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Why do Koreans turn away when drinking?

Why do Koreans turn away when drinking?

Drinking alcohol is a big part of Korean culture, and it is not uncommon to see Koreans turning away while drinking. But why do they do this? There are several reasons behind this tradition, and in this article, we will explore them in detail.

Cultural Significance

The act of turning away while drinking is deeply rooted in Korean culture. It is a sign of respect to the elder members of the group and a way of showing humility. In Korean culture, drinking often involves hierarchical relationships, where the older members are given more respect. By turning away, the younger person is acknowledging the elder’s status and showing deference.

Protecting Others

Another reason for turning away while drinking is to protect others from seeing someone drink too much. In Korean culture, it is considered impolite to drink excessively in front of others. By turning away, the drinker can drink as much as they want without offending anyone or making others uncomfortable.

Tradition and Superstition

Turning away while drinking is also steeped in tradition and superstition. Some believe that turning away while drinking helps ward off evil spirits, while others believe that it brings good luck. While these beliefs may seem outdated to some, they still hold significance in modern-day Korea.

Preventing Embarrassment

In Korean culture, losing face or causing embarrassment is a serious issue. Turning away while drinking can prevent someone from losing face by hiding their facial expressions or reactions to the alcohol. This can be important in situations where someone may not like the taste of the drink or if they are unable to handle their alcohol well.

Showing Moderation

Turning away while drinking is also a way of showing moderation. In Korean culture, drinking is often done in moderation, and excessive drinking is frowned upon. By turning away, the drinker is showing that they are being responsible and are not overindulging.

Respecting the Drink

In Korean culture, alcohol is respected and treated with reverence. Turning away while drinking is a sign of this respect. It shows that the drinker is taking their time to savor the taste and appreciate the drink, rather than just downing it quickly.

Avoiding Eye Contact

Another reason for turning away while drinking is to avoid eye contact. In Korean culture, direct eye contact can be seen as confrontational or aggressive, especially when someone is holding a drink. By turning away, the drinker can avoid any potential misunderstandings or conflicts.

Showing Gratitude

Turning away while drinking can also be a way of showing gratitude. In Korean culture, it is common for someone to offer you a drink as a sign of friendship or respect. By turning away, the drinker is acknowledging this gesture and showing appreciation for the offer.

Keeping the Focus on Conversation

In Korean culture, drinking often involves socializing and conversation. By turning away while drinking, the focus can remain on the conversation rather than on the alcohol. This can help create a more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere for everyone involved.

Avoiding Spillage

Turning away while drinking can also help prevent spillage. In traditional Korean drinking vessels such as the soju glass or the bowl-shaped cup, turning your head slightly when taking a sip can help prevent any spillage from occurring.

Following Social Norms

Finally, turning away while drinking is simply a social norm in Korea. It is something that is expected and ingrained in the culture. By following these norms, Koreans can show respect for their culture and their elders.


Turning away while drinking may seem like a small gesture, but it holds significant cultural and social importance in Korea. By understanding the reasons behind this tradition, we can gain a deeper appreciation for Korean culture and the values it holds dear.

Why do Koreans not look at each other when they drink?

South Korea has some basic etiquette rules when it comes to drinking. It is customary to hold your glass with both hands if you are being served alcohol. To show politeness, it is recommended to turn your face away from others while drinking and to cover your mouth with your hands. Making eye contact while drinking is considered impolite.

Does South Korea have a drinking problem?

South Korea is a top country in terms of alcohol consumption with an average of 13.7 liquor shots per person per week. Russians follow with 6.3 shots per week, and Americans with 3.3 shots per week.

When you drink in Korea do you turn away from the oldest person?

In this drinking ritual, the person drinking must turn away from the elder and use their hands to cover both their mouth and glass. The first drink must be consumed in one gulp. After finishing their drink, the drinker returns the glass to the person who served them and then pours a shot for them.

Why can’t Korean people drink alcohol?

Over 33% of individuals with Chinese, Japanese, or Korean ancestry experience facial flushing as a result of consuming beer, wine, or spirits. This is often a result of an inherited deficiency in aldehyde dehydrogenase, which is one of the enzymes involved in the process of breaking down alcohol.

What is the Korean drunk law?

The purpose of the law is to caution drivers that they should not operate a vehicle after consuming even a single alcoholic beverage. In Korea, driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05% is considered drunk driving, which means that even a single shot of soju before driving can result in a legal violation.

Why do Korean sleep on the floor?

The practice of sleeping on the floor became prevalent in Korea when ondol floor heating was introduced. Before the invention of HVAC systems, people had to come up with creative ways to heat and cool their homes. Ondol floor heating utilized the smoke from fireplaces to warm up the entire house from underneath the floor.

In addition to the reasons mentioned above, turning away while drinking also has practical benefits. In crowded settings like bars or restaurants, turning away can help prevent accidental collisions between drinkers. It also helps to maintain personal space and avoid any awkward moments with strangers.

Furthermore, turning away while drinking can also be a way of controlling the pace of the drinking session. By taking smaller sips and turning away between each sip, the drinker can pace themselves and avoid drinking too quickly. This can be especially important in situations where the drinking session is expected to last for an extended period.

While turning away while drinking is a common practice in Korea, it is not exclusive to Korean culture. Other cultures around the world also have similar traditions and beliefs related to drinking etiquette. However, understanding the specific reasons behind this tradition in Korea can help foreigners appreciate and respect the customs of the country they are visiting.

Overall, turning away while drinking is a unique aspect of Korean culture that highlights the importance of respect, humility, and moderation. It is a tradition that has been passed down through generations and continues to hold significance in modern-day Korea.

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