It is no secret that Russians are known as heavy drinkers. Several reports put Russians as the highest consumers of hard liquor in the world (apparently around 18 litres each a year). Along with drinking copious amounts, there are also some very specific cultural norms and traditions that surround drinking in Russian. Here in this article, I will give you a few pointers that should have you drinking like a Russian in no time.
- Once a bottle is opened, you must finish it! In fact, at many house parties, you will be assigned your very own bottle.
- Vodka and other spirits are taken as shots – no sipping.
- You should wait until after the second shot to eat. For this reason, the first and second shots tend to follow each other quite closely.
- Closely related to the point above, an off number of shots is seen as bad luck.
- Between shots, there should be plates of pickled vegetables available to eat.
- Before each shot, there will be a toast. This is not just a simple one word ‘cheers’ either. You are generally expected to tell a small narrative and then touch glasses before drinking.
- Offer to pour glasses for others and don’t fill your own glass.
- If you happen to turn up late to a drinking session, you will be required to drink an entire glass of liquor as a penalty.
- Drinks will be poured for all present, even if they will not be drinking.
- Empty bottles should never be left on the table. This is seen to bring bad luck. Place them on the floor or throw them out!
- before leaving the table or party, you will be required to drink “na pososhok” as a way of wishing you luck/safe journey.
This list covers the basics, but is by no means exhaustive. That said, it should be enough to get you through your first few drinking sessions without making a fool of yourself. Drinking is no longer as big a part of Russian culture as it used to be, but it can help you make new friends a lot quicker.
If you know of any other Russian drinking traditions, let me know in the comment section below.