Drinking customs around the world are very diversified. In every culture there are not only local liquors, but also drinking customs that can seem very strange. Alcohol, like food, is an invaluable part of every nation’s culture. So before trying to drink with folks of other nationalities, read about HOW to drink liquor and avoid faux pas in different parts of the world. You will find out that you don’t know how to drink tequila after all. You will learn why the Czechs don’t approach the bartender in a pub, what is the reason that Hungarians don’t clink glasses while raising a toast, and how to enjoy vodka with Russians.
Drink: Soju (a Korean variation of vodka – often a little sweet; max 45% vol.)
Customs: When it comes to alcohol, always (always!) use both hands. With both hands you accept the glass, drink the liquor, hand the glass back over and pour alcohol to an empty glass. And you will be asked to pour alcohol, because in Korea nobody should fill their own glass. If there is just two of you, your host pours the drink to you and you do the same thing for him.
Drink: Beer (4-8% vol.)
Customs: In Germany, when raising a glass, you should look the person you drink with in the eyes. If you don’t one of two completely different things might happen. 1. You might offend your companion as well as his family and ancestors or 2. You might suffer from bad sex for the next 7 days. The repercussions might seem distant and weird, but I, naturally, have my own theory how to combine them both: you offended the person you rose your glass with and he or she cursed you so that you will have bad sex for a week. Simple? Logical? Mystery solved!
Drink: Pálinka (a sort of fruit brandy with almost 50% vol.)
Customs: Hungarians avoid “clinking” glasses. And the reason for that you can find in history. In 1848 Austrians celebrated defeating Hungarians by raising their glasses and “clinking” them. So as the proud nation they are, the Hungarians promised themselves not to do what their enemies did for the next 150 years. If you can count quickly enough, you’ve probably noticed already, that this period ended in 1998, but the behaviour is still unwanted and if you do something like that, you might do a faux pas, so be careful out there!
Drink: Vodka (usually 40% vol.)
“Cheers”: “Za zdarov’ye” (pay attention: “Za” not “Na”! “Na zdrowie” is Polish)
Customs: This list would not be complete, if I didn’t add Russia to it. Russians are very specific when it comes to drinking. (I have said a little about that, when I was Demystifying Russia the other day, but now I will focus more on those, who DO drink). When drinking vodka, Russians usually use shots glass (ryumka), but on occasions (hardcore level) they use regular glasses (stakan) as well. Young people in Russia have a shot and then they bite a lemon to kill the taste (pretty similar to drinking tequila, right? Wrong! But more on that later). Also, there is a habit of giving long, story-like toasts with a punch line, that is often a wordplay or a joke. Although a simple “za zdarov’ye” will do as well. Remember not to put emptied bottle back on the table – its place is under the table.
Drink: Tequila (31-55% vol.)
Customs: Although you might be tempted to to follow the example of what you see in the movies and make a lick-sip-suck (licking the salt, taking a shot, sucking a piece of lime) attempt on tequila, you shouldn’t. In Mexico you would instantly be labelled as “estúpido turista”. In order to earn local’s respect, take a neat shot of tequila. If you’re not as hardcore (it’s ok, if you’re not) take it with sangrita, which is a non-alcoholic drink consisting of orange, pomegranate and lime juices, chilli and some spices. Often there is also tomato juice involved, but many locals state that tomato was never a proper ingredient. What you do with sangrita is you take a sip of it a while after taking a shot of tequila. Now you can sit, relax and feel like a true Mexican.
Drink: Lager Beer (4-8% vol.)
“Cheers”: “Na zdraví”
Customs: The Czechs take their drinking really seriously. No wonder – they invented the lager beer! When in a pub you must obey some rules. First of all, you should expect that the waiter will bring you a new beer each time you get to the bottom of the previous one without being asked. It’s actually pretty comfortable – you don’t have to walk up to the bar every twelve minutes If you have enough, simply ask for the cheque (“zaplatim”) or cover your glass with a coaster. Also, as a rule you shouldn’t mess with someone else’s beer – sharing a beer with someone or finishing their drink is not accepted, even if you know the person. And the last thing: don’t pour beer to another glass, because this is how you ruin it.
Wherever you are, be sure to drink at least average quality liquor (for example with tequila always pick the one made from 100% agave). If you do that, your wallet might be a bit thinner, but your organism will thank you the next day: even if you forget yourself a little, the hangover will most probably be bearable. (A useful tip – to make the next morning painless try drinking water before you fall asleep – works for me!)