This is soju. If you ever come to Korea you will undoubtedly be drinking this within a couple of hours of your arrival. Maybe you’ll have at your first meal, or when you arrive at your apartment, or maybe you will have some on your way from your meal to your apartment. In Korea, this stuff is basically the national beverage. At 23% alcohol this rice wine packs a punch, but that doesn’t seem to keep people from drinking it at all hours of the day. Oh, and there’s also the fact that it’s dirt cheap. A bottle of water is $1.00. A bottle of soju is only twenty cents more. Foreigners might be a bit shell shocked by the amount of soju that gets consumed at meals and other social events, but drinking this stuff is more than just a cheap buzz, it’s also a great way to experience the Confucian tradition of Korean culture (actually, for me it’s mostly just a cheap buzz, I just threw that last part in there so my parents would think I’m learning something). Confucianism is a hierarchical system in which elders are held in great respect, therefore, there is a certain etiquette that one must be aware of when drinking soju. Traditionally soju is not to be mixed and is served in shot glasses. When serving at social gatherings, younger people always pour for older people sitting at the table. To do this, pour with the bottle in the right hand and the left and bracing your forearm, like you’re pulling back the sleeve of a long shirt. When you drink with someone who is older, it is customary to turn your head away, as drinking facing an elder is seen as a sign of disrespect, kinda like staring at someone when they are trying to pee. If you see someone with an empty glass, it is expected that you fill it for them, even if they don’t ask. Also, if an elder pours a drink for you, it is expected that you hold the glass with two hands while he is pouring. There are more rules, but this is when things start to get a little fuzzy. I’ll try finish the rest of this post as soon as the hangover wears off.