Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Drink with Europeans!

Its the time of year when we all tend to eat and drink more. Point your attention to an interesting NYT article (well hidden in the Biz section) on the pitfalls of not knowing local drinking customs. The twist is its not the usual Islamic admonitions of "no alcohol," but rather, just the opposite: The many ways Europeans enjoy their grog. Worth a look, especially if you travel on business alot.

American executives abroad often find that liquor is a much bigger part of the business equation than at home. But ordering, pouring, toasting and drinking in a foreign land can be fraught with pitfalls for the unwary. What seems trivial may provoke reactions from mild irritation to acute horror.

"Wine and beer are in corporate cafeterias in Western Europe and commonly served at lunch,'' said Dean Foster, whose consulting firm, Dean Foster Associates, offers cross-cultural corporate training. "As you go further east in Europe, you see more and more of a drinking culture, and liquor is always a part of business meetings at any hour of the day." In Budapest, for example, shot glasses of apricot brandy on the table for 9 a.m. meetings are not uncommon, he said.

And visiting Americans should be prepared to lift them. "You are totally expected to drink it, and as soon as you finish, your glass is refilled,'' said Mr. Foster, who has written books on how to behave in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East for the Global Etiquette Guides (John Wiley & Sons, 2000). "If you refuse, it means I can't trust you, and thus we can't do business together."

Here are some of the "drinking rules" in Europe:

· In Britain, don't ask for "a beer" in pubs. "You'll be laughed at! Instead, order ale, stout or lager."

· In Scotland, when ordering a single-malt, state the location (like Highlands, Islay, Skye or Lowlands), brand and age. (One bartender noted: 'We have 65 varieties - which one would you like?');

· DO NOT order the country's most famous export on the rocks -- its seen as insulting by Scots; Instead, order with a splash or side of water;

· In Italy, pouring wine while tilting your wrist backwards over glasses is a Faux Pas!

· When making a toast in Austrian, look deeply in the eyes of your group;

· In Germany, the practice of linking arms during a toast signifies friendship;

I want to party with these guys!

Making a Toast Without Dropping One's Guard
New York Times, December 16, 2003

Posted at 11:19 PM in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink


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