If you’re visiting Korea or living in Korea for more than a short time, it’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself at a noraebang. This default option for things to do in Korea is found all throughout the peninsula. Find out how to not be the party pooper when you’re with a bunch of Koreans singing it up!
Don’t Be a Mic Hog
This is a simple rule that all karaoke cultures around the globe share. And this noraebang etiquette is even more true in Korea. The reason is Korean culture is a group-centered culture, which means do what’s best for the group. And singing a full Queen album before the next person even has a chance is not going to be very appreciated. Exceptions are sometimes made for those who can belt it like Whitney (but then it just turns into a one-man show).
This also applies to the second mic. It’s alright to sing along to a few songs you didn’t pick. But every single song? Come’on now.
Mix up the Music
If you’re a ballad singer, that’s fine. Go ahead and sing your sorrows out. But remember, most of the time people go to noraebang to have a good time. And with Koreans, sometimes that means screaming into a mic, dancing like a fool and smashing a tambourine on their hand–stress-relief Korean style. To make sure everyone has a good time, be careful to mix up your song selection to have something up beat and exciting that everyone will have a good time with in addition to your sappy love songs.
Boring Your Friends? Cancel Yourself
The best Korean noraebang sessions have everyone involved singing along with the songs, possibly involving a few booty shakes and tambourine taps. Noraebang in Korea is best experienced as a group activity. That means you should be aware of the people you’re with. If you’re singing some Norah Jones folk song and everyone’s chatting it up, looking at their phones, or just straight up looking bored, consider canceling your song to get everyone else involved. No one will say it, but it will be appreciated.
Tip: This can also apply to songs with long bridges (no singing, only music). Most of the time, no one’s enjoying the fake keyboard sounds. They’re just waiting for the next verse (or song) to come on. To skip the instrumental, press 간주 점프 (ganju jeompeu).
Reserve Songs in Moderation
Many people get excited when they hold a noraebang book in their hand. You see songs you haven’t heard in ages and your favorite Korean singers from the 90′s and you jump at the opportunity to relive your youth. But if you’re sitting there with book in one hand and remote control in the other, entering 6 different songs in a row before anyone else has a chance to put one in, that means you’ll be singing for the next 20 minutes. Try to space out your song reservations so that other people have a chance to put their songs in as well. Two in row aiin’t too bad. Three might be cutting it close. Four and your pretty much a mic hog.
(Almost) Never Use the Priority Reserve Button
Some of you might not be aware such a button exists. But the 우선 예약 (useon yeyak) button allows your number to jump to the front of the list. Basically, you’re cutting the line, and no one’s cool with that! Use it only with permission from the rest of the group. This cardinal noraebang sin is only forgiven when you’re about to leave and want to get one last song in or when everyone agrees on singing a certain song right away.
Language Tip — Buttons for the noraebang machine remote control:
예약 (yeyak) – reserve (find the song, punch in the number, then press this button to reserve your song)
취소 (chwiso) – cancel (for canceling songs)
우선 예약 (useon yeyak) – priority reserve (use to reserve a song for immediately after the currently playing one)
Update: And thanks to dustincolephotos.com for this great picture explaining the noraebang remote controls!