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PERCEPTIONS AND ATTITUDES TO ALCOHOL ACROSS CULTURES

Matthew MacLachlan

21 DEC 2011

Pleasure, tradition or a sin? Relaxing, exhausting or stressful? How do you see alcohol?

The festive season is upon us, and with that often comes a variety of drinks and food products that
contain alcohol. Attitudes towards alcohol can vary dramatically from one culture to another,
making it difficult to know when it is appropriate to mention it, let alone drink it.

Showing the wrong attitude towards alcohol can make or break a relationship on both a social and
professional level so it’s important to always know how alcohol is viewed wherever you are. Cross
cultural training courses can provide you with key tips about when and how to consume alcohol, if
at all, so that you avoid making any damaging cultural faux-pas when socialising or doing
business across cultures.

CHEERS!

A recent article in the Financial Times looked at the role of vodka in Russian social and business
culture. Seen as an essential part of relationship building, it can be easy to jeopardise a business
venture in Russia by forgetting to bring vodka and the mixer to celebrate a deal. In Russia and
other countries which have been influenced by Russian culture such as the Ukraine, people
celebrate contracts and important milestones around a glass of vodka before they even leave the
meeting room. People from these cultures will often expect foreigners to join them in toasting the
success and enjoying what can at times be a large amount of alcohol.

In East Asian countries such as China, Japan and Thailand, drinking alcohol is engrained in the
social life but only after work. For instance, people from Thailand often drink alcohol to celebrate
important occasions. They will also enjoy a glass of wine or beer at dinner, but doing so at lunch
can be considered unprofessional and bad-mannered.

When doing business in France it’s common to have an aperitif at the beginning of a professional
meal to toast successful business, upcoming events or to health and life in general. It is also
customary to drink wine throughout lunch or dinner in France, although they will usually consume
less during the day.

THE GIFT OF ALCOHOL

Gift-giving is often an important part of relationship building in many cultures so you may be
expected to bring a gift at the start of a business venture or relationship. Some will expect a nice
box of chocolates while others will appreciate a traditional or local product from your home
country. Alcohol is sometimes perceived to be a very generous or appropriate gift but always
check with someone from the host country before bringing it.

Here are a few ideas of how alcohol is or isn’t appreciated as a gift in cultures around the world.
 In France, offering a good bottle of wine or old spirit is appreciated. Many companies will offer bottles
of wines or good whiskey to their best clients for Christmas or other special occasions, and when
visiting someone’s home it’s always a kind gesture to bring a nice bottle.

 In Thailand, there used to be a well practised tradition of giving alcohol to blue collar workers while
white collar workers would receive a basket with biscuits, tea, alcohol, juices and coffee. More recently
however people tend to avoid giving alcohol generally and instead offer baskets of fresh fruit.

 When doing business with Jewish counterparts in Israel or elsewhere be aware that some will avoid
drinking alcohol at all as part of their religious beliefs. Always check with your colleagues whether it is
appropriate. In some cases wine is acceptable but it’s a good idea to buy bottles in a kosher wine
specialist shop.

ALCOHOL AS AN OFFENCE

Although social drinking is accepted in many business environments around the world, some
countries prohibit alcohol consumption. In most Muslim countries, especially in the Middle East,
drinking or offering alcohol could deeply offend your counterparts. In some countries it is not only
a question of respect but also a legal one. For example in Saudi Arabia or Iran anyone bringing in
alcohol could be arrested and prosecuted.

For most Hindus, drinking or offering alcohol is usually perceived as disrespectful but this often
depends on the generation of the individual and how much they follow the religious beliefs. When
doing business in India and other countries with large populations of Hindus, you may therefore
find mixed attitudes towards alcohol so it’s always best to check what is appropriate before
drinking in public.

Some international companies can also encounter problems regarding products containing traces
of alcohol in the ingredients. Boxes of chocolate which contain liquor or salad dressing with white
wine vinegar may be forbidden in countries like Saudi Arabia where laws around alcohol are very
strict.

International businesses relationships can be threatened or strengthened with alcohol, depending


on how it is used. It’s not something that people tend to think about when working across cultures,
but their success can depend on whether they show the right attitude and behaviour towards
alcohol. Cross cultural training courses can help anyone working across cultures to understand
how to avoid the risk that can come with not understanding local values and perceptions towards
things like alcohol, whether a pleasure, tradition or sin.

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You're here: Home / Alcohol knowledge centre / Consumption

Consumption
Alcohol consumption in Great Britain has risen per head of the adult population
during the post-war years, more than doubling between the mid-1950s and late
1990s, when it hit double figures for the first time. It has fallen slightly from a
peak of 11.6 litres in 2004; periods of slow economic activity in recent years may
have contributed to this relative decline. Men consume on average more than
twice as much alcohol – mainly beer – on a weekly basis as women, although in
terms of amounts drunk, women now consume more units of wine than men in
total.
There has also been a long-term increase in the proportion of alcohol purchased
from off-licenced outlets and consumed at home rather than in pubs and bars;
British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) figures estimate that twice as much
alcohol is now bought from off-licenced premises as from pubs and other on-
licenced premises. This is thought to be due to the increased affordability of
alcoholic beverages from off-licence vendors, relative to the cost of purchasing
drinks in pubs and bars.
Click on links opposite to view individual factsheets, or on the image below to
download the pdf:
Factsheets
 Total consumption in the UK

 A good measure: Units and drinking guidelines

 Drinking patterns and trends

 Alcohol consumption in the European Union

Related resources
 Click here to read reports and other resources related to Consumption
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Alcoholism in the Philippines


Alcohol is widely consumed in the Philippines. One reason for this may be that the
Spanish colonizers not only brought with them the Roman Catholic religion but also their
drinking culture. There is a generally positive view of alcohol among most Filipinos, but
there are growing concerns about the impact drinking is having on society. As the islands
become more urbanized there appears to be a growing reliance on alcohol to help people
deal with stress.

Drinking Culture in the Philippines


The most popular drink in the Philippines is beer followed by lambanog (whiskey made
from coconut) and wine. In the past drinking alcohol was predominately a male pursuit
but things have change in recent years. The Filipinos seem to be adopting a more western
approach to alcohol and so are developing all the problems associated with this. It is
common to see people drinking in the media 鈥

Drinking Statistics in the Philippines


There are 聽 no available statistics on the full extent of the alcohol problem in the
Philippines, but there is little doubt that it is a real problem. Public drunkenness can be
occasionally witnessed and alcohol problems do cause havoc in some homes and
communities. The Filipinos are the 聽 second highest consumers of alcohol in South East
Asia (the Indonesians are first), and the number one wine drinkers. It is estimated that 5
million Filipinos drink on a fairly regularly basis 鈥

Alcohol Abuse in the Philippines


Alcohol abuse is a problem in the Philippines 鈥聽 liver cirrhosis.
The recommended level for 聽 safe alcohol consumption 聽 is:

* 2 drinks per day for adult men.


* 1 drink per day for adult women.
* 1 drink per day for anyone aged over 65.
* Those people who are younger than 18 should avoid alcohol completely.
* Anyone who has a problem controlling their intake should avoid drinking completely.

The above recommendations classify a drink as being a standard beer, or a standard glass
of wine. Anyone who drinks significantly above these limits can be described as abusing
alcohol, and the dangers of this type of behavior include:

* Those people who drink an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time will
be at risk of 聽 alcohol poisoning. This is a potentially life threatening event.
* Those individuals who abuse alcohol are at risk of developing alcoholism. Once people
become mentally and physically dependent in can completely destroy their life.
* Excessive alcohol intake can lead to physical health problems. It is not necessary for
people to be drinking for long before they enter the early stages of 聽 alcoholic liver
disease.
* Drinking can seriously damage mental health 鈥
* Those who abuse alcohol are far more likely to commit suicide. This is because
intoxication makes people act impulsively, and it interferes with their ability to make
good decisions.
* Some people behave badly when they are intoxicated. They may become verbally or
physically abusive.
* Alcohol abuse is frequently related to domestic abuse.
* Those people who drink excessively will tend to be unproductive at work the next day.
* It means that the individual will be far more likely to have accidents.
* It can be a drain on finances, and some families may be doing without essential items
because the money is being spent on alcohol.

Underage Drinking in the Philippines


The legal drinking age in the Philippines is 18, but it is estimated that 聽 60% of young
people 聽 will have at least tried alcohol before then. Underage boys are far more likely
to drink than underage girls, but the females seem to be closing the gap. The fact that so
many young people drink alcohol is a real worry because:

* Those individuals who drink at a young age are far more likely to 聽 develop
alcoholism 聽 later in life.
* Those young people who drink are in particularly danger of problems related to mental
and physical health. This is because alcohol 聽 interferes with normal development that
occurs during adolescence.
* Those people who drink at a young age are far more likely to experiment with harder
drugs. For some individuals their early experiences with alcohol will be a stepping stone
into lifelong drug abuse.
* Drinking prevents people from performing well in school. This means that the
individual may handicap their future due to poor academic qualifications.
* Alcohol abuse among the young can lead to promiscuous sexual behavior. This could
mean unplanned pregnancies or sexually transmitted disease.
* Those who are inebriated can more easily become the victim of a sexual assault.
* These individuals are more likely to commit crimes or become the victim of a crime.
* There is a worrying link between drinking at an early age and suicide. This is because
alcohol can make people more prone to this type of act.

Treatment of Alcoholism in the Philippines


Many Filipinos who become addicted to alcohol are resistant to any type of intervention.
There are a number of treatment options including:

*聽 Alcoholics Anonymous 聽 has meetings in many parts of the Philippines. This


fellowship not only helps people escape their addiction but also gives them a program
that allows them to build a better life.
* There are a number of private rehabs in the Philippines but a growing number of
Filipinos are looking abroad for help. One of the best treatment facilities in South East
Asia can be 聽 found in Thailand.

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World's heaviest drinking


countries revealed - and the UK
doesn't even make the top 10
A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) looked at levels of alcohol consumption in its 194
member states

 Antonia Molloy 聽
 Monday 12 May 2014
 0 comments
3
K

Total alcohol per capita (15+ years) consumption, in litres of pure alcohol, 2010 聽 WHO

People in the UK are among the most prolific drinkers in the world, according to a
report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Britons over the age of 15 on average drink 11.6 litres of pure alcohol a year,
according to the 聽鈥淕 lobal status report on alcohol and health 2014 鈥?/a>.

READ MORE

The one map which shows the world's


most corrupt countries

The report provides country profiles for alcohol consumption in the 194 WHO
member states, looking at the resulting impact on public health and policy
responses.

And it reveals that the harmful use of alcohol causes 3.3 million deaths a year
worldwide.

Europe is the region with the highest consumption of alcohol per person, making
up the entire top 10.
Belarus takes the top spot, with people on average drinking 17.5 litres of pure
alcohol a year, followed by the Republic of Moldova where the figure is 16.8
litres.

Australia and Canada also have high levels of alcohol consumption, with people on
average drinking 12.2 and 10.2 litres a year respectively.聽

In the United States the figure is marginally lower at 9.2 litres.

But in northern Africa and the Middle East, the average figure is less than 2.5 litres
of alcohol per person, with many countries having figures below one litre.聽

In pictures: Top 10 world's heaviest


drinking countries

 10show all

The average figure globally is 6.2 litres of pure alcohol per person per year.

But as less than half the world population (38.3 per cent) actually drinks alcohol,
this means that those who do drink consume on average 17 litres of pure alcohol
annually, the report said.

The WHO warned that alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing more
than 200 diseases, including liver cirrhosis and some cancers.

Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO assistant director-general for non-communicable diseases


and mental health, said: 鈥淢 ore needs to be done to protect populations from the
negative health consequences of alcohol consumption.

"The report clearly shows that there is no room for complacency when it comes to
reducing the harmful use of alcohol.鈥?/p>
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The badger that drank too much

The report also points out that a higher percentage of deaths among men than
among women are from alcohol-related causes - 7.6 per cent of men's deaths and
four per cent of women's deaths - though there is evidence that women may be
more vulnerable to some alcohol-related health conditions compared to men.

Dr Shekhar Saxena, director for mental health and substance abuse at WHO, said:
鈥淲 e found that worldwide about 16 per cent of drinkers engage in heavy
episodic drinking - often referred to as 'binge-drinking' - which is the most harmful
to health.

"Lower-income groups are more affected by the social and health consequences of
alcohol. They often lack quality health care and are less protected by functional
family or community networks."

The report also highlights the need for action by countries including national
leadership to develop policies to reduce harmful use of alcohol, national
awareness-raising activities and health services to deliver prevention and treatment
services, in particular increasing prevention, treatment and care for patients and
their families, and supporting initiatives for screening and brief interventions.

The figures represent the average amount of pure alcohol consumed per capita in
each country between 2008 and 2010.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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Which countries drink


the most alcohol?

Written by

Donald Armbrecht, Writer and social media producer, Freelance

Published

Tuesday 10 November 2015

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More on the agenda


The biggest drinkers in developed economies are in Europe, according to the Organisation
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Lithuania was the largest consumer among the 34 OECD nations, with adults imbibing an
average 14 litres of alcohol a year. Austria, Estonia and the Czech Republic were close
behind.

Cultural and economic factors play a big part in the rankings. Generally, alcohol
consumption rises with the living standard of an economy. In addition, countries with the
highest consumption tend to have strong traditions of drinking. More abstemious nations,
such as Indonesia, Turkey, India and Israel, tend to have religious or other cultural norms that
limit drinking.

The OECD report warned nevertheless that hazardous drinking and heavy periodic drinking
are on the rise, especially in women and young people. World Health Organisation
data shows that alcohol accounts for nearly 6% of global deaths.
Image: A woman takes a glass of vodka during a vodka presentation.
REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenkoi

Author: Donald Armbrecht is a freelance writer and social media producer.

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Author: Donald Armbrecht, Writer and social media producer, Freelance. Donald Armbrecht
is a freelance writer and social media producer.
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