Drinking Etiquette Around The World

As a race, humans have many things in common. One of those things is that across the board of different countries and cultures, most of us enjoy a tipple or two at some point – whether it be to celebrate a special occasion, for ceremonial reasons – or just because it’s a weekend.

Have you ever wondered what the drinking etiquette around the world is? It makes for quite fascination reading, to see what other countries get up to when they raise their glasses! If you are interested in reading about other countries’ drinking habits, then read on.

Different Country, Different Rules

Each different country and culture has different rules, both written and unwritten, when it comes to drinking. Some countries are completely dry of alcohol, such as Saudi Arabia, some absolutely forbid drinking in any public place, while in others it can be enjoyed in moderation.

Some countries encourage communal drinking in large quantities, while others favour simply a glass or two of wine with dinner, any more and you would be considered an alcoholic.

In some countries, drinking is seen as a very serious affair, reserved for special events or business occasions, while in others it is the expected social norm.

The most important thing to remember is that old phrase “when in Rome…” (or Spain, Thailand, Japan – wherever you are) – you must remember to respect the traditions, habits and wishes of the locals.

If they like to drink in big groups with everyone paying for a round with everyone else, such as in the UK, then you should join in.

If you find yourself in a country where it is important to face away from your host when taking a sip, as in Korea, then you must remember to do the same, or you may end up on the outside of any social group, drinking alone – which is never a good place to be!

Let’s have a look at a few individual countries and their drinking etiquette:


The Irish are known for their drinking habits; sometimes in a derogatory fashion by other cultures. The truth is the Irish enjoy a drink as much as the next man, and they make sure they really enjoy it too!

Cheering on a favourite team or a horse race is a good excuse to head to the pub for a drink or several, and you will be sure of a warm and enthusiastic welcome if you join in the crowds there.

Just remember to reciprocate if someone buys you a drink; otherwise you will be seen as stingy and no one will offer again. Oh, and remember to agree very loudly that Guinness from Ireland is better than Guinness anywhere else in the world (it really is!)


Hungarians are, in general, gregarious and generous hosts, and you will very rarely find yourself staring at the bottom of an empty glass. One thing to remember in Hungary though is that you should never clink glasses.

This harks back from 1849 during the Hapsburg revolution, when 13 Hungarian martyrs were hanged, and their Austrian enemies clinked glasses to celebrate their demise. Hungarians vowed to never clink glasses for 150 years after this, and the tradition still stands in most places.


The Chinese enjoy a good toast (or rather, a great many good toasts) over a meal, but there are rules to be followed. You must touch glasses with the toaster as a sign of respect, and if you are the one being toasted then you should follow up with a toast to your host, again as a mark of respect.

If more than one person is being toasted, glasses are banged on the table after the first toast instead of being touched to each other. Often you will find three glasses by your plate; one is for wine, one for shots, and one for the drink that you have actually chosen.

You must never fill up your own glass, but you are expected to fill up the glasses of those more senior than you, right up to the brim, and remember to allow your seniors’ glasses to be raised higher than yours when you clink.


Unsurprisingly, given that Russia is the home of Vodka, this is the most widespread drink and shots of it are even used to break the ice at business meetings. If you are teetotal, you may find that this affects your business relationships if you are working in Russia!

Vodka shots must always be downed in one, as it is considered bad manners to put down a glass that still contains alcohol. Also, empty bottles must be placed on the floor, rather than on the table.


It’s all about keeping the crowds happy in this genial country. You must never drink alone, and chances are you will never have an opportunity to do so anyway as there will always be someone waiting to whisk you off to the pub for a tinny or fifteen.

Always remember that it is considered very bad form to just buy a drink for yourself though, so make sure you go out with a full wallet as you will be expected to treat everyone – the upside is that you will have countless drinks bought for you too!

Final Words

Wherever in the world you are drinking, you should always try to drink responsibly so that you can avoid hangovers and potentially embarrassing situations.

It is also important to do a little bit of homework before you go out drinking in a foreign country, to make sure that you are following the local customs closely enough that you don’t offend anyone or make a fool of yourself.

It is easy enough to research drinking etiquette around the world, so just do a little reading on the country you are going to and make sure that you fit in with their drinking customs and you should be laughing (with your hip flask, all the way to the bar!)

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