Bottoms Up: Drinking Traditions from Around the World

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There are some deep social and cultural aspects to drinking in almost every country in the world (and no, I don’t mean drinking tea or coffee). Sure, going to your local bar for a beer might not seem that interesting, but there’s probably some traditions behind how you drink that you don’t even realize you’re following. For me, one of the most fun parts of travelling to a new place is learning about local drinking culture and trying native brew – whether it’s port, wine, beer, whiskey, or some other more exotic mix. As strange as it sounds, alcohol can tell you a lot about the history of a place and there are usually cultural nuances to getting a drink which can be just as fascinating. Let’s go bar-hopping around the globe and check out some intriguing facts about drinking culture abroad!

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Portugal

Portugal, Porto to be more specific, is the land of Port wine. Old Port is usually good Port and it’s very important to open the bottle without disturbing the sediment or breaking apart the cork inside. Which is why the Portuguese developed a mildly complicated way to do so. That involves red hot tongs. Yup. Maybe we should stick to buying Port in bottles with screw-off tops.

Australia

When out drinking with friends Down Under, everyone in the group is expected to ‘shout’ (buy) a round of drinks. It’s considered very rude and bad form to not do so at least once. Say it with me: Next round is on me!

Greece

On the island of Crete, people have a drinking tradition called koupa. You call on someone and that person has to down their glass and kiss the bottom for good luck before calling on someone else in the group. Basically, it’s a great way to get really drunk, really fast with all your friends.

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Hong Kong

If you’ve ever wanted to embody the strength of a wild animal, Hong Kong might be the perfect place to go drinking. In Hong Kong, animal parts are put in alcohol and left sitting for years. Supposedly after a long period of time the alcohol will take on the properties of the animal. Hence, if you drink cobra wine you’ll become as strong as a cobra, and so on. Not great for putting a stop to the trafficking of wild animals though, is it!

France

There are few countries in the world that embody a drinking culture the way France does, and do it so elegantly. Drinking in France is a dignified proceeding. Ladies are served first, glasses are never allowed to get less than half empty, and drinking bouts can last for many hours as the goal isn’t to get drunk but to enjoy the drink!

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Germany

People often joke that Germans have the tradition of drinking before noon. The truth is, drinking alcohol holds less of a taboo in Germany than it does in the U.S. so you probably will find people nursing a cold one at ten in the morning. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

Russia

Drinking in Russia can be a more hardcore experience and at times literally comes down to the last man standing. In Russia there is a drinking game called Man Down where men drink vodka until one of them falls or passes out. Oh, and refusing to drink is considered a huge insult so bottoms up!

Czech Republic

Toasting is serious business in most countries and the Czech Republic is no exception. When toasting, always be sure to make eye contact and avoid crossing your arms. Why? If you do, you’ll be cursed with seven years of bad sex. Yikes!

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Hungary

When toasting in Hungary, never clink your beer glass with someone else’s. This tradition has to do with history as, according to legend, when the Austrians defeated the Hungarian uprising in 1848 they celebrated by clinking beer glasses together.

China

In China you’re expected to ganbei, or dry the cup, when out drinking with friends or colleagues. Forget savouring the flavor of the alcohol or releasing the tannins in the wine, drink it up then turn the glass upside down on the table to show that you’ve indeed drunk your cup dry.

Peru

Drinking in Peru is a very social experience, hence the tradition of sharing one beer and one glass amongst friends. The first person will pour a shot of beer, down it, then pass the beer and the glass to the next person until everyone has had a drink.

What are some interesting drinking traditions you’ve taken part in? Share your global bar-hopping experiences with us!

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