Have you ever heard of hweshik (회식)?
It's Korean office dinners that can last a few hours, food steaming on the table, the loud cheers of your coworkers and clinking glasses of beer or soju, sometimes ending with karaoke; and anyone working in Korea has experienced this at least once. Team building is really important in Korean workplaces, but the seemingly entertaining atmosphere might trick a first-timer. There are certain rules and etiquette when drinking, which you might have seen in dramas, and even the friendliest company can make you feel tired if you are not in the mood to party.
If you are just curious to know what is hweshik all about or you are going to experience it, there are some things you should know before joining a Korean office dinner.
Food and Drinks
The dinner usually begins with a toast, but be prepared, some people tend to pour more drinks than you could possibly handle. Enjoy the food, talk to your colleagues, and get to know each other better. That is how you make a bond with your coworkers outside of the workplace, and with the help of a little buzz from the drinks, open up a little. Drinking during hweshik is considered a normal thing, just make sure you know the right way to do it! Be respectful to people older than you and to those in higher positions at work. If they are drinking, make sure their glasses are full—always hold the glasses or bottles with two hands and do not forget to turn away from senior figures to drink.
It seems that there are quite a lot of things to remember, but you can enjoy yourself a little bit more when it comes to food. The food consumed with alcohol is called anju (안주) and includes foods like seafood, jokbal (족발), various side dishes. The place of the dinner is subject to change, but usually, a good place to eat would be a Korean barbecue restaurant, as the meat often goes well with the drinks.
After snacking on savoury foods and exchanging drinks with colleagues, you might be invited for another round of entertainment. Popular as ever, karaoke rooms or noraebang (노래방) are usually the third and last stop of Korean office dinners. There, everyone is either ready to party or extremely tired, but some still find the energy to go in front of everyone and sing their hearts out. The one who can entertain and make everyone excited with their karaoke performance might get lucky and earn some well-deserved karma points! It is always great to make a good impression in your workplace.
Hweshik in Korean dramas
If you have never been to this kind of workplace event, but have been binging some Korean dramas, then you might have seen it happening at least once. It can appear in a karaoke room like in the K-drama Abyss, where character Go Se Yeon (played by Kim Sa Rang) performs in front of her colleagues, or Touch Your Heart in a quite awkward sit down with drinks and a few misunderstandings to make it more interesting. There are many more dramas that show the hweshik culture and how common it actually is in real life.
After a long, tiring week in the office, it is always good to do something that would take the stress away. The bonds you will create at the dinner will make your day in an office at least a little bit more enjoyable as you will be able to share your daily struggles with the people around you. Hopefully, this will help you be more prepared for the long night of eating, drinking and loud chatter around the table, and if you are not working in Korea, now you know a little bit more about hweshik. Who knows, it might be useful someday.
Do you know any other tips to survive hweshik? Let us know in the comments below!
Cover Image: Because This Is My First Life (tvN)
Written by Ruta Balzekaite