When I landed in Korea, I thought I knew how to party.
I did not.
And I was about to get a masterclass.
Shortly after I touched down in Seoul, a good friend introduced me to her Korean boyfriend — We’ll call him ‘Oppa,’ a name that translates to big brother and is used for an older man (if you’re a woman).
Oppa is the CEO of a medium-sized company. He was an interesting character to meet — stoic and silent a times, laughing and teasing at others. For someone I literally couldn't understand, we had many understandings.
Korean businessmen like Oppa have three reasons to venture into the bright city nightlights:
- Blow off steam from an insane workday.
- Make buddy-buddy with another businessman to sign a contract.
- Make buddy-buddy with employees or employers to build a stronger relationship.
If you ever visit Seoul for business, the person you’re meeting will invite you out after the workday. And if you want the get that signature and build an excellent working relationship, you better say yes!
Many westerners destroy carefully planned deals by ignoring business culture.
For Korean businessmen, partying together is all about trust. If you can have a good time, make a connection (and maybe get into some innocent trouble together), you can trust each other to deliver what was promised.
Late-night handshakes make success stories.
There are rules. This is Asia after all, and no matter how cosmopolitan the city, you can always expect a healthy helping of unspoken rules.
Rule #1: We ALWAYS eat food with booze
This is so ingrained in Korean culture that locals will stare at you in shock if you so much as sip a beer without chewing on something.
An entertaining businessman will often order a shared platter for you and the group. From my experience, he will order heaps of food that you like and some traditional food to challenge your…