ma-shyeo-yo)
Yes, I can drink a lot.

What people will actually think is that you can drink hell a lot, like a keg of soju, and if you have a heavy drinker around, he is definitely going to try to make you drink until you become sick. So don’t use the last expression unless you are confident to stay fine.

The 'Days'

Valentine’s Day, a day for all couples and people who are in love, may be celebrated all over the world. In Korea as well, of course, but did you know that there are other ‘Day’s every month, too? For those who have been in Korea during November, you might have experienced a day when all the stores were selling choco sticks (or similar) as if were a national choco stick selling day. Actually, those choco sticks are snacks with the name ‘Pepero’ and that day was ‘Pepero Day’, the day when people give pepero to each other. Below are some other days listed. Continue reading

What to say on Seol(설)

What to say on Seol(설)

Seol (설; or 설날(Seollal)) is lunar New Year’s Day and one of the biggest national holidays in Korea. On that day, families gather, no matter what, despite bad weather or worse traffic jam. No wonder, it is quite awkward to lots of foreigners when 24/7 liten-up-Korea shuts all doors and stops all work.  It is a holiday for family and everywhere you go on Seol you say

새 해 복 많이 받으세요!
(Sae hae bok mah-ni ba-deu-se-yo!)

which means, ‘Happy new year!’, of course(remember it is new year, although it’s after the lunar calendar).
복(bok) is ‘luck’ or ‘fortune’ and 해 here, means ‘year’. So literally, the sentence above would be translated as ‘Get lots of new year’s good luck(fortune)’.
You can also say,

설 연휴 잘 보내세요!
(Seol yeon-hyu jal bo-ne-se-yo!)

which means, ‘Spend your Seol holiday well!’, but you would use this sentence rather at work, to your coworkers, when you are finished with your job and heading towards the door, one step closer to the heart-warming holidays.
연휴(yeon-hyu) is the word for holidays. It is a combination of 연 for continuos and 휴 for rest. You can infer that continuos rest would be a series of days to relax.
Gathering on Seol is one thing, the other important one is 세배(Seh-bae), which is a bow to the elderly that you do on New Year’s day. Traditionally, the Korean culture is very shy in bluntly expressing their feelings and it has been only a few decades that hugs and kisses have become a form of showing their love. 절(jeol; bow) was a way to greet and express your respect and love towards the elderly, and that’s exactly what Korean people have done on new year’s day. So the bow(절) on new year’s day was given a special name, 세배. In Korea there’s nothing more adorable than a little child trying to do 세배(at least the pose is just cute), and there is nothing lovelier when you get 세배 from your child(no matter if it is 3 or 30).

Usually, after you do 세배 to your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and so on, you give each other words of blessing. Theses days, the person who received your 세배, will give you some pocket money, the 세뱃돈(seh-baet-don; 돈(don) for money) if you are still a child. If you are already grown up, however, and earn your own money, it’s customarily that you give them some pocket money. The amount is totally up to you. There are also some scamps who would even do 세배 to an older sister or cousin, just for the sake of getting some 세뱃돈.
So if you are ready to get some love from your family’s senior members speak it out loud:

‘세배 받으세요.’
(Seh-bae ba-deu-seh-yo.)