Few things tell you more about a nation’s people than they way the guzzle their booze. Of course, knowing how to properly greet someone (handshake or kiss on the cheek?) or what to wear for a dinner party (suit and tie or flip-flops and shorts?) is important, but knowing how to drink with someone is a surefire way to earn the respect of your new-found friends abroad.
Remember these strangest drinking customs from around the world the next time you’re in a foreign land and you’ll make yourself the talk of the town…or the talk of the pub, at least.
France: The French are dignified drinkers. Ladies are served first, glasses only filled halfway, and it is considered vulgar to pour your own drink.
England: Toasting originated in 17th century England. Spiced bread was added to wine to increase flavor and cut through acidity.
Spain: In Spain it is believed that toasting with a glass of water will earn you seven years of bad sex. The last drink of the evening is only ever called the “penultima” drink. The “ultima” drink is the last drink of your life.
Italy: Italians only drink water or wine with their meals. Other drinks such as beer or soda are considered off-limits.
Portugal: To open a bottle of port without ruining the sediment and spoiling it, the Portuguese invented a theatrical process to open the bottle that includes red-hot tongs and ice.
Germany: The night before a wedding, the bride is kidnapped by the groomsmen and taken to a bar. The groom must find the group and buy them all a round to retrieve his bride.
Holland: The Dutch have developed a handless method for drinking whiskey that involves picking up the shot glass with your mouth.
Czech Republic: You must make eye contact when clinking glasses with another for cheers. But don’t cross arms unless you want to have seven years of bad sex (like the Spaniards who toast with a glass of water).
Georgia: It is normal for any meal to involve 20 to 30 toasts. Foreign guests are expected to participate.
Ukraine: At a wedding, if a bride raises her feet off the ground her shoes will be stolen. The footwear will then be tossed around the room and drank from.
Hungary: Do not clink your glasses in Hungary. In 1848, 13 revolutionaries were executed for leading an uprising against Austria, and their deaths were celebrated with the clinking of beer glasses… Hungarians don’t let go of things easily.
Iceland: Two national holidays in Iceland prove how much this country likes to drink. March 1 is Beer Day and Verslunarmannahelgi in August is a weekend of free flowing libations.
Russia: Empty bottles and glasses are always placed under the table.
Kazakhstan: Kumis, a drink made from fermented horse milk is Kazakhstan’s national drink and custom is for leftovers to always be poured back into the jug.
China: never hold your drink higher than an elder holds his or hers. The first drink should be downed quickly with the glass placed upside down on the table to show it is empty.
Nigeria: For a bride and groom to be considered married, they need to first have a drink of traditional palm wine.
Australia: Shout when ordering a round of drinks…or just shout always, it seems to be the norm in Australia.
Peru: Beer is shared from one glass among friends. Pour a shot and down it before passing the glass on.
Canada: At the Sourdough Salon in Yukon, the Sour Toe Cocktail Club dates back to 1973 and consists of thousands of patrons who have downed a shot of whiskey containing a dehydrated human toe. But don’t swallow it. After a trouble-making patron recently did swallow it (paying a US$500 fine for doing so), the bar has upped the fine to US$2,500.
Japan: It is impolite to fill your own drink, and never turn away from the group when sipping—it is a sign of disrespect.