As the holiday season approaches, more and more of us are planning our festive getaways. With over 4.5 million Brits jetting off overseas for Christmas each year, we seem to be finding the allure of a Christmas abroad appealing.
With Christmas and New Year’s Eve often involving more than a festive tipple or two, luxury holiday provider eShores have put together quick guides on drinking do’s and don’ts for some of the nation’s favourite festive holiday spots.
What to Drink
Although some bar staples can be found all over the world, most countries have a speciality. Sampling these local beverages is an important part of experiencing the drinking cultures of the country you’re visiting.
In the UK, beer and scotch whiskey are iconic drinks. Germany also has a strong tie to beer, which often comes in large stein glasses in bars and pubs across the country. France and Spain have stronger connections to wine, so keep an eye out for local vineyards!
Elsewhere, you’ll find liquors are the drink of choice. For example, vodka is a common option in Russia, whilst the Japanese often drink sake (a strong rice wine).
How and When to Drink
In the UK, we tend to drink more regularly in the evening but not all countries follow this trend. In continental Europe, drinking trends are a little more relaxed.
It’s not unusual for people in Spain, France and Germany to start drinking earlier in the day. In Germany there is even a tradition called frühschoppen, which involves meeting friends and family in the pub for a drink on Sunday mornings. This stems from the custom of visiting the pub after church.
Iceland is at the other end of the scale, with night outs in the country starting later than elsewhere. It’s very common for drinking to start after midnight in Iceland, so be prepared to be drinking Brennivín till the early hours of the morning.
Drinking Traditions Around the World
Once you’ve got a handle on the above, take a look into drinking traditions in the country you’re visiting. People will expect you to toast in a certain way or follow certain behaviours when drinking. After all, you don’t want to get any funny looks from the locals.
In the UK drinking traditions include ‘cheersing’ your mates in the pub and chipping in your bit when buying rounds. The more risque dare to challenge Bottom’s Up when in more liberal drinking environments. Most countries also have their own toasting traditions to accompany a drinking session.
In Spain, the word used to make a toast is “skál”. In France, you’ll hear either “tchin, tchin” or “santé”. A lot of European countries also have actions that accompany their toasts. In Spain you’ll be expected to chink your glasses and keep eye contact. If you don’t, folklore says you’ll be cursed with seven years’ bad sex!
Table manners are important too. When drinking in Japan, you’ll be expected to take note of your elders. If you’re ever drinking with relatives, friends or managers, turn your head away from them when you are drinking to show them respect. In France, don’t start your drink until everyone at the table has been served a glass, otherwise you might be thought of as rude.
Drinking Laws in Different Countries
Breaking drinking laws can land you in trouble, so be sure that you are clued up about what is and is not allowed when you are travelling.
One of the major areas to check up on, especially if you’re travelling with young people, is the legal drinking age. A few countries, like the Czech Republic and Spain, are in line with the UK on this point and have a legal drinking age of 18.
Others, like Germany and Russia, differ slightly. In Germany, the legal drinking age for spirits is 18, but beer and wine can be consumed from the age of 16. This is also the case in France. In Russia, the legal age to buy alcohol is 18, but there is no restriction on who can consume it.
Other countries have higher drinking ages than the UK. Both Iceland and Japan, for example, have a minimum drinking age of 20.
Quite a few countries also have laws about where you can buy and drink alcohol – and Iceland is one of the strictest. Other than bars and restaurants, the only place you can buy is at government owned Vinbudin stores. There are only 46 of these in the country, so if you need alcohol for an event or party, it’s best to plan ahead and get it early.
In Russia, the location of drinking is also strictly controlled. The consumption of alcohol is prohibited in public places, other than in bars and restaurants – so don’t be tempted to have a drink in parks or other open spaces.
Drinking is an important part of socialising all over the world. It can help bring people together, break down boundaries and forge new friendships. These guidelines give a bit of insight into what’s the norm in different countries and what to expect if you’re planning to visit them.