If you are a traveller, we are sure you have done a lot of drinking around the world and made many interesting friends. But for many people, they haven’t been that lucky – yet!
Around the world, drinking is not just about the beverage or getting tipsy for no reason (though sometimes it is correct?!).
It’s an expression of culture, history, and social norms. For travellers and enthusiasts, understanding these cultural nuances can transform a simple drink into a meaningful experience.
No matter where you are based, we recommend enjoying a drink with people from around the world, in person or online, via video platforms like Drinking Mates Live. The platform offers live chat translation for over 90 languages to remove communication barriers and opening up a whole new world of fun!
To help you feel more comfortable drinking around the world with new people, we have compiled a summary of what makes each country unique regarding their drinking culture.
How many of these countries have you been to? Or better yet, how many people from these countries have you shared a drink with?
Let’s get into it – cheers!
The Land of the Rising Sun is famous for its rice wine sake. Traditionally consumed in tiny ceramic cups, sake is deeply embedded in Japanese ceremonies and celebrations. A unique feature of Japanese drinking etiquette is pouring for others. Letting someone else pour your drink is considered polite, and vice versa. When it’s time to drink, a spirited “kampai!” – similar to “cheers” – is exclaimed.
Wine is not just a drink in France; it’s a way of life. With wine-producing regions like Bordeaux and Champagne, the French have a wine for every occasion. Before meals, it’s customary to have an aperitif, a pre-dinner drink, and post-meals might include a digestif. The French often raise their glasses with a friendly “Santé!”
In Russia, vodka is more than just a popular drink; it’s a symbol of national pride. Typically consumed in shots, vodka is accompanied by pickles or other salty snacks. Toasts are integral to Russian drinking culture, often long and heartfelt. When glasses clink, it’s often accompanied by the Russian equivalent of “Cheers,” “За здоровье!” (Za zdorovye!)
Tequila and mezcal, distilled from the agave plant, hold cultural significance in Mexico. Contrary to popular belief, Mexicans prefer to sip their tequila, savouring its flavours rather than shooting it. When toasting, it’s customary to say “Salud!”. Drinking around the world is fun, but it doesn’t get much more fun than tequila in Mexico!
Soju, a clear spirit, dominates South Korean drinking culture. An interesting custom is always using both hands when pouring or receiving a drink. South Korean drinking sessions are often lively, featuring numerous drinking games designed to bolster camaraderie.
No matter where you are drinking around the world, you have probably run into an Irish person. Pubs in Ireland are much more than drinking spots; they’re community gathering places. Whiskey and Guinness stand out as popular Irish drinks. When raising a glass in Ireland, it’s customary to say “Sláinte,” wishing good health to those around you.
Germany is synonymous with beer, thanks partly to its Beer Purity Law, which has ensured quality brews since 1516. Beer gardens or ‘Biergartens’ are popular spots to enjoy a pint. Germany’s Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, celebrates the nation’s rich brewing heritage. Each region boasts its beer specialties, from Hefeweizens to Dunkels. Remember to look each other in the eye when you say “Prost”; otherwise, they say it’s 7 years of bad luck in sex! Nobody wants that, right?
Baijiu, one of the world’s most potent spirits, dominates Chinese drinking culture. Made primarily from sorghum, its robust flavour is an acquired taste for many. Toasting plays a significant role in Chinese business and family gatherings, often with the exclamation “干杯!” (Gān bēi!) meaning “Dry the glass!”
In Spain, evenings often start with a relaxing “tapa” and a glass of wine or sherry. Cava, Spain’s sparkling wine, is reserved for celebrations. Post-meal chats, known as “Sobremesa,” involve lingering at the table, savouring drinks, and having deep conversations.
Australia’s wine culture is renowned globally, especially in regions like Barossa Valley and Margaret River. Additionally, craft beer culture has seen a surge. The Australian way to toast is with a simple “Cheers,” and in pubs, the “shout” system is common, where rounds are bought for the group. Aussies love drinking around the world and are regular travellers. Drinking Mates Live is a great way to drink online and get to know some Aussies who may be visiting you soon so you can drink in person!
Italy is renowned for its wines, from the bubbly Prosecco to the robust Chianti. The Aperitivo, a pre-meal drink meant to stimulate the appetite, is a cherished tradition. Drinks like Aperol Spritz and Campari are favourites. It’s common to hear “Salute!” when Italians raise their glasses.
India boasts a variety of alcoholic beverages, with whisky being the most popular. Additionally, traditional drinks like ‘toddy’ (from palm trees) and ‘fenny’ (from cashew apples) have regional significance. The consumption of alcohol can be a matter of celebration, but it’s often done in moderation, especially in religious communities. With over 1 billion Indians on the planet, there is a good chance you will find them drinking around the world at a bar near you!
Brazil is synonymous with its national spirit, Cachaça, used to make the famous cocktail, Caipirinha. The country’s vibrant nightlife and festivals like Carnival often see people dancing and enjoying drinks. The phrase “Saúde!” is Brazil’s version of “Cheers!”. Brazillians love soccer, so if you do, why not have a few drinks over a video call on Drinking Mates Live while watching a game?
South Africa’s Cape Winelands produce some of the world’s best wines. The country also has a traditional beer called “umqombothi,” made from maize and sorghum. Braais (BBQs) are common social occasions where drinks flow freely.
Ouzo, with its strong anise flavour, is Greece’s iconic drink. Traditionally served with a splash of water or over ice, it’s often paired with mezes. Greeks often toast to health with the phrase “ΥΓΕΙΑ!” (Yamas!)
Rakı, often called ‘lion’s milk’ due to its cloudy appearance when mixed with water, is Turkey’s national drink. This anise-flavoured spirit is typically paired with mezes, especially seafood. The common toast is “Şerefe!” which translates to “Honor!”
While Argentina is famed for its wines, especially Malbec, it’s also home to a vibrant cocktail scene. Although non-alcoholic, the social act of sharing a Yerba Mate tea is as integral to Argentine culture as any spirit.
Thailand’s spirit, Mekhong, is often mixed with cola or consumed straight. Beer is also popular, especially brands like Singha and Chang. A common Thai toast is “Chai-yo!”
The Swedes have a tradition called “fika”, which involves taking a break for coffee and pastries, but when it comes to alcohol, they love their snaps, often consumed on festive occasions. Aquavit is a popular spirit, and the Swedes often sing snapsvisor (drinking songs) before taking a shot.
In Kenya, beer is widely consumed, with Tusker being the most popular brand. However, traditional drinks like “busaa,” a type of beer, and “changaa,” a potent spirit, have cultural significance, especially in rural areas. Social gatherings called “nyama choma” involve grilling meat and enjoying it with drinks.
Aquavit, a flavoured spirit, is Norway’s signature drink. Distilled from potatoes or grain, it’s often consumed during festive occasions like Christmas and weddings. Norwegians might toast with “Skål!” which means “Cheers!”
Scotland is synonymous with Scotch whisky. With several regions producing distinct flavour profiles, from the smoky Islay malts to the light and floral Speyside varieties, there’s a Scotch for everyone. The Scots might toast with “Slàinte mhath!” which means “Good health!”. If you are a whiskey lover, then of all the places you could be drinking around the world, Scotland would be your number one choice.
Jamaica is renowned for its rum, a testament to its Caribbean heritage. Drinks like the Jamaican rum punch are a favourite among locals and tourists alike. A relaxed “Cheers!” or “To life!” is often the toasting phrase of choice.
Portugal is famous for its port wine, especially from the Douro Valley. Additionally, vinho verde, a young and slightly effervescent wine, is widely enjoyed. “Saúde!” is the customary toast, wishing good health. Portugal has an excellent reputation for being one of the best, low-cost places to live on the planet. If you love drinking around the world but have to think about the budget, spending time in Portugal could be the way to go!
Belgium boasts a rich beer culture, with hundreds of distinct beer varieties, including the globally renowned Trappist beers. Each beer often has its designated glassware. Belgians might raise their glasses with a cheerful “Santé!”
Vietnam’s beer culture is thriving, with local beers like Bia Hơi being enjoyed in street-side bars. The country also produces rice wines, like Rượu Đế. A Vietnamese toast often goes “Trăm phần trăm!” which means “100%!” indicating one should finish their drink.
Poland is known for its vodka, and it’s often consumed neat and cold. Brands like Zubrówka, which contains a blade of bison grass, are popular. A traditional Polish toast is “Na zdrowie!” which translates to “To health!”
Peru is renowned for its Pisco, a grape brandy. The Pisco Sour cocktail blends Pisco with lemon juice, egg white, and syrup and is a national favourite. Toasting with “¡Salud!” is customary.
The Philippines is known for Tanduay rum, but locally, a coconut wine called “tuba” and a distilled spirit known as “lambanog” are traditional favourites, especially in provincial areas of the Philippines. When raising a glass, Filipinos might say “Tagay!” which means “Cheers!” Also, try their Red Horse beer – it is powerful with a good bite!
While New Zealand is globally acclaimed for its wines, especially Sauvignon Blanc, it also has a thriving craft beer scene. Social gatherings might involve a “bring a bottle” or “BYO” culture. A simple “Cheers!” usually precedes a sip.
Drinking cultures reflect a nation’s history, traditions, and social nuances. While the beverages may intoxicate, the shared moments, the stories told, and the glasses raised in unity truly enchant. As always, it’s essential to enjoy responsibly and with a deep respect for local customs.
Drinking around the world and with different people is so much fun and can lead to many new opportunities.
So, what are you waiting for! It’s time to make some new drinking buddies from around the world and make some new memories.
Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.