Clubbing In Seoul: Club Etiquette

Disclaimer: I’m not writing this in an ‘I’m telling you how to act and this is the only way that’s right‘ kind of way – I’m writing this in a ‘Please don’t be a dick’ kind of way. Because being a dick is just… well it’s dickish.

So yeah… bit of a controversial post today, sometimes it just needs to be said though (a little tongue-in-cheek).

Korea, as a country, is still wary of foreigners. If you take a look at the country’s history, you can see why. And however backwards this may seem to those of us hailing from the very globalised west, it means that many Koreans group all of us who are very obviously foreign into one category – which means, as an expat, exchange student or holiday maker, you’re not just representing you or your country, you’re representing all of us. Which kind of make the whole ‘don’t be a dick’ thing that bit more important. If it wouldn’t go down well in your home country, it’s definitely not going to be appreciated in Korea.

Clubbing in Seoul is not like clubbing in America (never been, but friends have told me it’s wildly different), it’s certainly not the same as England, or any European country I’ve had the pleasure to party in. And as such, you kind of pick up on the fact that certain mannerisms of clubbing in the west don’t really run well with clubbing in Korea. Well unless you’re in Itaewon or certain areas of Hongdae. So aside from the general, universal unwritten rules of clubbing (aka common sense), Korean clubs have a couple of extra’s that you might want to know before you step foot inside.

Not everywhere is super keen on the Military.  There are some clubs in Seoul that flat out refuse to let those in the American Military into their establishment. And before I’m left comments telling me how absurd/racist/unfair that is, it’s a classic case of ‘a few ruining it for all’. There have been some pretty high profile incidents involving American military servicemen stationed in south Korea after they’ve had alcohol (one resulting in the death of a Korean girl), and those clubs that refuse them just don’t want to run the risk of things happening, which I can sympathise with. I’ve seen some pretty… unsavory behaviour from servicemen in my time clubbing over here. I fully understand that it’s not all of them that behave that way, it just seems that those that do have forgotten which country they’re in, which leaves everyone else wondering if they behave like that at home.

Don’t argue with the doormen. I think this is pretty standard in any country, to be honest. Unless you truly, honestly, positively feel like you have been morally wronged, accept what the doorstaff say. If you do want to argue the toss, do so in Korean, they staff are more likely to listen to what you have to say when they don’t have to translate on the spot in a situation where they have to keep a queue of people happy. If they still refuse whatever it is you’re asking for, accept it and move on. The queue will be grateful for it.

Don’t try and bargain for free entry. It’s not a thing that happens over here. There are ways that you can get in without paying, but I’m not going to post them on the internet for security reasons. But yeah, even then they only really work if you speak korean.

Drinks don’t belong on the dance floor. There is a reason clubs have such long, looping bar’s in Korea and a hell of a lot of tables. Partly for aesthetic reasons, but mostly to accommodate for the fact that most people buy a drink, hang around the bar until they’ve finished it, and then move back to dance. Or sit at a table and drink. The drinks generally don’t leave the bar or the surrounding area, or the table. Drinks on the dance floor in Korean clubs just makes it awkward for everyone, you’re trying not to spill your drink, the people immediately to the side of you who see you have a drink are trying not to spill your drink, but the people to the front/behind don’t know, and well. Yup. Drink. Everywhere. Fun times for all. #heavysarcasm

Don’t stand in a massive circle/take up a ridiculous amount of room. I admit that it’s still weird to me that Koreans prefer to stand in lines facing the DJ when they club. Obviously there is dancing, a lot of dancing, but not in the group-structure favoured by western club goers. And thus, standing in that formation when everyone around you is in lines is kind of… awkward. I’m only really talking about large groups here, if you’re four people or less then it’s fine, but large circular groups in the middle of a dance floor… eh.

Don’t try and argue with the vip door staff if you aren’t vip. It’s just embarrassing to watch. It’s embarrassing to have it happen too, I’d imagine. Some clubs are more lax with the checking of your wristband colour (vip is different to general admission, fyi), some are much more vigilant (Answer, NBGangnam, Octagon). If you don’t have the right coloured wristband and the vip-doorman says no, don’t dispute it. No amount of money is going to change their mind.

Don’t make a scene. This is horribly generic, I do apologise, but titling more specific things like ‘Don’t take your shirt off in the middle of the dance floor’ just seemed a bit too nitpicky. Even though that is basically what inspired this point. Boy’s… unless you are about to take a dip in a clubs pool, keep the shirt on. (And even then by Korean standards, you would probably want to be wearing a shirt even if you’re about to take a dip in the club pool…)

Welp. I hope this is somewhat helpful in a non-condescending kind of way… If it comes across as that at all I’m super sorry, I wrote the majority of this rather tongue-in-cheek, and after a night out where I watched numerous other foreigners do all of what is on this list…

If you have any comments or questions you can leave them below or email me~

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