Global Drinking Etiquette

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Global Drinking Etiquette

Drinking Etiquette from Around the World

In this globalised world, we’re more inclined to share our grog with people from other countries. Indeed, fun, responsible drinking is a marvellous way to bond with other nationalities. It’s the ultimate social lubricant and can pave the way to great intercultural friendships.

This is where drinking etiquette comes in. Each country and culture has its own way of toasting and imbibing. For some, a simple “cheers” suffices. For others, the rules are a little more complicated. If you want to get your international drinking party off to the smoothest start, here are some basic rules that all drinkers – and bartenders – should know.

Asian Etiquette

Asian countries have rather complex and crucial rules with regards to drinking. Failure to observe these rules can result in red faces all around the table – and not from the booze. In China, Japan and Korea, drinking is a ceremonial event in which it’s vital to observe protocol. In China, for instance, it’s important not to touch your drink until your host has raised his/her glass first. When toasting your Chinese companions, ensure that the tip of your glass touches theirs just underneath the rim – it’s a sign of respect.

Things get a little tougher in Japan, which is notorious for its meticulous and methodical approach to hitting the swill. Do not even think about pouring your own drink. Always wait for someone to top you up. This is an agonizing experience for anyone unfamiliar with Japanese drinking rituals. They key is to offer to pour for others, and hope they reciprocate in kind.

To show respect to your Korean party companions, toast by raising your glass with your right hand, and using your left hand to support your right arm. This is an eloquent gesture that should be used at all times, in particular with those older than you. Deference to one’s elders is a significant social rule in Confucian Korea.

Eastern Europe

In Eastern European countries, it’s not so much the toast itself as what you say while doing it. Thankfully, the popular expression “to your health” sounds similar across the region, from Belarus to Bulgaria. In the former country, for instance, say “Na zdo ro vie!” In the Czech Republic, locals commonly shout “Na zaravie!” Having a hard time pronouncing it? Simply say “Nice driveway” in your most grizzled Eastern European accent and you’ll be pretty close to the real thing.

Drinking with a Russian is probably a teetotaller’s worst nightmare. Russian drinking parties are taken very seriously, and non-drinkers are regarded with suspicion and alarm. Never refuse a drink unless you have a plausible excuse, like religion or health.

Western Europe

Toasting in the Romance Countries is all about health and happiness. Whether is a “Salute!” in Italy or a “Santé” in France, the Western European drinking experience is simple and straightforward. The rules tend to tighten the closer you get to Germany, however. Etiquette demands that, when toasting, each glass must always touch the others. It’s also vital to maintain direct eye-contact with every person you toast, right up until you place your glass back onto the table.

Thankfully for us in Australia, drinking is a down-to-earth affair, with a simple system of cheers-and-clink. However, if you’re interested in making friends from all over the world, knowing these basic rules will make you popular quickly.