Do Startups Have a Drinking Problem?
Sarah Jane Coffey

An alcoholic tee-totaler name of ‘Coffey’. Makes sense, sort of.

The drinking culture of [non-Islamic] corporate Asia is astonishing. Get this: classified HELP WANTED — PROFESSIONAL POSITION ad in a Seoul blat: “Young Marketing Executive, 27~30, Marketing Degree from good school. Must be able to drink 350ml. of soju without getting intoxicated…” This is of course one aspect of the 25-proof power games played between seller and customer, where each tries to drink the other under the table, to drive a sharper deal.

One wonders what a fervent young Christian business school graduate would do in such a situation — the fundy-fanatics have made huge inroads into Korean culture (at the expense of traditional Buddhism). You decline to drink and you won’t go far in a Korean or Japanese corporate environment. Even if you claim a medical or religious exemption. (An AA explanation would fall flat.)

Today’s ‘startup drinking culture’ returns an echo of the ‘what goes round…’ of the 1950s, when the 3-Martini business ‘lunch’ was a standard ritual in American corporate culture. (How you would be expected to go back to the office and perform normally after THAT is beyond me.) (Except maybe for a confirmed alcoholic — they can put away prodigious amounts and still appear to function.)

So what did the smart young ’50s exec do, to avoid getting drunk and blurting out a losing price or condition on a negotiation during lunch (hic)? Get this: they would eat a quarter-pound stick of butter just before meeting the client. The heavy fats would coat the lining of the stomach so that the alcohol would penetrate much more slowly — and keep them relatively sober during the meeting. Nasty patch that.

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