The Night a Korean Alcohol Drink Made me a Fool in Seoul
G’day travellers, and welcome to a new segment, Travel Tales. Classic tales about true travel stories that have happened while roaming around the globe. Whether scary, embarrassing, funny or plain old stories that need to be told. In this case, it is all about the night a Korean alcohol drink made me a fool in Seoul, South Korea.
It all begins with my first ever trip overseas. The first trip, first day and at the end, just plain old embarrassing. But what’s the point of writing travel stories if you can’t take the piss out of yourself? So let it begin the night a Korean alcohol drink made me look like a fool in Seoul.
Setting the scene in Seoul
The year is 2005, and it’s fair to say I am a green traveller at this point in my life. My first trip overseas, and I am heading to Seoul, South Korea. I am heading to Seoul, all on my own and meeting up with my then Korean girlfriend, who travelled to back her home country a couple of weeks earlier to spend extra time with her family.
I have caught the red-eye on a Malaysian Airline flight via Kuala Lumpur and arrived in Seoul mid-morning. Of course, my girlfriend has arrived late at the airport, and I am waiting at the terminal all alone. All the while waving off pesky taxi drivers willing to take me away. Finally, she arrives, all apologetic, and we’re off.
First is meeting the family. The mother in law, sister in law and anyone else who is required to attend, at this moment, it is all overbearing.
After a little lunch at a fancy restaurant, we take it easy for the rest of the day as the first night in Seoul would be a big one. An engagement party of some sort is on the agenda for another sister in law. That is when the shit hits the fan. But I’m getting to that real soon.
What Happened that night?
It’s like an engagement party, but the Koreans do it a little different; they call it “hamn.” At the party, a group of men on the groom’s side are in the street, and the women on the bride’s side need to persuade the men into the house with gifts, dancing and other persuasive tactics. At the end of the road is the awaiting treasure, which is naturally the future wife waiting inside the house.
At this point, I am a confused little Aussie, watching these young men charge up the street and make a lot of noise. I am naturally standing off to the side of the road in freezing conditions, a curious onlooker as I try to figure out what the heck is going on. Finally, after about an hour, the goal is complete, the men are persuaded into the house, and it’s time to party.
Being the only English speaking bloke in a room and my girlfriend, who is naturally preoccupied with other commitments, the feeling is a tad awkward. I take my place on the floor and look around the table, looking at the many different Korean dishes. All the food is unfamiliar.
The atmosphere inside the house is loud, and everyone is gossiping and having a good time. Digging into the unfamiliar food that I will admit at the time didn’t look so appealing. Perhaps it was the fatigue from the red-eye flight settling in.
I haven’t eaten much, I am bloody tired, and I can’t socialise; feeling out of place doesn’t describe how I feel. Finally, the conversation comes in my direction and curiously, the young Korean men in the room want to know about me like it just dawned on them a foreigner had been in their presence this whole time.
They bring out an alcoholic drink called Soju; in fact, many bottles of soju around the table. I get poured a glass and have to toast with the guys. I remember the first taste, a smooth, sensational taste that is easy to drink, one of the finest spirits I have ever tasted.
This stuff is easy to drink. I want more, and soon enough, one soju turns into two, three and probably fifteen. By now, the bubble has burst, and the language barriers don’t seem to matter. Being drunk only has one language.
I don’t remember much about the night from that point on. I do remember heading off to a Karaoke bar with the microphone coming into my hand and belting out Boyz II Men’s song, “I’ll make love to you.” They ripped the microphone out of my hand before I hit the chorus. Apparently, I was all over the place, but I don’t remember. There was no making love for me on this night.
I must have been out like a light from that point on because my next memory is getting woken by a rather big smack to the shoulder several times and wondering what the heck is going on. It’s my girlfriend’s mother, and I don’t think it is appreciated that I have fallen asleep on my sister in law’s bed, not that I knew how I got there. Great first impression anyway.
We catch a taxi back to the house where we were staying, and from the moment I got out of the cab, and I remember this part vividly, the vomiting began. I spew up viciously in the gardens outside the apartment, and the worst bit, I was spewing my guts up for the next four days. I had got alcohol poisoning and no one to blame but myself, I suppose.
My first trip to Korea was not one for the highlight reel, although it makes for an embarrassing story that often gets retold.
Oh yeah, and whatever happened to that girlfriend at the time? Surely her family didn’t let me stick around. Nothing could be further from the truth. I made her my wife a couple of years later, and to this day, we are still going secure with a couple of new additions to the family.
The night a Korean drink made me a fool in Seoul, and it was also the first and last time I ever drank soju.
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