Hanging out at the Family Mart

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.

Family Mart - Yeongwol
There it is. Newest bar in town.

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.

Family Mart Jeongdongjin, Korea
And I’m not even the classiest one in this relationship. At the Jeongdongjin Family Mart.

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.

Family Mart - seoul - Korea - birthday
Nothing like turning 30 at the convenience store.

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.

Family Mart ramyeon - Yeongwol - South Korea
So, yeah, we were basically doing the same thing as a bunch of 4th-graders. What of it?

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.

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  1. Ha, I was doing this exact thing last night! It’s really fun, and cheap. Have you seen the Eat Your Kimchi video on this? Pretty funny 🙂 I like the casual vibes and convenience (hehe) of hanging out at a Family Mart (etc) – I’ve had some good times and met some interesting people (most recently, a very old guy who was a professor of Geology at a university in Tokyo and has been to my hometown in South Africa, random!). Honestly, the only bad part is the mozzies. Take bug spray!

    1. The mosquitoes in this country are BRUTAL. Pretty soon it’ll be time for me to apply repellent as if it is perfume. I haven’t seen the Eat Your Kimchi video, but as I’ve got…3 hours and 20 more minutes of deskwarming this afternoon, I’m sure I’ll squeeze it in!

  2. We used to drink outside the convenience stores in Korea all the time. The neighborhood I was living in didn’t have many good bars, so convenience stores were actually one of the best options. Many of them even had tables outside, making them more comfortable than a lot of the bars as well. Plus, the people watching opportunities on a warm weekend evening in Korea will keep you entertained all night.

    1. My neighborhood is the same – not much to choose from! There’s a new pub across the street that actually sells imported beer, but it’s 8,000 won for a small bottle of Hoegaarden. I think we’ll stick to the Family Mart.

  3. HELL YEAH FAMILY MART! hanging out at Family Mart and having a few beers is easily one of my favorite things to do in Korea. The people watching alone is worth it!

    1. It’s definitely going to be one of the things I miss when we leave! Great seating, no tipping, everyone’s friendly…I don’t know what put me off about it at first!

  4. YES to drinking at Family Mart! Always a good idea, especially if you’re on a budget! Crack open some random snacks (hopefully not banana puffs) and let the weekend commence!

  5. Man, I love Family Mart. Cheap drinks, cheap food…the ones in Shanghai didn’t have seating though, so we’d just stoop it with our beers, haha. Can’t really do that in Paris, and I miss those nights!

    1. I cannot imagine Parisians warming to the idea of convenience store drinking! I just read your post about missing Asia, and it’s making me appreciate what I’ve got for the next few months (Family Mart being one of those things!).

  6. I should probably give it a try, but the one thing that really puts me off is the possibility of seeing my students while I’m drinking a beer. They freak out and tell everyone they know when they see me eating kimbop, imagine the scandal if I was caught drinking! 🙂 (I’m 27.)

    1. This exact thing happened to us last week – little did we know that the Family Mart was right next to a hagwon. A bus pulled up and about fifteen of our students spilled out into the pavement. They immediately started pointing at the beers – “Teacher, maekju! Beer! Is it delicious?” The next day one of the kids (who wasn’t even there!) stopped us after lunch and just said, “Maekju.”
      So I can see where you’re coming from! I keep reminding myself that I’m a grown woman and if I want to have a beer at the Family Mart, then dammit, I’m having a beer at the Family Mart!

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