Korean Noraebang Etiquette – Don’t Be a Singing Fool!

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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, or singing room. These rooms are one of the most popular things to do on a night out and can be found all over every city in the country. Follow these rules for a fun night out at the noraebang.

 

Don’t Be a Mic Hog 

This is a simple rule that all karaoke cultures around the globe share. Don’ hog the mic. Korean culture is a group-centered, which means do what’s best for the group. Singing a full Queen album before the next person even has a chance to pick a song is not going to be very appreciated. Exceptions are sometimes made for those who can belt it like Whitney, but even then it’s nice to give everyone a turn to sing.

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? Give someone else a chance.

 

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 a noraebang to have a good time. With Koreans this sometimes means screaming into the 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. Have something upbeat 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 and tapping the tambourine to the beat. Noraebang in Korea is best experienced as a group activity. That means you should be aware of the people you’re with. If everyone else seems distracted or bored, cancel your song and move on. No one will say it because they don’t want to hurt your feelings, 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 it’s finally their turn with the noraebang book of songs. You see songs you haven’t heard in ages and your favorite Korean singers from the 90’s and then jump at the opportunity to relive your youth. But if you’re sitting there with the book in one hand and the remote control in the other, entering six 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 isn’t too bad, but hree might be cutting it close. Four and you’re 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. 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!

Keith
Keith
Keith Kim is a Korean-American who has been living in Korea for almost a decade. Being in a unique position as both a Korean and a non-Korean, he's put all his experience and knowledge for surviving in Korea in Survival Korean . Read it to learn how you can survive in Korea. Follow him on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

6 Comments

  1. John says:

    Would you say not singing at all (ie just sitting there and spectating) is poor etiquette?

  2. Keith says:

    If it’s a big party, no problem. If it’s like 2 people… awkward!

  3. Cassandra says:

    Ever see Western songs at a noraebang?

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