1-cha, 2-cha, 3-cha, and even 4-cha? (RELATED: WHAT are 1-cha, 2-cha, and 3-cha that Koreans count when drinking?) When partying with your buddies, it’s all fun, but what if it becomes part of work? Would it still be fun? Well, maybe you can learn vicariously from the Koreans! In the Korean workplace, there is this culture called hoesik 회식 (literally means “eating together” but can be translated as “company dinner” or “company get-together” or “company (un)happy hour”), which most people fear and try to avoid if at all possible. Wait, you get to hang out with your colleagues over dinner and it’s like a little staff party? What’s not to like?! Well, if used in moderation, hoesik can have many benefits like building a strong team-spirit and promoting a more candid exchange of opinions. But the fact that it’s forced upon the subordinates at the expense of their personal lives, and how it leads to an unproductive workplace environment, makes hoesik feel like a boot camp for grown-ups…
Here’s the breakdown. First of all, mandatory attendance is expected. Of course, Korea is a free country and you can choose not to partake should you wish so, but the Korean proverb, “an angular stone is bound to be hit by a chisel,” advises you not to, because doing so will mark you as someone who prioritizes themselves over the organization. Second, they will come out of left field and catch you off guard. If your superior feels like it, he/she will announce it at the last minute and consider your dinner plans canceled. “Thirsty Thursday” with your buddies? Forget it. Friday night date plans? Forget it. In Korean dramas, couples break up over this issue, but for a dishonest person, it’s a perfect alibi to cover up his/her infidelity (i.e., “Honey, you should go to bed first. I’m still at hoesik…”). Third, the office hierarchy and workplace politics will tag along. This starts from determining where to sit – if you sit too close to your superior, you might look like an ass-kisser, and if too far from the “main” group, you risk looking like an outcast. More, you will have to laugh at every single lame joke your superior makes. Not only that, if you are the maknae 막내, or the youngest in the group, you’re in charge of ordering, making somaek 소맥, filling up the glasses and many more. (RELATED: WHAT is POKTANJU 폭탄주 and SOMAEK 소맥? Korean drinks 101!)
WHY DO KOREANS TRY TO AVOID HOESIK AT ALL COST?
If the gathering ends in 1-cha, or 2-cha, you are lucky! Most hoesik last until 3-cha or 4-cha, and thou shalt not leave before your superiors do. At noraebang, you are expected to sing to “liven up the mood,” and it’s wise to choose a song that your superiors like. But, that’s not all, folks! You should also grab a taxi for your inebriated superiors who can barely walk. By the time you get home, you will only have a few hours to sleep until you have to be at your work desk in a few hours… don’t be late!