Alcohol Etiquette: A Guide to Getting Drunk Around the World

Getting drunk is easy. Being a worldly, respectable drunk takes practice.

Whether you’re tipping a glass in Tokyo or bottoms-upping in Berlin, don’t be that chugging booze guzzler with no regard for local customs. Save your embarrassment for the end of the night when you’re crawling back to your hotel on all fours or hurling into the gutter. Alcohol consumption culture is as varied as Oktoberfest’s beer selection. We can’t cover them all without getting cirrhosis but here are a few places around the world where drunk mastery is crucial.

Europe

Photo by: basykes

Russia

Do we even have to say it? Here, you drink vodka—oceans of it. It’s sacrilege to taint that holy water with any kind of mixer, so learn to shoot it straight. And no leaving leftovers: opening a bottle means finishing a bottle. Line up the empties on the floor, not the table.

Germany

Wait for the host to take the first drink before diving face-first into your beer stein. And don’t even think about arguing the merits of American beer versus German—there’s no way to win that battle. Compliment the food and beverage, lock eyes with the person you’re cheers-ing with, and drink up like it’s water (since it sells for virtually the same price).

France

Slow your roll. Guzzling your wine is looked down upon. Dudes, be gentlemanly and fill the ladies’ wine glasses for them. Ladies, let them. You can signal you’re done drinking by leaving your glass half full or more; on the flip side, an empty glass begs for a refill.

Asia

Photo by: Kimishowota

Japan

Serving one another is part of maintaining the group harmony that Japanese society is built on, so fill your friends’ cups and allow them to do the same for you. It’s customary to share pitchers of beer and bottles of sake during the first few rounds since having everyone downing the same kind of drink also helps throw some lube on the sometimes-stiff social dynamics.

China

When you touch glasses with someone who is considered senior to you—be it in age or social status—keep your rim under theirs. If you’re the one making the toast, show your respect by standing up and taking it all in one shot, then tilting your glass towards your companion so they can see that you’ve lived up to the meaning of the toast “ganbei” by drying your cup.

Korea

Toasts are a rotating responsibility. The table clinks together and drinks together—typically, the drink of choice is soju, a kind of poor-man’s vodka—multiple times a night. Don’t shoot down the whole glass each time or you’ll get drunk faster than the Amish on Rumspringa. A sip for each cheers will do. Also, raise your glass with both hands, not just one, and turn your head away from your companions when you drink.

South America

Photo by: mi perdicion

Argentina

Argentineans keep it classy and so should you. Getting fall-down drunk will not make you popular, so handle your booze like a boss. Dispensing wine takes a practiced hand in this part of the world and screwing it up could you get you on Argentina’s shit list forever. For those who want to brave it anyway, the basics are: never pour with the left hand and don’t hold the bottle backwards (that is, with your hand under the bottle, palm-up).

Colombia

The local firewater is aguardiente and no night out on the town is complete without it. A group will typically go in on a bottle and take shots out of it all night. Prove your mettle by downing a mouthful of this anise-flavored rotgut with a smile. Public drinking is permitted, so aguardiente makes a fine choice for stoop or park sippin’.

Africa

Photo by: Newsbie Pix

Morocco

There are a lot of don’ts when it comes to drinking in Morocco—after all, alcohol is technically illegal, although tourists typically get a pass. Don’t offer alcohol to Muslims, don’t drink in view of a mosque, and don’t drink in public during Ramadan. Also, be prepared to pay more than usual for beer, wine, and spirits; consider the cost as the price you pay for the cachet of being an outlaw.

Ethiopia

A sweet drink that goes down smooth, tej is a kind of honey mead that is served from a bulbous bottle with a long, thin neck. Grasp the vessel by the neck and spill out the first bit to remove any honey that has congealed on top of the liquid. Tella, a cereal-grain-brewed beer, is another way to go if you want to get a bit of the local flavor.

Australia

Photo by: Luigi Torreggiani

Don’t slide up to the bar and order just for yourself. Drinks are bought in rounds, a practice known as “shouting” beers. Coming prepared to the bar means showing up with a fair amount of stomach space—eating is cheating!

If you’ve gotten so sauced that you can’t remember the country you’re in, let alone the rules for good etiquette, fall back on the one basic tenet we should all live our lives by: don’t be a dick. Don’t turn your nose up at the local liquor, remember to say please and thank you (even a slurry attempt is usually appreciated), and take your drunk ass home when the room starts spinning.