Headed across borders for a meeting or new assignment? Wondering if your new colleagues will expect you to drink with them? Wondering how to tactfully handle this? We've compiled some great advice from the Art of Manliness Guide to Drinking for the Teetotaler and our own RW3 Master Trainer, Barry Spaulding.


1. Don’t Fall off the Wagon. If you suffer from alcoholism, no business deal or new work relationship is worth jeopardizing your health and wellbeing. If you are not comfortable telling your colleagues the truth, a teetotaler CEO has found that claiming to be, “just getting over a terrible stomach flu,” or expressing some other relatively serious health issue that prevents you from drinking alcohol usual does the trick, “particularly those of a digestive nature.” However, if you’re going to use illness as an excuse, consistency is key. Don’t say you have stomach issues and order a spicy dish the same night. Still concerned? We've pulled some tips from The Art of Manliness' Guide and our own cultural experts at RW3 CultureWizard.

2. When in Rome. The old adage of doing as the Romans is still your best guide on how to approach drinking with international colleagues. If the locals partake and it’s a part of their cultural process of after work bonding, go ahead and partake, but don’t over-indulge. Most cultures frown upon getting drunk in a work environment.

3. Know What You’re Drinking. The libation of choice for many cultures can really pack a punch, so know what you’re drinking beforehand and adjust accordingly. For instance, that Belgian beer might have an alcohol content over 10% so don’t drink on an empty stomach, especially if one or two drinks tends to do you in.

4. When Booze is the Bond. In countries like China, Korea, Russia and Poland drinking with your colleagues is serious business and they consider it an opportunity to get to know you better. Your best advice here is to understand the cultural importance placed upon drinking beforehand and what you might be in for. Eating a lot is another good defense mechanism. Countering the onslaught of alcohol by keeping your mouth full of food and showing great appreciation for the local cuisine might distract your hosts enough to pay more attention to your empty plate than your half empty cup.

5. Special Considerations for Women. Women should feel free to have just as much fun as the boys but will not be expected to match them shot for shot in most cultures. However, partaking at least a little is always appreciated and can be a great equalizer in relationship building. That said; special caution should be exercised for safety and health. Most women tend to be smaller than men and carry on average, 10% more body fat, which means there’s less water to dilute alcohol. RW3 Master Trainer, Barry Spaulding has some great cultural drinking tips for specifically for women doing business in China and Japan that CultureWizard clients can access on “Ask CultureWizard”.

6. In Muslim Countries. Even if your host offers you an alcoholic beverage it is still probably best to abstain. Drinking alcohol in many Muslim countries is a punishable offense and no drink is worth the potential penalty and embarrassment.

If those are the basic guidelines, what advice or stories might you have about mixing (or not-mixing) business and alcohol when working inter-culturally?

RW3 CultureWizard is a leading provider of cross cultural training and information through the CultureWizard intercultural learning platform.

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