Korean MTs: Your Chance to Play Drinking Games with Your Colleagues

foreign-correspondent badge finalIf you ever come to Korea for an extended period of time, as a worker or a student, you might hear the acronym ‘MT’ floating around. Here’s a brief guide to understanding Korean MTs.

What does MT stand for?

MT stands for Membership Training. This harkens back to the olden days (I don’t actually know how long ago–this is just what my Korean friends tell me) when companies wanted their members to bond so they sent them away on trips. Now times are a little different.

So, what is an MT then?

An MT is basically a trip you take with your colleagues–colleagues usually being people at university who share the same major as you, or your coworkers. You all get together and stay overnight somewhere. Usually you stay at a pension, which is like a motel, but with large rooms to fit a lot of people and you usually sleep on the floor with Korean mattress mats. Typically there’s lots of drinking games involved as well.

Wait, drinking with your coworkers? That’s okay?

Nine times out of ten, yes. I’m American, and a lot of my American friends are shocked to hear that I’ve gotten drunk with my boss, or my other Korean coworkers. I am a city employee, so I’ve been on trips with other city workers for fancy dinners and MTs. You shouldn’t get completely wasted, but I’ve seen grown men my parents’ age who work the floor below me dancing on a bus and singing on the way back from sushi dinner provided by the city. I don’t recommend getting blackout drunk, but don’t worry about enjoying a drink or two or three in front of important colleagues. Odds are they’ll be encouraging you to drink anyway.

How does an MT work?

The first thing I always worry about is money. Typical Korean style usually means that everyone pays the same amount of money for the trip. They pool the money together to first pay for accommodation, and to then pay for food and alcohol. With university MTs, you can see a whole department together shopping at the grocery store, but it’s not atypical to elect a few members to do the shopping after everyone puts in money. I’ve also experienced MTs where there’s someone keeping track of the spending and everyone pays at the end. Both are fine.

How do you get there?

Car or bus, depending on who you go with and if they have a car or not.

What do you do when you get to your destination?

It depends, but usually you just hang out with your colleagues and then start playing drinking games. Sometimes you explore whatever area you’re visiting. Korea has tons of drinking games, but people usually enjoy learning new ones too. We taught our boss and a couple other coworkers how to play flip cup (which is not common in Korea), and I taught some of my friends from one of my language exchanges how to play beer pong. They’ve taught me more games than I can count.

Personally, I love MTs, so this spring I went on three, two of which I helped plan. You could go your entire time in Korea without doing an MT, but I highly recommend them. It might not be about training anymore, but it’s a great way to get to know your colleagues a little better and to learn a little more about Korean culture.

About Kylie Genter

Kylie GenterKylie Genter is an English teacher in South Korea.

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