The Pause Guide to International Drinking


If British History can be defined by one thing, it is our national tendency to go abroad and drink excessive amounts of alcohol. From the rum-soaked pirates who raided Spanish shipping in the 16th and 17th centuries to the drunken hordes that have descended on Europe for countless wars and, in more recent decades, international football tournaments, it is important and a crucial part of our cultural heritage to get this right. Much to the disagreement of certain demographics, however, ‘getting this right’ does not mean the stereotypical acts of senseless vandalism that have marred recent football outings to Europe, as short as these trips might be given the state of our football team. Allow Pause to discuss the different drinks and drinking cultures you may experience on your travels around the world and guide you through the challenges that lie ahead.

Firstly, we must quickly gloss over our cousins from across the Atlantic. This is a dark part of the world when it comes to boozing. Firstly, the drinking age in most of the United States is 21, and the country even banned alcohol outright for over a decade. But, what, assuming you got past this age restriction can you expect? American teenagers do not spend their youths drinking cider and WKD down the local park and their livers show for it. Those red cups you see in the films are small for a reason, and games such as ‘beer pong’ serve to making drinking a pint a much longer process in terms of time, greatly impeding your chances of getting properly blotto when you’re stateside. The ‘craft beer’ movement started here, which tells you everything you need to know. It’s either that or watered-down lager, but some people like that sort of thing. However, they have midnight snack food absolutely nailed down and this will be the highlight of your experience. Canada is broadly the same but with a stronger chip on shoulder.

In the spirit of 2016, we move straight from America to the opposite end of the drinking scale, Russia. It is hard to prepare our readers for the hypothetical bender in Moscow, except for don’t bother trying to keep up with the locals. Slamming a couple of quad-vods in Sobar on Tuesday isn’t going to prepare you for drinking like the people do here. The toasts are long, sometimes taking a couple of minutes, and the vodka flows well into the following morning. Should you find yourself in this position, the best toast to make is “to your health”, which in Russian is “Na Zdorovie”. Ordering drinks isn’t too hard, pointing and saying “vodka” is going to do here really. Shots here are often double the size of what you will be used to at home, just to make things a bit more challenging in not utterly disgracing yourself.

Moving westwards into Europe, that continent we used to be part of, we can find Germany. Germany is often famed for beer, however much of the produce here is the sort of gassy lager your uncle drinks in Wetherspoons on a Thursday morning; the serious sots will hope over from Munich to the Czech Republic in search of top quality bevvies. In any case, you’ll be glad for the bread and sausage based nature of food in Germany to help you digest the fizz coming from the booze. Weissbier, wheat-based beer, is allegedly pleasant however the author cannot drink the stuff and is unable to pass comment. The main way to say cheers here is “Prost”, which is one of the easier foreign terms mentioned in this guide.

Southwards towards the Mediterranean, we will find some even more different experiences. If you go to Greece, the dodgy holiday drink which the waiter’s uncle makes in his shepherd’s hut, will certainly hit the spot. Just watch out for the hangover and a mild dose of methanol poisoning. Spain and Italy pose different problems. Not going out until midnight will make staying awake long enough to actually drink a challenge. In reality you will be in bed by the same time as a typical night down Jester’s because this is again a society where good old fashioned benders don’t really happen, and they are often quite pleasant evenings with good food and company. Nonetheless if you’re looking to drink properly you might struggle. Unless you go to one of those resort towns full of wannabe TOWIE stars, in which case you might as well be at home really.

One thing to be aware of is the foreign climes and how they can affect yourself in this context. The saying is that only “mad dogs and Englishmen” go out in the midday sun in hot countries, but be aware as those with pasty complexions will find this quite dangerous. Sunburn is a major issue, but so is how the climate will lower your capacity to drink. So kids, remember not to go out in the heat of the day and to apply suncream. Take your mother along if you need help either applying suncream or being reminded of these basic precautions.


Pause Editor 2015-7, History student on Erasmus, maker of low-quality satire. When not writing for Pause, I dabble in Travel and Politics.

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