The Craziest Drinking Customs From Countries All Over the World

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: Free-Photos/Pixabay

Perhaps it's no surprise that drinkers around the world have come up with all sorts of strange and wacky traditions when it comes to the consumption of alcohol. After all, inebriation can spawn all sorts of "brilliant" ideas, right?

Here you'll find a collection of some of the craziest drinking customs around the world that have actually caught on and become parts of their respective cultures. Get ready for a handy guide on how to get tipsy across the globe!

German Bride-napping

In countries around the world, nothing quite says "marital bliss" like a booze-laden celebration. In Germany, pre-wedding antics take an odd turn with a little bridal kidnapping. On the night before a lucky girl is wed, the groomsmen kidnap her and take her to a local bar.

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The groom must locate the pub she's been taken to and buy a round for her abductors as "ransom" for the bride. Though searching through every bar in town for his missing fiancee may not be every groom's idea of romance, the whole thing has become a lighthearted German tradition.

Igbo Wedding Wine Sipping

While drinking is involved in many a wedding, it's an important part of the actual ceremony among the Igbo people of Nigeria. During the wedding, the groom sits among a large group of his family members and friends. The bride's father begins the proceedings and gives his daughter a cup or glass of palm wine.

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Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The bride then seeks out the groom among the crowd, kneels and hands him the glass. He accepts and drinks the wine, after which the couples' parents pronounce the wedding vows complete and officially dub them man and wife.

Russian Vodka-drinking Etiquette

If you ever find yourself traveling through Russia, then be prepared to settle in for a long drinking session if your host pulls out a bottle of Russia's favorite liquor. Not only is it customary to keep drinking until the bottle is empty, but there are also a few important rules of etiquette.

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In Russia, vodka is always served straight up and never soiled with blasphemous mixers. When the bottle is done, don't be surprised if you see it disappear. Russian drinking tradition dictates that an empty bottle always gets placed beneath the table.


Australia's "Shouting" Tradition

If your travels ever take you to the land down under, then you may come across a drinking custom known as "shouting." Rest assured that the term refers more to a drinking tradition than the boisterous volume levels that may result. When a group of "shouters" gets together, it basically means that they take turns buying rounds.

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Photo Courtesy: kaicho20/Pixabay

The shouting continues until each member of the group has purchased a round for the others. Don’t cheap out of buying your round unless you're prepared to break one of the most sacred trusts in the annals of boozing.

The Origin of the Term "Toasting"

Ever wonder where the term "toasting" came from? It's believed to go all the way back to the 16th century when people used to literally put pieces of bread in wine. As it turns out, most of the wine back then wasn't quite as tasty as it is today.

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It was believed that adding a piece of toast to a jug would help impart a little flavor and soak up some of the acidity. Shakespeare's character Falstaff even mentions the custom when he says, "Go fetch me a quart of sack; put a toast in’t."

Hungary's Toasting Ban

If there's one place you never want to be caught toasting or clinking glasses, it's Hungary. The country once banned the custom due to memories of an unfortunate incident in 1848. Legend has it that when the Hungarian Revolution was crushed, the victorious Austrians celebrated by toasting and clinking glasses.

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Not only did the Hungarians observe a 150-year toasting ban, but they never really recovered their taste for it, even after so much time had passed. Nothing like a foiled revolution to take the cheeriness out of "cheers," right?


Bolivian Miner Sacrifices

The use of alcohol in religious ceremonies certainly isn't a strange concept, given that Catholics around the world drink it during Mass regularly. In Bolivia, pure grain alcohol is sometimes used to appease the mountain spirit El Tio.

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Not only is the alcohol sometimes consumed before heading into the mines, but some miners even build small altars to El Tio deep within the mines themselves. Small amounts of alcohol are sometimes poured over such shrines as an offering in the hopes that El Tio will bless the miners' work.

Korean Drinking’s Unspoken Conversations

In Korea, drinking is taken so seriously that it's often said your success in business can be measured by your success as a drinker. When attending a Korean business meeting, rest assured that no glass will ever be empty, as this is considered incredibly rude.

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If you're doing a round of shots, it's essential that no one imbibe until the oldest person present has been poured a drink. You should also turn your body away from the senior drinker while taking your shot; it's a sign of respect.

The Worm at the Bottom

While it's commonly believed that Mexicans sometimes put "worms" in tequila, this isn't exactly the case. The drink in question is actually mezcal, which is made from agave plants. The creature at the bottom of the bottle is really the larva of either a moth or butterfly.

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The practice was developed to show that the alcohol's strength was able to preserve larvae — and pickle plenty of livers. One of the less-mouthwatering parts of the tradition comes in when the bottle is done and the drinker often eats the larva. Yuck!


The World's Worst Cocktail Garnish

If you think eating larvae sounds unappetizing, then steer clear of the Sourdough Saloon in Canada's Yukon Territory. There, you can join an elite club of drinkers by sipping alcohol with a mummified human toe in the glass.

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It all began when a rum smuggler in the 1920s lost a toe to frostbite. Cut to 50 years later when someone discovered the mummified toe and began plopping it into the drinks of adventurous patrons at the Sourdough Saloon. To this day you too can join the Sourtoe Cocktail Club, provided your lips actually touch the toe in your drink.

The All-inclusive Czech Toasting Tradition

If you ever find yourself in the Czech Republic, be aware that their toasting process is no joke. Before you start sipping, be prepared to toast the health of every single person in your party, no matter how large it may be.

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Photo Courtesy: wilkernet/Pixabay

Now for the toasting process itself. In order to wish everybody good health, you should touch glasses and say "na zdravy!" while looking your toasting partner directly in the eye. Failure to maintain direct eye contact during the toast is considered a huge insult, so make sure your gaze is at its most focused.

Avoiding Bad Bedroom Situations

Think you've got all the rules for an excellent Czech toast down? Not so fast. There are a few more incredibly important rules, and legend says that breaking them can come with the penalty of seven years of disastrous sex.

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Don't let it happen to you by first making sure that no beer spills from your glass — seriously, not a drop. Then, ensure that you never cross arms with anyone during the toast. Remember, these requirements must be met while staring directly into your toastee's eyes. The good news is that these rules only tend to apply to the first drink.


Russian Bread Sniffing

If you ever find yourself drinking vodka in the presence of a Russian, don't be alarmed if you witness a little bread-sniffing action going on. Given that Russians are basically professional vodka drinkers, they've developed a few creative drinking customs to help keep themselves from getting totally sloshed.

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They often utilize bread, which they eat or even sniff to help soak up the alcohol. There are often pickles involved as well, which help neutralize the alcohol's effects. Not only are these traditions practical, but they're also a symbol to everyone that you're not just drinking to get drunk.

The Time and Place for Palinka Consumption

Palinka is a brandy-type drink that's hugely popular in Hungary. That said, it's only enjoyed under one of three particular sets of circumstances. The first allows for Palinka consumption by anyone who is willing to do it before anything else in the morning.

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By "before anything else," they mean literally before eating breakfast, going to the bathroom or any other activity. If you're a man, you're also allowed to drink some at a wake. If you're a woman, you can take a few swigs before embarking on a rubbish-scavenging trip.

The Ancient Greek Glass-kissing Challenge

One fun Greek drinking tradition, which is still especially popular in Crete, goes all the way back to ancient times. When drinking with friends, every now and then someone's name will be spontaneously called out. This person must immediately finish their drink and kiss the bottom of their glass for good luck.

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After having successfully completed their own drinking challenge, the drinker now has the power to choose who gets challenged next. The fun continues as more drinkers’ names are called throughout the night, sort of like a tipsy game of tag.


Every American's Favorite Drinking Game

While those of us living in the United States may be all too familiar with beer pong, it's horrifying to think that the game is still unknown in some parts of the world. In case you're unfamiliar, beer pong is basically the Olympics of drinking games.

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Two teams each form a triangular assortment of beer-filled cups at their respective ends of a ping pong table. They then take turns attempting to bounce a ping pong ball into the other team's cups. When the ball finds its way into an opponent's cup, those opponents must chug the contents of that cup as fast as possible.

Hands-free Dutch Drinking

In the Netherlands, you'll find a time-honored drinking tradition called "kopstootje," which literally translates into "little headbutt." It all revolves around a shot of jenever, which is the ancestor of modern gin. The jenever is poured all the way to the top of a tulip-shaped glass, making it impossible to lift without spilling any.

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Photo Courtesy: Thrillist/YouTube

The drinker is forced to go hands-free and lean down to sip off the uppermost jenever while the glass is still on the table. Only after successfully completing this task are they then allowed to slug down the remaining contents.

The Peruvian Beer Circle

In Peruvian drinking circles, it's customary for one person to buy a bottle of beer and return to the table with a single glass. The buyer pours themselves a glass of the beer and passes the bottle to the person next to them.

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When the buyer is done with their drink, they pass the glass along to the beer-holder, who repeats the process until both the glass and bottle have been passed around the entire circle. Generally, whoever finishes the last glass buys another bottle and the process begins all over again.


India’s Pouring Rules

While Indians do their fair share of drinking, social taboo still makes drinking in public frowned upon. When in the home of a friend, however, there are a few drinking customs any traveler should know about. The first is to never fill your own glass.

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Drinking is looked on as a shared experience, and filling your own glass and not your friend's is seen as a sign that the friendship isn't destined to last much longer. Interestingly, if you accidentally drop and break a bottle, it's considered a lucky sign in India rather than a party foul.

A Scandinavian Viking Toast

Drinkers in Scandinavia often toast each other by saying "skål" instead of "cheers." The popular toast goes all the way back to the days of the Vikings when "skål" meant "bowl," a popular Viking drink container. Some claim that the tradition may have even grislier origins.

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Popular legend has it that "skål" may also have once meant "skull" and that the toast was derived from the Viking tradition of drinking from the skulls of their vanquished enemies. Either way, these days it's more of a friendly invitation to throw a few back with friends.

To Toast or to Anti-toast?

The country of Georgia, not to be mistaken for the U.S. state, has a drinking tradition laced with plenty of toasting. When Georgians prepare for a serious round of drinking, they appoint a "tamada," who is basically the toastmaster.

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Throughout the evening, the tamada randomly proposes around 25 toasts and delivers an eloquent speech during each of them. The toasts must be performed solely with wine or, less frequently, brandy. To toast with anything else is to perform an "anti-toast," which is exactly what it sounds like and an insult to the toastee in question.


It's All About Respect in China

As in many other Asian countries, Chinese drinking traditions are designed around the idea of showing respect, particularly to elders. The oldest people at the table always get to have their glasses filled first whenever preparing for a toast.

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While refusing a drink is considered an insult, it's okay to find someone willing to drink it for you. When toasting, always hold your glass lower than those of your elders as a sign of respect. Not only should you finish the first drink, but you should also turn your glass over on the table afterward to show that nothing remains.

Water or Wine at Dinner in France

If you're a fan of getting as inebriated as you can as quickly as possible, then France may not be the destination for you. The French have a national love affair with wine and sip it slowly to relish its taste. Glasses are only filled up halfway so that the wine always has room to breathe.

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You may also find yourself out of luck if you're craving a diet soda with dinner. Wine and water are considered the only reasonable choices when it comes to eating dinner for the French.

Ukrainian Bridal Shoe Drinking

At Ukrainian weddings, there's always an unspoken bounty out on the bride's shoe. Tradition states that if any of the wedding guests are able to successfully capture the shoe, then they are allowed to demand one favor from the rest of the guests.

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More often than not, this favor takes the form of demanding that all the guests take a drink from the captured shoe! As unhygienic as this may sound, the tradition has evolved to make things more manageable. These days, a glass is usually attached to the shoe so people can drink from that instead.


The Curious Case of Eggnog

Each year, throughout North America, an odd drink surfaces with alarming regularity. Around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, eggnog begins to appear at a vast array of holiday parties. It's basically a mixture of beaten eggs, milk, sugar and alcohol that's managed to establish itself as the perfect holiday tradition.

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While many people can't get enough of the stuff from November to December, the drink pretty much disappears as soon as the winter holidays are done. Its yearly hibernation has become an unwritten rule that everyone naturally accepts.

South Africa's Springbok Ritual

In South Africa, there's a drink called the springbok, which is named after the country's national animal. A "springbok ritual" is sometimes performed while drinking it, either as an initiation or just for fun. Consider yourself warned that it's a bit more dangerous than it sounds!

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The ritual involves putting your hands behind your back, stomping on the ground and making a snorting sound to mimic the springbok animal. Then you pick up your shot glass using only your teeth and try to swallow the drink without spilling a single drop.

Norwegian Russefeiring Is a Party Like No Other

While you may have had a few crazy nights during your senior year of high school, they probably look like a boy scout trip compared to what Norway calls "russ." Each spring, high school seniors grab their friends, design a bus and head out on a month-long field trip where they mostly just party around the clock.

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They can even buy special clothes and compete in a series of insane dares to earn "russeknuter," or knots, on their caps. Best of all, the rest of the country totally encourages the tradition.


Swedish Drinking Songs

If you're a fan of karaoke, then Sweden may be the perfect vacation destination for you. There, you'll get just as toasted but will rarely find yourself in the position of being forced to sing alone. Drinking songs are still alive and well among the Swedes, who often sing them over a bottle of akvavit.

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The songs are commonly sung while making toasts, with a new song required for each new toast. Among the most popular songs is "Helan Går," which translates to "chug it down."

The Art of a Good Sconce

Oxford may be among the most renowned universities in the world, but its students definitely know how to relax after exams. Several traditions have arisen from the school's drinking culture, such as the art of "sconcing."

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Sconcing began back in the 1600s when people could be fined for breaching social etiquette at formal dinners. These days, it's more like a British version of "never have I ever." Someone stands up and says, "I sconce anyone who..." and anyone guilty of what follows must stand up and drain their drink.

Kumis Conservation

In Kazakhstan, "waste not, want not" is the name of the game when it comes to drinking. The country's national drink, kumis, is made from fermented horse milk. Though it may not sound all that appealing, the drink is so highly prized in Kazakhstan that wasting it is a major social blunder.

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According to custom, if you don't finish your entire glass of kumis, you're expected to pour it back into the jug so that none of it is wasted. Hey, we all have to do our part to make sure there's enough fermented milk to go around, right?