drinking at lunch

The brief half-hour lunch, or simply having a bite to eat at your desk is a very Anglo-Saxon thing to do. The workweek is a time — as the name would suggest — for work. Not for lounging about in a café or restaurant. Well, you mighty be surprised to find out that in many parts of the world, Monday through Friday is also a time to relax and have a bit of fun — at least during your lunch hour.

For many of us a beer or a glass of wine at lunch, especially if you have to head back to the office later on, is a big no-no. Americans tend not to drink (at least openly) during the workday. Europeans, on the other hand, don’t adherer to such strict lunchtime drinking rules.

In the Czech Republic, famed for being the biggest consumer of beer per capita in the world, having a pint of a draught beer (or two) at lunch is a given. This is especially great to hear because the Czechs brew magnificent beer. Of course, after work, you’ll probably hang out with your pals at the pub and indulge in a Pilsner Urquell (Plzeňský Prazdroj) or Staropramen lager as well. And obviously, you’ll have to have a few beers with your evening meal on top of that.

(Translated from the Czech)

Boss: Is that beer I smell on your breath?

You: Of course it is.

Boss: Good man.

If you’ve ever been to London, or pretty much anywhere else in the UK, you might have noticed that the pubs get pretty full at lunchtime. Not so in the good ol’ USA. In Britain, some folks see having a pint before heading back to work as almost mandatory. Ah, pub culture. Glorifying the ideal that getting a little bit tipsy while the sun’s still out is a good thing. (Not that you’d notice the sun while inside of a dimly-lit pub on a consistently overcast isle).

Around the Mediterranean, in places like Italy and Spain, a glass of wine, or a beer (usually not as big as you’d find in Britain or the Czech Republic) with lunch makes for a wonderful accompaniment to your afternoon meal. And the good news is both countries produce excellent, affordable wine. The same goes for Portugal. Even better, you might also get to sit out in the sunshine for a bit while you sip or your vino, or knock back a glass or two of cerveza.

If you’re the type of person who’s not satisfied with a few simple drinks a lunch, and you really want to head somewhere where drinking is out of control, two countries stand out from the rest. The first is Russia, which you might have already guessed. About 25% of all Russian men die before the age of 55, and most of these deaths can be attributed to vodka. Cheery stuff, isn’t it?

But if you’re truly determined to indulge in over-drinking (live fast and die young), another country has got Russian beat. South Korea, of all places, leads the world in alcohol consumption. South Koreans slug almost 14 shots of booze each and every week. It’s how these hardworking people socialize after the gruelingly long hours they put in at the workplace. Soju rice liquor is the national spirit, so if you plan on boozing it up on the Korean Peninsula, you’d better develop a taste for it, and get used to stepping over passed out drunks in alleyways to boot.

While drinking a bit at lunch might be a nice way to relish a meal and a let a little steam off at the same time, “moderation” — as with most things in life — is the motto any lunchtime drinker should follow. Otherwise, you could very well be cutting your time on Earth short by a substantial number of years … or at the very least, hunting for another job.