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Brits And Russians React To Each Others' Drinking Traditions

Buckfast is "for kids", and pre-drinking is universal, apparently.

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1. Shtrafnaya (Russia)

Victor Stepanov

"Shtrafnaya" literally means "penalty / fine / surcharge". Tradition states that one of the people at the bar has to drink an extra shot of alcohol because he or she was "late to the party" and needs to "catch up".

Gemma: This is a very sensible idea, it means everyone gets equally drunk, so no one is sitting in the corner sober, judging everyone. Good work, Russia.

Matt: I am late literally every time I go to a bar, so I'd definitely be "fined". But what about if someone was an hour late (like I was last night), would I have to have to do, like, four shots in one go? Because I'm OK with that but I might vom.

Amy: Extra booze! Awesome. What's not to like?

2. Drinking on trains (Britain)

Twitter: @pbthrones

There's a tradition of drinking on trains in Britain. You can take your own alcohol onto trains, or buy it on board. Do you think that's a good idea?

Roman: Oh, I can totally relate to that. What a great mind you Britons have. Of course it’s a good idea!

Olga: It’s amazing how similar this is to what Russians do. But most common thing here is to actually bring your alcohol on board and drink it during the whole journey. I guess it helps deal with being bored or something.

Alexander: If it gets out of control — it’s bad. Like sometimes on Russian trains people get so drunk they start fighting with each other and police have to step in. I remember when I was a kid and travelled with my grandmother on an overnight train even police didn’t help us. They just joined those who had all the booze!

3. Putting empty bottles on the floor (Russia)

Victor Stepanov

In Russia if you're sitting with friends and finish drinking a bottle of alcohol you can't keep an empty bottle on the table, because it's bad luck.

Amy: This makes sense, because whenever I see an empty bottle of alcohol I start to feel sad. And the day after, when I wake up and see lots of empty bottles, I always feel really unwell. So they're clearly bad luck.

Sarah: Why do people think that they're bad luck? Are they full of ghosts?

Matt: Don't you have bar staff or people to come and clear your table in Russia? I don't really like the idea of keeping them on the floor, I'd just end up tripping over them and ending up with a face full of glass or something.

4. Buying rounds of drinks (Britain) / Creative Commons

When British people go to the bar with friends it's polite to take it in turns to buy drinks for the whole group. This is called a "round" of drinks. The worst thing you can do in Britain is to "skip your round" and not take your turn.

Roman: What? Am I suppose to pay for other people’s drinks? No way I’m doing that. I can enjoy other people paying for my drink though. It’s totally acceptable.

Olga: We don’t have this in Russia. However, when someone invites you to a bar and there are a lot of people coming too, like a big company or something, maybe those who invited you are paying. It’s cool. But not rounds. Oh my god, a nightmare!

Sergey: I remember same thing happening to me and my friends but it never ends good. Like one person buys a round of drinks, then another, then we all forgot who bought what and promise to buy a round next time we see each other and then we again forget about it. Or pretend to forget about it.

5. Drinking before going out (Russia)

Victor Stepanov

It's a common practice for young Russians to get drunk on cheaper alcohol at home, and then just buy one or two drinks at the bar to save money. Do you approve?

Amy: Yes! We do this too. It's called "pre-drinking" and it's particularly common in London where craft beer costs about £14 a pint, especially if its made by a hipster with a giant beard.

Sarah: Definitely. And when I was at uni I wouldn't stop at pre-drinking, I'd just smuggle Glen's vodka into bars in my bag, buy diet Cokes, and add the vodka.

Matt: Ah, I'm glad that this fine and noble tradition happens around the world. It makes me feel a bit less like a total skinflint.

6. "Strawpedoing" (Britain)

Doing a "strawpedo" involves downing a bottled alcoholic drink as quickly as possible, using a straw.. It allows you to drink a full bottle in a really short amount of time, and people compete to see who can do it the most quickly.

Sergey: This is genius. I bet it was invented by Russians.

Roman: Speed drinking, huh? Great idea, British nation. You should be proud of yourselves. But I bet if I competed with you I could easily win.

Vlad: I love this. I should start practicing ASAP.

7. Drinking before a journey (Russia)

Victor Stepanov

Another tradition is to drink a shot of strong alcohol before leaving the house for a long time or taking a bus journey. Russians believe that this helps ease your trip and helps you safely arrive at your destination.

Sarah: Getting drunk before or during a train journey is ok, but before a long walk or bumpy bus trip? That sounds...impractical. I would end up being sick on something.

Amy: I rarely find that drinking a shot helps me arrive safely at my destination. Quite the opposite, in fact. I usually end up getting lost and sleeping in a park.

Gemma: Hell, we get drunk on trains. Who are we to judge?

8. Pub crawls (Britain)

Oli Scarff / Getty Images

Pub crawls are another British tradition. Drinkers start at one bar, and then leave after one drink, then walk to a second bar. This goes on for hours.

Sergey: Yeah, we have this in Russia too. Especially in summer when the weather is nice, people would do that.

Olga: Aahaha, this is so good. We have a similar tradition. During the long New Year break when nobody works from Jan 1 to Jan 10 people do "crawls" between the homes of their relatives and friends. Like visiting their relatives and friends and going from one place to another. Drinking, walking, drinking, walking and so on for ten days in row (or until you give up).

Nikita: This is nice, but not a really cool thing to do?

9. The "little gap" (Russia)

Victor Stepanov

There's a very important Russian phrase commonly used when drinking — "There's a little gap between the first and the second". It means you have to drink first shot and then the second shot/portion of alcohol almost right away.

Matt: Wow, Russians are seriously hardcore when it comes to drinking. I thought British people were boozy, but we at least pause for a second between shots to catch our breath. Bravo.

Amy: Yeah I'm starting to feel a bit like an amateur. These are expert-level drinking challenges for professionals. I think I should just stick to drinking tea.

Sarah: This sounds like me on a night out at Wetherspoon's to be honest. Are you allowed to do this with Apple Sourz?

10. Buckfast Tonic Wine (Britain) / Creative Commons

This is Buckfast. It's made by monks in England, it's famous for getting the party started. It's a blend of red wine-based alcohol and lots of caffeine.

Sergey: Wine-based? I prefer whiskey-based.

Olga: I like that you guys have a good drink that is a combination of wine and caffeine. Like a proper wine-based energy drink I suppose. I would definitely try it.

Alexander: This is an insult to alcohol culture. I mean any "mixed" drink is. The best alcohol is pure alcohol, like whiskey or vodka. This is for kids!

11. Mutual respect (Russia)

Victor Stepanov

When drinking with Russians you might get asked "Do you respect me?" The correct answer is to take drink and say, "Do you respect me?" back to them.

Amy: This sounds like something that could go on for hours. Days, even. I'm not sure I really see the point of it, but hey, it could be a fun way to pass the time.

Matt: I'm not sure I would respect someone if they kept saying "Do you respect me." It's a bit needy.

Gemma: So respect is tied to the amount that you can drink in Russia? That's great. I wish I lived there. I would be so respectable.

12. Pub quizzes (Britain)

Flickr: dghughes / Creative Commons

Quizzes are a big part of British drinking culture. People group into teams and drink while answering trivia questions, and each quiz can take several hours.

Alexander: We don’t have this (at least where I live) but it sound like a lot of fun.

Olga: This reminds me of stupid but funny quizzes and party ideas that people use during Russian weddings. Everyone is drunk and forced to participate which makes it super fun.

Nikita: It's a great team-building strategy I guess. Sometimes we go out with my colleagues for a quiz or a game in the bar, but with us it looks more like geeks trying to solve really hard questions while drinking soft alcohol. I bet you do it better.

13. Washing up (Russia)

Victor Stepanov

"Washing up" is when you buy something expensive, like a car or house, you have to drink a lot with those who helped you buy it, or just with your friends. Only if you "washed up" your new thing you can say you officially have it.

Sarah: This is an excellent idea, as long as you don't then get into your new car and decide to take it for a road trip when drunk.

Amy: This is great. What's not to like? It's like you get to show off and celebrate at the same time. I am so doing this next time I buy anything.

Matt: We would never get to do this in Britain because no one can afford to buy a house. Nice idea, though.

  1. So, what do you think? Which country has the craziest drinking traditions?

    Russia, definitely
    Britain, of course
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Remember, drinking games and other traditions are fun, but please remember to stay safe and drink responsibly!