Guidebook “Without alcohol, rituals lose their character”


“Without alcohol, rituals lose their character”

Giai khat means “quench your thirst,” explains Rough Guides and you’ll see the signs everywhere -- “on stands selling fresh juices, bottled cold drinks or outside cafés and bia hoi (draught beer) outlets.” Many drinks are served with ice: “tempting though it may be, the only really safe policy is to avoid ice altogether – dung bo da, cam on (“no ice, thanks”) should do the trick,” although ice in the top hotels, bars and restaurants is generally reliable, “and some people take the risk in less salubrious establishments with apparent impunity.”

The Vietnamese are among the heaviest drinkers in Southeast Asia, notes David Hutt in The Diplomat -- the country’s beer market alone is worth around $6.5 billion a year. “I hesitate to make any comment about a specific Vietnamese ‘drinking culture,’ “only that it most likely reflects the human instinct s’adonner à la boisson as a means of bonding and hospitality, and serves as a steady companion at special occasions,” pointing out that “vo tuu bat thanh le” translates roughly as “without alcohol, rituals lose their character.” sufficient revenue. But, he writes, “unlike Vietnam’s past rulers, the Communist Party has no desire to curb the inebriation of its citizens, nor control the alcohol market for oppressive means … maybe history has taught it to leave alcohol well alone, lest it stir the spirits of an already repressed people.” The Party’s only goal as the main owner of the liquor industry, “it appears, has been to make money from it.”

When drinking with a Vietnamese person, explains Itchy Feet on The Cheap, “there are a few things to remember …”

Beer is served with ice: “If the beer isn’t refrigerated, you’ll definitely want ice … only one large chunk is used and it’s replaced before it melts too much. A girl will swoop in with a pair of tongs, dip them into your drink, take the ice hunk out, and drop in a new one.”

If one person wants to drink everyone has to: “Every drink must be preceded with the clinking of glasses … when you grab your glass, watch as your Vietnamese drinking companions grab theirs.”

Một, hai, ba, vô! (pronounced mot, hi, bah, yo): “In English we say cheers, in Vietnam they say 1, 2, 3, cheers, usually while standing.”

It gets a little competitive: “If you notice your opponent companion watching you as you both chug beer down, it’s because they are watching to see when you will stop …do not underestimate a Vietnamese person’s drinking abilities. Even though they are small, they can drink a lot.

Food will most likely be ordered: “If you’re asked to go drink beers, there will probably also be food involved … Vietnam has lots of bar snacks that satisfy your hunger and make you want to drink more.”

Happy drunks: “Despite the competitiveness at the drinking table, Vietnamese people just want to have a good time … by the end of the night, you’ll find that their big red faces will be plastered with a smile and they’ll be throwing compliments at you.”

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