Not for everyone

People have many traditions. I found myself sitting in a circle of Chinese businessmen. Each of us were drinking shots of clear, fiery-cold alcohol. As the guest of honor, I was supposed to trade shots with everyone at the table.

It was tradition.

Each businessman seemed to delight in filling the shot glasses till the alcohol spilled over the brims. I could feel the fluid sublimate from my fingers as I lifted shot after shot to my lips. About midway through, one of the older men sheepishly did a half pour. He was not feeling well. The other men teased him.

“Actually, I don’t really like drinking”, he said.

“Neither do I,” I echoed. Time after time in China, I felt forced to choke down silly amounts of alcohol with a smile because this custom was a prerequisite for any kind of business. I was often the guest of honor, and I was often required to drink 5-10x as much as anyone else. I hated it. I was delighted to finally have an excuse to end this one a bit early.

“Me neither,” said another man. And another. And another.

One by one, everyone around the table revealed they hated drinking alcohol – especially this much. All of us were enduring something we disliked because of tradition. Because none of us questioned it until it became a major discomfort.

As I travelled around the world, alcohol was just the way for anyone to socialize. If you wanted to meet people, go to a bar. If you wanted to do something fun, go to a bar. Needed to relax? Go to a bar.

Counter Sunday emerged from the spirit of Counter Events, which offered playful alternatives to traditional celebrations.

I started Counter Sunday in Korea to meet people in a situation where I didn’t have to drink. I invited strangers to my apartment to play board games… and people actually showed up. A lot of people. Some people drank, but no one had to. We played games. We had pie. We made Game of Thrones cupcakes.

What started as a well-intentioned weirdo in a new country offering his apartment one Sunday a month for board games, became a circle of friends that come to my side when my mother died.

Counter Sunday is about challenging traditions. Thinking differently. Being open. And possibly, hopefully, learning something.