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What do Koreans say before they drink?


Koreans have a rich culture of drinking and socializing. Before taking a sip, Koreans have a tradition of saying something special to their company. This tradition is called “Gunbae,” which means “Cheers” in Korean. The act of Gunbae includes raising glasses, clinking them together, and saying something before taking a sip. In this article, we will explore the meaning behind these sayings and why they are essential in Korean culture.

The Origin of Gunbae

The tradition of Gunbae dates back to ancient times when Koreans would gather around and share drinks. The act of sharing drinks symbolized trust and commitment to one another. It was also believed that sharing drinks could ward off evil spirits. As time passed, the act of sharing drinks became a way of expressing gratitude and respect towards one another.

Common Sayings

There are several different sayings that Koreans use before they drink. Some of the most common ones include “Geonbae,” which means “bottoms up” in Korean, “Jjan,” which means “let’s drink,” and “Moksal,” which means “let’s eat and drink together.” Each saying has a different meaning and is used in different situations.


There is a specific etiquette that Koreans follow when it comes to drinking. One of the most important rules is to always pour drinks for your company before filling your own glass. It is also considered rude to turn down a drink when someone offers it to you. If you cannot drink, it is best to politely decline rather than making excuses.

Drinking Culture

Drinking is an essential part of Korean culture. It is often used as a way to socialize and bond with others. Koreans will often go out drinking with their colleagues after work or with their friends on the weekends. Drinking is also a way of showing respect towards older people or those in higher positions.

Alcohol Choices

Koreans have a wide variety of alcoholic drinks to choose from. Some of the most popular ones include Soju, a clear distilled liquor made from rice, and Makgeolli, a milky white rice wine. Koreans also enjoy beer, whiskey, and wine.

Food Pairings

Koreans often pair their alcoholic drinks with specific foods. For example, Soju is often paired with Korean BBQ, while Makgeolli is often paired with Korean pancakes. Koreans believe that pairing food with alcohol can enhance the flavor of both.

Drinking Games

Koreans love to play drinking games when they go out drinking with their friends. Some of the most popular games include “Finger Guessing,” where players guess the number of fingers that will be held up, and “Nunchi,” where players have to guess which hand the other player will place their glass in.

Health Risks

While drinking is an essential part of Korean culture, it can also lead to health risks. Koreans have one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption in the world, which can lead to liver disease and other health problems. It is essential to drink responsibly and in moderation.

Changing Attitudes

In recent years, there has been a shift in attitudes towards drinking in Korea. Younger generations are choosing to drink less or not at all, opting for healthier lifestyles instead. There has also been a rise in non-alcoholic drinks and bars in Korea, catering to those who do not drink.


In conclusion, Gunbae is an essential part of Korean culture and is used to express gratitude, respect, and trust towards others. Koreans have a wide variety of alcoholic drinks to choose from and often pair them with specific foods. While drinking is an essential part of Korean culture, it is essential to drink responsibly and in moderation. As attitudes towards drinking continue to change in Korea, the tradition of Gunbae will undoubtedly continue to evolve as well.

What do Koreans say before drinking?

Geonbae is a Korean expression used to cheer or say “bottoms up”, which literally translates to “empty glass”.

What is Korean slang for alcohol?

In Korea, alcoholic beverages are commonly referred to as ‘술’ [sul], which sounds like ‘sool’. This term encompasses all types of alcoholic drinks, but there are also many other specific drinks popular in Korea for you to try.

Why do Koreans turn before drinking?

In Korean culture, it is customary to show respect to an older person when drinking by turning one’s head away while taking a sip, rather than directly facing them. This tradition is still practiced today.

What do you say before taking a drink?

The word “Cheers!” is commonly used as a toast in various social settings such as bars, pubs, and restaurants. It expresses good wishes before drinking and can be used interchangeably with other phrases such as “here’s to you,” “good health,” “your health,” and informally, “bottoms up!”

What do you say before drinking sake?

After everyone is served, it is customary to raise your sake cups and say “Kanpai,” which means “cheers” in Japanese. This is followed by gently touching the cups together before taking a sip.

How do you ask for drinks in Korean?

If you’re in need of water in Korea, you can request it by saying “mul jom juseyo,” which translates to “please bring me some water.” Typically, restaurants will provide water bottles upon arrival, but if you need a refill, you’ll need to ask for it specifically.

It is worth noting that drinking culture in Korea is not limited to socializing with friends and colleagues. Business meetings and negotiations often involve drinking as well. This practice, known as “hoesik,” is a way for colleagues and business partners to build trust and strengthen relationships outside of the formal setting of the workplace.

In addition to its social and cultural significance, the act of Gunbae has also been the subject of many artistic expressions in Korea. It has been featured in movies, TV shows, and even music videos. The traditional Korean drinking vessel, known as “saeju,” is also a popular souvenir item for tourists visiting the country.

Overall, the tradition of Gunbae and drinking culture in Korea are deeply rooted in history and continue to play a significant role in modern society. While it is important to recognize the potential health risks associated with alcohol consumption, it is also essential to appreciate the cultural significance and social bonding that comes with sharing a drink with others.

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