Taking on the Korean Noraebang and The Worlds Most Awkward Serenade


I’ve adopted a new hobby since moving to Korea. It involves a microphone, disco lights, leathers seats, and lots of soju. Plus, it often comes equipped with Alanis Morissette, The Beatles, and plenty of 90’s nostalgia; what more could you want? In Korea it’s nothing new, but I’m very happy (read, ecstatic) that we’ve found this strange and special activity that has quickly become a substitute for late night snacking! Bye bye intoxicated McDonalds weight (I hope), there’s a new after party in town and it’s called Noraebang.

Just incase you haven’t heard of this amazing trend, a Noraebang is Koreas version of karaoke, which is basically American karaoke on steroids. The word literally translates to ‘song room,’ and the main difference is that you and your friends will have your very own private room to sing in until you lose your voice. It’s magical. We usually venture over to our favorite place near the strip of bars we frequent between the hours of 12am and 2am, depending on where the night takes us.NoraebangThe best part about Noraebang? It’s usually considered ‘round two’ after office parties as a bonding activity. So, when we had our very first work dinner back in November, I was excitedly anticipating the prospect of singing along with my coworkers into the wee hours of the morning (despite the fact that it was a Tuesday). After a satisfying meal we were all properly inebriated thanks to the all you can drink wine special on the menu. Following my supervisors lead, we all headed towards the nearest Noraebang to better acquaint ourselves with each other’s favorite songs.

Obviously I wanted to make a good impression, so I quickly made a selection and sang a duet with my Aussie coworker to get the ball rolling. Breathing in and out as we finished belting out the ending of the tune, my heart was still pounding from nerves. I tried to make my way back to the seating area when, suddenly, my supervisor grabbed me by the hand, motioning of me to stay up by the ‘stage’ area.

My rockstar confidence was quickly replaced by bright-eyed terror – my face lit up in a scarlet blush as he began to croon a random Elvis Presley song to me and pointed at the words saying, “This song is very famous!” I stood there uncomfortably and smiled, wishing so badly the words were in English and not in Korean so that I could sing along and not look like a basket case with cheeks as red as my favorite lipstick. This could only end awkwardly, I thought, so I made my best effort to keep looking happy until my jaw hurt, swaying to the music as if it was some kind of real performance.

The entire time, he had a big grin on his face! It was unbelievably strange, and at the same time one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in Korea. For some time, I chocked it up to a good buzz and cultural difference. I thought, “Well… maybe this is how they show respect Korea!” Then, one day, he spoke to me about his daughter. He told me that she’s very far away studying English in Australia and that I remind him of her! That, I’ll definitely take as a compliment.Noraegbang

What’s your most awkward travel story?

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