The other night, my husband went out with his best buddy and another friend from Busan, whom I haven’t met yet. In Korea, when a husband says he’s going out with his buddies, most likely, it’s not going to be a sport spectacle or an activity that is done when one is sober, it means he’s going out “to drink” with his friends, and “drinking with friends” means “getting drunk”.
My husband is not an alcoholic, and I’m not saying that all Korean men are, but it’s an undeniable truth that majority of Koreans love to drink. In fact, there is a drinking culture in Korea that I have discussed in a previous post, and every foreigner who has been to Korea knows that drinking is something you can’t escape from in this country.
During the first year of our marriage, I couldn’t understand why my husband had to go out to drink almost every week, or sometimes in our house with his father or his brothers. Although he would sometimes take me with him in those late-night drinking sessions, I didn’t like his drinking at all. When he’s drunk, he just sleeps like a baby and never gives me any trouble, but gosh… the snoring! If I’d put him on loud speaker while he snores, our neighbors would think South Korea is being bombed by the North!
I used to nag at him every time he came home late from a company dinner. (Company dinners and business meetings in Korea are usually accompanied with soju.) There was even a time I kicked him out of our bedroom for arriving home late and wasted. My Abonim found him sleeping in the living room and he wasn’t pleased to see his youngest son spread eagle on the cold floor in his underwear looking like a toad ready to be dissected. He was furious that I didn’t care for my drunk husband. It was explained to me that in Korea, the wife is expected to (always) attend to her husband even when he comes home drunk. (Maybe it was just my father-in-law’s opinion, but according to my Mom, my Abonim was right: it doesn’t make any sense nagging at and kicking your husband out of the bedroom when he’s drunk because he won’t even remember anything. The best way is to talk to him in the morning when he’s sober and you’re not thinking like Hitler.)
The other night hubby came home late, he was a bit drunk and scared as hell. The moment he walked in and saw me waiting for him by the door, he said, “Sorry, sorry, sorry.”
From the look on his face, I knew that he was waiting for my first attack, but I smiled and said: “Have you had your dinner?” His face lit up, and he took out a small gift that he got from an arcade crane machine. (Yup, he’s 33 and he still plays arcade machines. Ugh, men!)
“You’re not angry?” he asked.
“I’m not.” (I really wasn’t.)
Now if you’re planning to marry a Korean or a man who likes to drink, or if you’re already married to someone who is having an indecent affair with soju, let me tell you a few things I have learned from experience:
- No matter how many times you tell your husband to stop drinking, he won’t. It would be just like taking away the Kimchi on the table. First, because at work, drinking with colleagues CAN’T be avoided. Also, on family occasions, when a family member pours him a drink, he has to accept it and drink (even a little). It is rude to refuse the drink. Second, Korean men work harder and longer, and drinking occasionally is their way to relieve stress from work. (South Korea tops the most hardworking countries of the world according to Forbes magazine.) Third, no one likes to be told what to do, especially Korean men. The more you beleaguer your husband about his drinking, the more he’ll drink.
- If he drinks a lot, talk to him about it… when he’s NOT DRUNK. Don’t bring it up all the time. Don’t turn it into an argument. Use the power of persuasion, not the power of a nagging wife. Tell him it’s all right with you if he drinks SOMETIMES and RESPONSIBLY, which means that he would still be able to stand, go home safely, wash (to get rid of the smell of alcohol) and head to the bedroom without knocking off anything by accident.
- Never ever use the word “curfew” or tell him what time you expect him to come home after going out with his friends or attending a company dinner. I noticed that telling my husband: Come home before 1 or Your curfew’s until 12 doesn’t really work… but when I say: What time are you coming home? Please don’t be too late… he doesn’t give me an exact time, but he arrives home earlier, and very seldom does he come late.
- Tell him NICELY to ALWAYS inform you where he’s going and with whom he’ll be drinking. Though I never had this problem with my husband since we got married (because he would always keep me informed), I am fully aware of the complaints of some fellow housewives in Korea about “not being informed” of their husbands’ whereabouts when they’re out drinking.
- If he fails to inform you where he is, call him. Don’t rely on a text message. The hoff or restaurant where he is may be too noisy that he won’t be able to hear his phone beep. (Remember how Koreans like to chat non-stop and loudly when they drink? He may be sitting beside someone who has damaged his eardrums for the time being.)
- It’s okay to call twice or thrice, if the crowing rooster is about to have tonsillitis from its usual wake-up call and hubby’s not home yet… but calling him every now and then is just crazy and annoying according to hubby and his married friends. (I am guilty of this, but now I don’t call him as often as before. I have learned to trust him with his coming-home time. ^^)
- Don’t kick him out of the bedroom (like I did). Fix him a cup of tea or coffee to sober him up. Let him sleep it off. As long as he doesn’t beat you up, swear at you or make your life a living hell when he’s tipsy, be a good wife.
Now my husband doesn’t drink often. I challenged him to prove to me that he can say NO to a drinking invitation either from a friend or a colleague, and he has done it many times. In fact, when we went out for dinner last night and my Ajubonim (brother-in-law) ordered a bottle of soju, my husband didn’t even have his soju glass filled up. He didn’t even ask me if he could drink. (If he had asked me, I would have given him permission. ^^)
- Korea’s “Pali-pali” Culture and It’s Dynamism (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Korea’s Drinking Culture (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- What I Miss in Pinas (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- What Every (Pinay) Daughter-in-law Must Consider (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Margarita (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- An Unnerving Encounter with a Drunk Man (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Some Korean Food You (Probably) Can’t Stomach (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Some Korean Food That Will Make Your Mouth Water (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Learning the Art of Soju (koronicles.wordpress.com)
- Drinking with Cats – Visiting a Korean Cat Cafe (suitcaseandheels.com)