Cultural Tidbits · Daily Life · nightlife

Cultural Tidbit #3: Let’s sing! All about 노래방s (Noraebang – Karaoke places)

As an ex-music major concentrating on piano and voice, here in Korea, I frequent noraebangs like no one’s business.  (‘Norae’ meaning ‘song’ and ‘bang’ meaning ‘room’). Now, when you watch western movies (not like cowboys and whatnot, but, the western hemisphere..), karaoke is always done in a big room in front of a pretty large audience. Well,  in Korea, noraebangs are EVERYWHERE. Sometimes 3+ per street block. Inside, there’s many rooms of different sizes, holding anywhere from 3-15 people. They give you microphones, tambourines, and two song books filled with songs from many Asian countries and a “pop songs” section with music in the English language. Each room also has a large television and fancy remote that you use to choose songs. Some of the nicer noraebangs I’ve been to have even had drum sets and other instruments. They’re also pretty reasonably priced; I haven’t encountered one that cost more than about $15 USD for an entire room. That price is supposed to give you 1 hour of singing time, but, they almost always give you “service”, aka free time on top of that hour. Everybody has to do this at least once. I take that back; you must do it more than once.

My friends and I have this one noraebang that we go to almost exclusively as of late, in 이대 (Ewha Women’s University area). We went once, and the ajusshi (middle-aged Korean man) who owns the place was very smiley as we were leaving. We came back, and the ajusshi was very openly happy about our return. The third time, he gave us 2.5 hours of singing time for the price of one hour. It was around midnight and we’d been singing for an hour and a half and just wanted to go home and sleep, but he kept giving us more time. Finally, it was 1am and finally we ran out of singing time. We went out to say goodbye and he talked to us for an hour..until 2am…in Korean. (*victory* for the confidence boost I got from understanding everything he was saying!) Now, the content of the conversation is what’s wonderful. He asked us how we liked Korea and we said we liked it. He told us that he likes to give foreigners a lot of free time because he feels that they have a lot of stress that they need to sing out. So, whenever we come, we can stay as long as we want for the price of 1 hour, he said. #ThingsI’mokaywith. After asking about our relationship stati, (2 single, 1 taken..not me, obvi) he strongly suggested that we date Korean men…including the girl who’s taken.

Ajusshi: Play the field, especially if your boyfriend isn’t Korean. Korean men are the best. Better than Southeast Asian men.

Taken friend: …..uhhh….weeellll…

Ajusshi: Do you girls like Korean food? Spicy food? Doenjang jjigae (spicy fermented bean paste soup)

Me and the other single girl: We love that stuff! We love Korean food! Yayyyyy

Ajusshi: Well then, don’t go back to America. Just stay here. How long will you be in Korea for?

Me and the other single girl: Until next June.

Ajusshi: Yeah, just stay here. Get married to a Korean man and raise babies here. It’ll be good.

All three of us: *Ahahahahhahaha chuckles giggles laughter*

Ajusshi: No, really. Next time you come here, each of you should bring a Korean man with you. I’ll check them out. Approve or disapprove of them, you know? Whether they’re keepers or if you should throw them out!! And if you don’t come with men, I’ll introduce you all to some nice Korean boys:)

All three of us: *nervous chuckles giggles laughter* hehe…okkkk

Ajusshi: Am I nice? Am I talking too much? Do you all like ajusshi -____-

All three of us: Oh, no! Ajusshi’s wonderful!! And sooo nice^^

Ajusshi: Okay, good. I’m like you’re Korean appa (father). Come back again!!

I love noraebang. I love ajusshis. They’re the best and they love me, haha. It’s always great to blow off some steam after a long week of classes!

Keep on keepin’ on,



One thought on “Cultural Tidbit #3: Let’s sing! All about 노래방s (Noraebang – Karaoke places)

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