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Toast stress

Posted December. 25, 2012 01:24,   


For those who are shy and unwilling to speak in front of people, year-end gatherings are something to fear. To these people, proposing a toast causes tremendous stress. In Korea, everyone at a year-end party is expected to speak out loud. If someone says something planned or a cliché when toasting, he or she will be considered a nerd who just spoiled a festive atmosphere. A survey found that what employees dislike the most in gatherings with coworkers were a talent show, in which they must do something to entertain others, and giving a toast.

People across the globe raise glasses up and toast to celebrate or wish good health or luck. Americans and Britons say, “Cheers!” and Germans say, “Prost!” “Santé” is what the French say, while Italians say, “Salute!” Traditionally, Koreans put more emphasis on the community than individuals. In this type of culture, what a person says for a toast holds more significance beyond a perfunctory word. They tend to coin new expressions to strength a sense of belonging to the group at the gathering. Sometimes, people want to include sarcasm about society at the time.

Beer manufacturer Hite Jinro released the results of a survey on toasts used in year-end parties this year. The most popular expression was “Neo-na-jal-hae,” meaning, “For the New Year for both of us.” Newly coined expressions composed of the first syllable of three different words were widely popular this year again. Among the most popular were “Byeon-sa-tto,” meaning, “Let’s meet again with unchanged love,” “Obama,” meaning, “I wish you achieve everything you want and plan,” “Tong-tong-tong,” meaning, “communication, good luck and success,” and “Smile,” meaning, “Smile when passing by, meeting and even intentionally.”

Toast proposals have also evolved. Such words as “Myeong-pum-baek,” of which the literal meaning is a designer bag but the each syllable means, “Be careful of early retirement, maintain your dignity, and try not to lose your job,” reflect a social reality. Other toasts incorporate a sense of international culture. “Hakuna Matata,” a Swahili phrase meaning, “It’s OK. Don’t worry,” has been introduced as a toast.

Yet if anyone goes too far as saying derogatory expressions hinting at sexual desire to get attention, the toast could be viewed as sexual harassment and the toaster can get humiliated. A high-ranking official is under fire for using a toast that has sexual connotations at a news conference for a reunification ceremony of separated families between the two Koreas. Communication experts emphasize the importance of “KISS (Keep it simple and short).” They say people need to prepare their own short expressions that befit the nature of gatherings. For those who are unsure about their own creations, they can simply download toast apps.

Editorial Writer Park Yong (parky@donga.com)