There’s a new watering hole across from our apartment building, so Jared and I went there last night to grab a beer after work. The prices are incredibly reasonable, and while food is available, you aren’t expected to buy any (as you usually are at Korean bars). We sat outside, on a pretty wooden balcony, and relaxed with a couple of cans of OB Golden Lager.
Then a bunch of our students turned up and clustered around us, slurping ramyeon and giggling.
You see, this is no ordinary bar.
It’s a Family Mart.
Imagine meeting your friends for drinks at the closest 7-11. That’s what it’s like, except in Korea it’s socially acceptable.
Actually, it’s not just acceptable, it’s encouraged. There are about ten Family Marts in town, and I’d be surprised to find one without a table and chairs set up outside.
At first I felt a little…well…trashy, drinking at a convenience store. I’m not the classiest chick in town, but it was still slightly odd. I mean, what was next, pulling up a ratty couch in front of someone’s house and cracking open a six-pack of Bud?
Well, okay. In defense of my student days: this is totally acceptable behavior if you are a college student in the Midwestern United States.
I got over my pretentiousness and we’ve sort of made a habit of it. It’s kind of nice – a couple of cheap beers, snacks, and plenty of people watching.
Though at times I suspect we may be the ones who provide the entertainment.
In fact, I even kicked off my 30th birthday at a Family Mart in Seoul. I wasn’t too pumped about the idea at the time, but it turned out to be pretty darn fun. Not much different from sitting at a sidewalk cafe, actually, except for the plastic cups (which -bonus- were free). And afterwards we we went out in Sincheon, so I was able to feel like a grown-up again.
I think it would be frowned upon if you went to a Family Mart and got completely tanked. After all, it is a family establishment. Right next to the old men drinking Cass and smoking cigarettes, you’re likely to find a gaggle of schoolkids eating ramyeon and young girls sipping iced coffees.
I think I can get into this Family Mart thing. Not exclusively, but it gets me out of the house, is easy on the wallet, and – best of all – is totally okay in Korea.
I’ll have to remember that when I visit Indiana and try to suggest hanging out at the 7-11.