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Let’s Get Pissed – The Difference Ways the World Gets Drunk

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April 1, 2024
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Exploring the ways in which different cultures approach the act of getting drunk reveals a fascinating tapestry of practices, traditions, and social norms that underscore the diverse human relationship with alcohol. Which is all a fancy way of saying we share different attitudes but a similar predilection for the goof juice. 

In Japan, the practice of “nomikai” plays a significant role in both professional and social settings. Nothing like drinking with your coworkers, especially if you have to wait to be released. Nomikai are drinking parties that typically take place in restaurants or izakayas after work. They are seen as crucial for team building and fostering relationships among colleagues. The ritual of pouring drinks for each other, rather than for oneself, emphasizes respect and communal bonding. Interestingly, the Japanese concept of “hansei” allows for a certain freedom within these gatherings; behaviors exhibited while drunk are often excused, and apologies the next day can reset the slate; a concept some mess nights should adopt. 

Russia’s relationship with vodka is well-documented and deeply ingrained in its cultural fabric. Vodka is often consumed in large gatherings, with toasts playing a significant role. A Russian toast is not merely a preamble to drinking but a moment of sincerity, humor, and sometimes, competition in eloquence. The ritualistic nature of these toasts, where everyone must drink after each one is proposed, reinforces a sense of unity and shared experience among a traditionally stuffy group. 

In contrast, the Italian approach to alcohol, particularly wine, is markedly different. Wine is an integral part of daily life and meals, consumed not for the sake of getting drunk but for enhancing the food and fostering conviviality at the table. The Italian culture emphasizes moderation, with the focus on enjoying the quality and the social interaction that accompanies the drinking experience. Yes, they often let the underage drink wine at dinner, but that’s no reason to let your kids raid the Natty Ice in the fridge. 

In the Nordic countries, particularly Sweden, the concept of “Systembolaget” – a government-owned chain of liquor stores – controls the sale of alcohol, reflecting a societal attempt to moderate consumption. However, this regulation has also given rise to a distinct drinking culture, where heavy drinking often takes place in private settings or during specific celebrations like the traditional “kräftskivor” (crayfish parties). The stark contrast between everyday moderation and occasional indulgence highlights the complex relationship these societies have with alcohol. The Finns have a concept called “pants drunk”, where you drink alone at home in your underwear with no intention of leaving the house. 

Lastly, the traditional South American drink of “chicha,” a type of fermented beverage made from maize, symbolizes a different historical and cultural relationship with alcohol. Indigenous to the region, the preparation and consumption of chicha are imbued with ritual significance, often associated with community gatherings and religious ceremonies. Of the reasons to knock a few back, praising a higher power isn’t the worst option. 

Across these diverse cultures, the common thread is that getting drunk is often more than just the act of consuming alcohol; it’s a gateway to understanding deeper societal values, relationships, and traditions. Whether through the formal rituals of a Russian toast, the communal bonds of a Japanese nomikai, the conviviality of an Italian dinner, the controlled indulgence of a Swedish celebration, or the sacred preparation of South American chicha, each practice offers insight into the complex ways cultures navigate the pleasures and perils of alcohol consumption.

Do keep in mind though, repeating this argument to 1st Sgt on Monday morning isn’t going to save you from that NJP.

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