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Why do Koreans turn their heads to the side when they drink?

Why do Koreans turn their heads to the side when they drink?

Korean drinking culture is unique and fascinating to many. One of the most noticeable habits of Koreans while drinking is turning their heads to the side when taking a shot or a sip of their drink. But why do Koreans do this? Let’s explore the cultural and scientific reasons behind this interesting phenomenon.

The cultural significance of turning heads while drinking

In Korea, drinking is often seen as a way to bond with colleagues, friends, and family. When people gather for a drinking session, they usually sit around a table and pour shots of alcohol for each other. Turning the head to the side while drinking is a sign of respect and humility towards the person pouring the drink. It’s also a way to avoid direct eye contact which can be seen as rude or aggressive.

The role of hierarchy in Korean drinking culture

Korean society values hierarchy and respect for elders. This also applies to drinking culture where younger people are expected to show respect towards their seniors by turning their heads while drinking. It’s a way to acknowledge the seniority of the person pouring the drink and show gratitude for their generosity.

The science behind turning heads while drinking

According to a study by Kyoto University in Japan, turning the head to the side while drinking can reduce the risk of spilling or choking on the drink. By tilting the head, the throat opens up more, making it easier for the liquid to pass through without getting stuck in the windpipe. This is especially important when drinking strong spirits like soju which can cause a burning sensation if not consumed properly.

The benefits of turning heads while drinking

Turning your head to the side while drinking can also prevent alcohol from going up your nose, which can be uncomfortable and unpleasant. It also allows you to breathe in between sips, which can help you pace yourself and avoid getting too drunk too quickly.

The importance of moderation in Korean drinking culture

While drinking is an important part of Korean culture, it’s also important to practice moderation and avoid excessive drinking. Drinking too much can lead to health problems, social issues, and even accidents. In Korea, there’s a saying “hwaeshik eunhaeng-i baramnida” which means “business relationships are created through drinking”. This highlights the importance of drinking responsibly and avoiding situations that could harm your reputation or career.

Korean drinking games

Drinking games are a popular activity during Korean drinking sessions. Some of the most popular games include “bottoms up” where participants have to finish their drink in one gulp, “word chain” where participants have to come up with words that start with the last syllable of the previous word, and “never have I ever” where participants confess things they’ve never done and those who have to take a drink.

Korean drinking etiquette

In addition to turning heads while drinking, there are other etiquette rules that Koreans follow when drinking. For example, it’s considered impolite to pour your own drink or refill your own glass. Instead, you should wait for someone else to pour for you or offer to pour for others. It’s also customary to use two hands when pouring or receiving a drink as a sign of respect.

The role of food in Korean drinking culture

Korean drinking culture is closely tied to food culture. Drinking sessions usually involve a variety of snacks and dishes such as fried chicken, grilled meat, and kimchi. The combination of alcohol and food is believed to enhance the drinking experience and prevent alcohol from going straight to your head.

The rise of non-alcoholic drinks in Korea

While alcohol consumption is still a big part of Korean culture, there has been a recent trend towards non-alcoholic drinks such as coffee, tea, and fruit juices. This is partly due to health concerns and the desire for more diverse options. However, traditional Korean drinks like makgeolli and soju still remain popular among all age groups.

The future of Korean drinking culture

Korean drinking culture is constantly evolving and adapting to changing social norms and values. While some traditions like turning heads while drinking may remain unchanged, others may fade away or be replaced by new practices. As Korea becomes more globalized and diverse, it will be interesting to see how Korean drinking culture continues to evolve.


Korean drinking culture is fascinating and complex, with many unique customs and traditions. Turning the head to the side while drinking is just one of many etiquette rules that Koreans follow when drinking. Whether you’re a foreigner visiting Korea or a local enjoying a night out with friends, understanding the cultural and scientific reasons behind this practice can help you appreciate the rich history and meaning behind Korean drinking culture.

Why do Asians turn their head to the side when drinking?

To please the elders, the next step after receiving drinks is to pick up the bottle and then place it back down. During beer drinking, it is considered respectful for younger individuals to turn their head away from the elders while drinking.

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

In South Korea, there are certain etiquette rules for drinking. It is customary to hold your glass with both hands when receiving alcohol, but not always required. It is also considered polite to turn your face away slightly and cover your mouth with your hands while drinking, instead of making direct eye contact with others.

Why do Koreans hold their arm when pouring a drink?

When pouring drinks, Koreans usually hold the bottle with one hand and place the other on their elbow or chest as a sign of respect. If the bottle is too large to be held with one hand, it is acceptable to use both hands instead.

Why can’t Koreans handle alcohol?

Over 33% of individuals with East Asian ancestry (including Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) will experience facial flushing after consuming alcohol, whether it be beer, wine, or spirits. This reaction is caused by a genetic deficiency in one of the enzymes responsible for processing alcohol, known as aldehyde dehydrogenase, and is particularly prevalent in Asian populations.

Are Koreans heavy drinkers?

South Korea is a nation that consumes a lot of alcohol, with the average person drinking 13.7 shots per week. This is followed by Russia with 6.3 shots per week and America with 3.3 shots per week.

Why do Korean sleep on the floor?

Koreans began sleeping on the floor more frequently after the introduction of ondol floor heating. Before the advent of HVAC systems, households needed to come up with alternatives to keep warm and cool. Ondol floor heating utilized fireplace smoke to warm the house from under the floor, providing a solution.

The importance of drinking establishments in Korean culture

Drinking establishments such as bars and pubs play a significant role in Korean drinking culture. These places provide a comfortable and relaxed environment for people to socialize and bond over drinks. They also offer a variety of food and snacks that complement the alcohol, making the experience more enjoyable. Many Korean drinking establishments stay open late into the night, allowing people to continue drinking and socializing long after work has ended.

The impact of COVID-19 on Korean drinking culture

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Korean drinking culture. Social distancing measures and restrictions on gatherings have made it difficult for people to continue their usual drinking habits. Many bars and restaurants have been forced to close or limit their hours, causing a decline in business. However, some establishments have adapted by offering delivery services or outdoor seating options. The pandemic has also led to an increase in home drinking, with people buying alcohol from supermarkets and convenience stores to enjoy at home.

The role of alcohol in Korean history

Alcohol has played an important role in Korean history for centuries. Traditional Korean drinks like makgeolli and soju have been around for hundreds of years and are deeply rooted in the country’s culture and identity. Alcohol has been used in many cultural and religious ceremonies throughout Korea’s history, including weddings, funerals, and harvest festivals. It has also been used as a form of medicine, with certain alcoholic drinks believed to have healing properties.

The future of Korean alcohol industry

The Korean alcohol industry is expected to continue growing in the coming years. While traditional Korean drinks like soju and makgeolli remain popular, there is also a growing demand for craft beer, wine, and other international spirits. The government has also been promoting Korean alcohol abroad, with the goal of increasing exports and boosting the country’s economy. As the industry continues to evolve and adapt to changing consumer preferences, it will be interesting to see what new drinks and trends emerge.

The challenges of drinking in Korean society

While drinking is an important part of Korean culture, it also poses many challenges. Alcohol abuse and addiction are serious problems in Korea, with many people struggling to control their drinking habits. The pressure to drink and fit in with peers can also lead to risky behavior and social pressures. Additionally, the high cost of alcohol and the prevalence of heavy drinking in certain industries can make it difficult for some Koreans to maintain a healthy relationship with alcohol.

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