Each country does karaoke differently. A great way to to have a really different travel experience is to try karaoke in each country you travel to!
My first karaoke experience was in Australia. The basic rule here is that you should be drunk – the audience will be too. This is not a country where singing in public is really done except by professionals or at the opening of sporting matches (where again, the singers are often inebriated.)
It is certainly not a great place for beginner karaoke performers. The audience will be harsh – if you are “too good” or not good enough! The general style here is to make it obvious that you are only doing it as a “dare” to be a good sport. Even if you know the words, look at the screen a lot. No one likes a show off here.
My next exposure to karaoke was in Korea. It is a serious event here. I wish I’d known a bit more about it before I went because my Australian experience had done nothing to prepare me for what I encountered. To begin with, it is a private affair – no big open pub full of drunken strangers. Instead you and your friends hire a small private room with a big screen and a control panel for choosing the songs. Everyone is expected to take a turn. The biggest difference here is that you had better not just stand there looking embarrassed or goofing around while you sing – you are expected to perform! Yes, a little dancing, some hand gestures and a big smile for your audience. I apologize now to my co-workers who were insulted by my lack of enthusiasm and effort. I honestly didn’t know how it worked.
The last time I did karaoke was in Costa Rica. Here it was almost a perfect combination of my previous two experiences. At any carnivale or late night bar you bound to find them offering around the mike. No one minds if you stand up to sing or stay at your table. Everyone is drunk. Some people do an appalling job and some people are brilliant. Sometimes the audience pays no attention whatsoever but if they like what they hear they will let you know with a great big round of applause.
As I said – karaoke is a great way to learn about other cultures!