Which country drinks the most amount of alcohol per capita?
February 17, 2016
IT HAS about 1.6 million alcoholics and its citizens drink an average of 14 shots of hard liquor a week.
That’s one heck of a hangover.
But if you think it’s the vodka-happy Russians or beer swigging Germans who can knock ’em back think again because South Koreans can drink the rest of the world under the table.
In fact our party hard Asian neighbours consume more than double the amount than the Russians, who knock back around six units of hard liquor a week, according to Euromonitor.
And while Australians have a reputation for loving a beer or two, not even we compare to the South Koreans with less than 20 per cent of us drinking more than two standard drinks a day, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
In South Korea, drinking isn’t just a national pastime, for many of its 50 million people it is a way of life and a sure fire way to advance yourself on the career ladder.
Steve Chao, who produced the documentary South Korea’s Hangover for broadcaster Al-Jazeera’s 101 Eastsaid South Koreans work the longest hours of anyone in the world and faced enormous pressure from bosses to perform.
With the average bottle of beer costing around $1, and no government guideless on how much is too much, Mr Chao said it was an easy social lubricant for many workers.
But the drink of choice here is Soju which has an alcohol content of 20 per cent, and is designed to get you drunk fast.
A bottle retails for just $2 a bottle.
Seoul banker Suh Seung-Beom told Mr Chao, drinking was never the goal, but admitted “it’s just a means to build bonds in business and with people”.
Others say drinking not only relieves stress but it enables them to talk openly with colleagues outside of work.
Australian Amy Barnwell, who moved to South Korea last year to teach English, said drinking was definitely part of daily life with work drinks “considered an obligatory part of the job”.
According to her, refusing a drink is not on.
She said for many in South Korea, drinking was also often a way to counter social awkwardness.
“Work drinks are considered an obligatory part of the job,” she told news.com.au.
“Drinking with co-workers is a way to determine what sort of person you are outside the workplace, and whether your colleagues are going to get along with you.
“There are also a strong set of etiquette rules that apply to these situations, and refusing a drink is a big no.”
Interestingly, however, while the South Koreans are big drinkers, which causes its own set of social issues, alcohol-fuelled violence is not one of them.
The thirty-something Aussie said while drinking was considered a social norm, violence was frowned upon.
“I just think, culturally, violence is not tolerated and is seriously shameful,” she said.
“And this applies to all occasions, drunk or sober.”
Originally from Newcastle “the home of the proud lock out laws” and as someone who worked in the Sydney music industry, Ms Barnwell said South Koreans seemed to deal with their alcohol problems in a more “common sense way”.
While there is a zero-tolerance policy on drugs, she said people seemed to accept stuff happened in a heavily ingrained drinking culture.
“I’ve seen people pass out in clubs and the bouncer simply come over and lay them out on the sofa, rather than throw them out on the street,” she said.
“I’ve seen people trying to open an imaginary door at a restaurant and then knock over another patron’s table, only for that patron to gently guide the confused drunk out the real door and call over his friends to help.
Shop shelves filled with a variety of Soju bottles, which is the national drink.
Shop shelves filled with a variety of Soju bottles, which is the national drink.Source:Alamy
“I’m not saying they condone excessive drinking, I just think they understand that it is something that happens in Korean society and they deal with it in a commonsense way.”
Ms Barnwell said she could see there was definitely a problem with alcohol-related violence in Australia, but wasn’t sure lock out laws were the answer.
“I used to live in Darlinghurst, and I saw first-hand, the effects of the lockout laws,” she said.
“Personally I think it was an extreme over-reaction where there should have been discussions and commonsense alternatives, and with the added perspective of having lived and drunk in another ‘heavy drinking’ country, perhaps it is time to really look at the cultural aspects and attitudes to violence that exist in Australia.”
Whatever way you look at it, drinking remains a concern for at least some of the population.
A Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education report last month found more than 1.9 million Australians drink on average more than six standard drinks per day, three times the amount outlined in the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol.
Just under a million Australians consume on average more than eight standard drinks per day, equivalent to more than four times the recommended guidelines.
“Australians like to think of themselves as a nation of big drinkers, but this is no longer the case,” its Alcoholic Drinks in Australia report found.
“The volume of alcoholic drinks consumed has hovered between negative growth and stagnation for close to a decade, with 2014 belonging to the latter.”