So, I’m friends with quite a few 20-something Korean guys because there’s a university nearby and they like to come out and join my friends and I at the local bar. A few of them, I’ve made actual friendships with, while others come and go when they have a break between tests. Anyway, I went to a couple of their birthdays and I noticed some similarities. Usually men will meet their friends in a major city of their choice to go out drinking all night. However, if they are going to college in another city (and their friends are broke), they will go back to their hometown to meet their friends. Starting around 9 or 11pm, they meetup up at a bar to eat appetizers and drank themselves silly. Someone will bring a birthday cake, and (depending on the friends), some might smuggle in some harder liquor. (Cake is VERY normal at birthdays, and sometimes two are brought because they don’t really plan.)
One tradition that I dislike is the making of a ‘mixed’ glass of sorts. Basically a cup is passed around and each person adds one thing from the table into the glass. As long as it is edible, it can go into the cup: alcohol, food, sauces, etc. If the cup passes to me, I’ll try to add cake frosting. Other people are not so nice, they’ll add disgusting side dishes: kimchi, silk worm pupae, etc. Anyway, after the cup is back to the birthday-boy, they have to drink the ENTIRE thing..or until they throw up. Disgusting, right?!
They sang ‘Happy Birthday’ in Korean (same melody) before leaving the bar at around 1 or 2am. From there, they will either head to another bar or a private karaoke room, noraebang (노래방). The karaoke rooms are far more popular..and if it’s a male only party–there are private karaoke room where you can ‘order girls.’ Unfortunately, this kind of room is popular for (usually single) birthday-boy parties.