Drinking etiquette from around the world

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

In many countries, drinking often follows some sort of ritual and getting it wrong may unnecessarily cause offence. So here are some do's and don'ts from around the world.

In Peru: a glass of beer is shared among friends

One beer and a single glass are often shared among friends in Peru. The beer is poured little by little into the glass by each person before it is passed around. This traditional Peruvian way of drinking is definitely a cultural oddity. The Peruvian style of drinking is a highly sociable, often community-orientated process. The passing of beer and glass from one person to the next is a simple act of sharing, emphasizing the unity between the drinkers.

If you are accustomed to having your own glass, however, the process can be, in short, annoying. You can´t drink at your own pace and it´s almost impossible to keep track of how much you´ve drunk. Hygiene might also be an issue for some.

Don´t make a toast with beer in Hungary

When in Hungary, don´t raise a toast with beer. It is considered discourteous, as in 1848 the Austrian defeat of the Hungarian revolution was celebrated with lots of beer. The celebration marked the beginning of a long regime of terror and the vengeance against the rebel Hungarians. Still, many Hungarians clink glasses of beer today, as they claim that the protest was meant for 150 years.

If someone offers you a drink in Russia, it´s considered rude to turn it down

If you are offered a drink in Russia, it is seen as a sign of trust and frienship. Traditionally, you should accept it, as otherwise, it´s like you are saying: "I am not interested in your friendship." Remember that vodka should be taken straight, with no mixers. Also, when you open a bottle, it´s considered rude not to finish every drop. If you´re not a big drinker or you are not ready for more alcohol, keep your cup half-full. This rule isn´t so much about politeness but is a good rule to keep in mind when drinking with Russians. If they see an empty cup, they will automatically refill it to be polite.

Additionally if you don´t drink, the best way to fend off unwanted drinks is to say that a doctor said you aren´t allowed to drink.

Don´t fully fill your glass in France

Wine in France is a religion. It´s meant to be savoured, so drink it slowly. In France, never fill your glass to the brim - the French like to savour their wine as I mentioned, so they expect you to do the same. It is also considered food manners to serve women first. Although this changes more and more, old French table etiquette dictate that a woman doesn´t help herself to alcoholic drinks. If there are only women at the table, then one will just pick up the table, then one will just pick up the botlle and serve everybody. But if there is a man around, it´s "considered" his job to do it.

It´s also not customary to drink wine at 5 PM in France. In France, drinking wine is linked to eating food. You seldom drink wine just by itself: it´s not a rule, but it´s not really common either.

Make eye contact when making toasts in Germany and Czech Republic

When making a toasts in Germany or Czech Republic, be sure to maintain eye contact with until glasses are put back on the table. It´s considered a sign of trust and respect. Nobody can say for sure where, when and why the custom originated, however, there are number of theories, most of which relate to medieval times. The most credible explanation is that clinking glasses is an insurance mechanism against being poisoned.

hth So why the eye contact? The only way to be sure that the poison had not spilled into his glass would be watch the glasses as they hit each other. By making eye contact at that moment, the two drinkers assert to one another that there is no reason to look at the glasses, establishing a mutual trust that neither drink a poisoned.

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Never pour your own drink in Japan

Don´t pour your own drink in Japan. Instead, you are expected to pour the drinks of others and they´ll do the same for you. Ideally, you should have enough rounds of drinks for every person in the group to have poured the others a drink. If you´ve had enough, don´t serve others, or they´ll be obligated to fill your glass. The tradition of pouring for others and not directly for yourself is an act of politeness in Japanese culture. It creates interactions between the people. This act is known as "shaku suru" or "kumu".

The only time when it´s appropriate to pour your own sake is when you´re drinking alone.

In China, remember the complex drinking etiquette

China has a complex series of rules surrounding drinking at gatherings, especially when it comes to toasts. A few major points to keep in mind are to pour for elders or superiors first, to make sure that the glasses are filled completely, and to ensure that juniors don´t raise their glasses higher thant their elders.

Some rules of Chinese drinking etiquette:

  • If you are giving a toast, be sure to toast the most important person first.

  • Whether you are toasting or being toasted, try and keep your glass below the other person´s. This is a sign of respect and basically puts you in a lower position

  • Men are expected to drink more, women are not expected or required to drink as much.

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