If you love drinking and going to parties now and then, you can never find a better place than Lao. There is a saying that goes like “Party like a Lao and Drink like a Lao.’ So, if you are traveling to Laos soon and wondering if there would be any party scenes, you have just hit the jackpot.
In today’s blog, we will go through the facts regarding Lao drinking culture. Traveling to a foreign country, especially if you plan to stay for an extended period, you must know their culture, food, and drinking habits. If you are a party person and love to share a couple of drinks once in a while, not knowing about the foreign land’s drinking habits can get you in trouble. You never know when you might offend someone or hurt someone’s cultural sentiments. Also, it can become pretty difficult to pick out the best liquor for yourself and enjoy the specialty of the country.
Worry not! To help you get the best of Laos, this blog has come prepared with all the essential drinking facts and customs that will allow you to adapt to the local drinking culture of Laos. So, if you are interested, continue reading below!
Do Lao People Drink?
Although it is stupid to ask a question like that, let me answer it to you. Yes! Nobody in the world drinks like a Laotian person. The World Health Organisation has confirmed in an alcohol report that most of the male population drinks in Laos, and even women’s rate of drinking alcohol is high. The WHO has estimated that the alcoholism rate in Laos is one of the highest rates globally, along with Thailand and Russia. Although due to the rising alcoholism, the government have tried to curb such practices by reducing the consumption of liquor, if you go the country, you will find that they are still pretty much available everywhere.
While such facts might seem a bit alarming, let us talk about the fun part. No country in the world has colorful festivals and celebrations like Laos. While some countries barely party once or twice as a formality, it is actually important to party in Laos. They have many fests where they start celebrating weeks earlier and continue till the main day, and sometimes, even later. Whenever there is a party, the people sit around, grab a glass of liquor with fresh vegetables and grilled food, like grilled chicken and sticky rice, and have the best time of their life.
It is not a lie when one says, “Party like a Lao and drink like a Lao.” Laos has a unique and wholesome drinking culture, where drinking does not only mean intoxication but it means bonding and fun. So, if you are traveling to Laos soon, make sure you do not spend your days only sightseeing its incredible architecture and nature. Spare some time to sit with the locals and share a glass of the national beer with Lao food, and only then will you actually understand the Laotian culture.
Lao Drinking Culture: Etiquette And Manners
Now let us get into the blog and start with some etiquette and manners concerning drinking in Laos. As mentioned earlier, drinking is an important part of the Laotian culture. Hence, it also comes with some customs that must be followed. As a foreigner, here is a list of things that you must be aware of!
1. Drink Together
Unlike Western countries, where you sit at a table, grab a glass of whiskey or beer for yourself and have a good time, in Laotian parties, your party together. When partying, locals sit on the floor of the host’s house together. They then grab a glass of beer Lao or Lao Lao, along with some delicious grilled fish or crunchy items like spring rolls. Drinking is a communal affair, and you are expected to enjoy it with everyone and not alone. Especially because you are a newcomer, there will be a lot of attention and affection towards you. Laotian people love to welcome newbies to their parties.
2. Wait For The Host
In Laotian parties, the host presides over everything. You cannot just go there and look for a drink yourself. It is not wrong, but some common customs have been followed throughout history. The older man or the host is the one who acts like the bartender and provides you with drinks. He will first pull out a bottle of liquor, and then gently pour the first shot on the floor. It is done to honor the house spirit. It is a custom that is followed everywhere in Laos. After that, he will pour one for himself and then come to the others. Until then, hold on and feel the vibe.
3. Pass It Around
Here comes a very special rule in the Lao drinking culture. Although you will have parties where you drink on your own and as much as you like, if you are going with the true locals, they will show you how it is done. Once the host drinks his first shot, he will pour it again and pass it on to the person to his left.
The person on the left raises his hand, looks at the crowd and takes the shot down in one gulp. And then, this ritual continues. If you are sitting at the right hand, don’t worry. The drink will eventually come to you. It is said that you are expected to drink at least nine shots. It is considered rude if you don’t drink. However, you can refuse after subsequent drinks, but you must never refuse the first drink.
4. Special Attention
If you are not fond of being the center of attraction, you will have to adapt a little. The duty that is carried out by the host may get passed on to you. Laotian people always keep their guests at the center and treat them with utmost love and care. So, if you are willing to, you can politely accept the offer and become the bartender of the party.
However, remember that once you have accepted, you have to go around the room and pass the glass of alcohol to each one of them. And every time you reach out to them, they will ask you to take the first sip. In case you want to escape this, you can simply make a joke and escape as you laugh.
5. Drink As Much As You Can
There is a rule in Laos, especially in the villages of different ethnic groups, that you cannot drink less. While women may retire after drinking a few shots and enjoy the party with food, for men, it is not acceptable. You have to drink as much as you can, and sometimes, more than you can. For the villagers, the party can be an important event, and if you refuse to drink, it might offend them. So, be prepared to drink an enormous amount of alcohol. And no, don’t worry, drinking too much for one night will not make you regret it. In fact, when you are with the locals, everything will be worth it.
6. Avoid Drinking Skilfully
Once you reach your limit and you know you cannot have it anymore, there are some skillful ways of getting rid of it. Instead of refusing a drink directly, take the shot and cheer with everyone. When it reaches your lip, don’t drink it and pretend. When everyone is busy drinking and eating, quietly pour your drink into the nearest bush. And if you are being noticed, pour the drink into your mouth from the glass but don’t swallow. When no one is noticing again, gently spit it out without making a fuss about it. This can work if you are not an alcoholic or don’t like consuming liquor.
You can also remove yourself or stand away from the line or circle when the host is approaching. That will help you escape the drink of that round.
Lao Drinks You Must Try
Now let us talk about some of the most popular Lao alcohol that you must try once you are there.
1. Lao Lao
Without any doubt, the first drink that you must try in Laos is Lao lao. It is a smooth but strong rice liquor deeply preferred by the locals. It generally costs 25 cents, and you can easily grab one as there is no legal drinking age in Laos. It is made by distilling over charcoal fires in old oil drums, it is very popular, and you will see every other person consuming this liquor.
If you are in Vientiane, you can easily find the best Lao lao in Ban Xanghai, where a dozen people selling them as distributors will be found. You will also find it easily in Luang Prabang. There is also a green-tinted version of this rice whisky, which is distilled by running over raspberry leaves. It doesn’t only sound interesting but tastes equally amazing.
2. Beer Lao
Let us talk about the national beer of Laos, the Beer Lao. It is one of the most popular drinks in Laos and is produced by a brewery outside Vietnatian that has won many awards to date. It will cost you around 1 US dollar, which is very affordable as it comes in a large bottle. Beer Lao is stronger and dense than other beer in Laos, so you will surely have a good time if you decide to drink enough. It is made from the best local rice of Laos and high-quality malt from Europe. It is this blend that gives it a unique taste you cannot resist.
Since 1973, it has been one of the bestselling and leading Beer brands in Laos. So, grab a bottle of Beer Lao, and order some sticky rice made in a bamboo basket with other foods like green papaya salad with fermented fish sauce and fresh ingredients to have the best time of your life in Laos.
3. Lao Hai
Lao Hai, Jar alcohol, is a weaker version of the Lao lao but is still amazing and deliciously unique. It is a fermented rice wine that originally belongs to ethnic minorities. It is made in large earthenware jars by fermenting sticky rice and a herbal starter. While it is one of the popular drinks, it has low alcohol content and is subtly sweet and cloudy. The best part of having this liquor is that it has culture engraved in the making and consumption of it. Villagers usually sit together, bring the lar jars of Lao hai and sip the wine through thin bamboo straws. It is enjoyed on special occasions and is a communal affair.
Other than these, you will find other types of drinks and brands like Khao Kam (Sweet rice wine), French wine, and other heavy drinks like Jim Beam whiskey and Stolichanaya vodka. So, if you feel like taking a break from the local ones, you can go back to heavy Western drinks in the bars of Vietiane.
Cheers With Ling App!
Knowing such facts is truly amazing, isn’t it? Now you can consume alcohol without worries and attend the best parties when you make friends in bars. However, if you want to continue learning about Laotian culture, download the Ling app now!
Ling is one of the most revolutionary language learning apps that provide content on not just drinking culture, but how to say cheers in Laos, food in Laos, sports, clothes, and many more. You can easily download it from App Store or Play Store and learn from anywhere. The best part is that you can learn different languages as well, as Ling covers 60+ foreign languages. The app also features an AI chatbot that makes learning easy and interactive. So, if you want to become a pro in Lao, download the app and start learning Lao right away!