Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Korean Work Nights Out

Work Do
Old picture of a tame work do with just the ladies
Every payday in England my work mates and I would meet up after work and go out for a few drinks. Generally there'd be some people who would make excuses and slip away after one, others that had to drive and some that would try and just have a couple before their other halves came to pick them up. Those that stayed on for the rest of the night would turn upto work on Monday morning, a little red in the face because of what they said or did.

It's a totally different story in Korea, the more respected the person, the more revelry they're expected to bring to the party. Nick's most recent work night out included all of the teachers getting sloshed on whiskey, and the janitor falling down the stairs, the principle sitting next to him all night with his hand on Nick's knee, and karaoke sessions to top it all off. I've had offers to go on boat trips from a parent before on their million pound yachts and watched the principle do a fancy trick with a beer bottle. Roll on Monday after a Korean work night out, and the only thing you get for drunken mischievousness is a pat on the back and the feeling that you've been let a little closer into the fold. Nick's principle even decided to start holding his hand when they bumped into each other in the corridor the next day.

For our first work night out of the school year we went to a restaurant in Jagalchi fish market that specialised in sashimi. Sashimi is raw fish that's cut into thin slices. I'd never tried it before as I'm not a massive fan of fish, so was a little nervous when I found out this is what we'd be eating.

Luckily my coteacher took really good care of me, as I was the only foreign teacher who could make it. She  walked me through the wet streets of Jagalchi, avoiding all of the ajummas in wellies gutting fish, and passed tanks of poor fish who awaited the fate that would come to them inside the restaurants. When we got there, the other teachers had already started, so we got down to it straight away. I mixed wasabi and soy sauce together and dipped some of the fish in it. I have to say, it wasn't quite so bad as I had expected. It's more the texture of raw fish that I don't like, rather than the taste.

But the focus of the meal was definitely NOT on the food. As soon as I sat down, there was a beer and soju poured and ready for me. In the blink of an eye, everyone around me had empty glasses, so I had to catch up. Round two was a shot of soju, followed by more beer. They kept assuring me that I didn't have to try and keep up with them if I didn't want, the secret is to never empty your glass and they'll leave you be!

It was funny to watch these stoney faced homeroom teachers melt into class clowns, the more alcohol they had in them. It was specially amusing to discover that most of them can speak pretty good English, even though they won't ever say a peep to me in school.

It was when one of the homeroom teachers pulled out a pair of die from the 1st grade classroom that the night turned messy as he designed some drinking games to go with them. When I drank water they all looked at me astonished and asked if I was sick.

I stayed with my teachers until about 10:30, watching them get funnier and funnier as they drank more and more soju. After a few drinking games and having watched one of the homeroom teaches fall asleep at the table as he mumbled 'fighting' under his breath, I decided it was a good time to leave.

I ended up having a bizarre night surrounded by brilliant company, and saw a side to the teachers that I otherwise wouldn't have seen, although I don't know if I'll be trying sashimi again.