50 Things I Learned Abroad (#45-41 Drinking)

This post is part of a larger collection of the 50 Things I Learned Abroad after a year spent in Europe. Stay tuned for more.

#45 – Don’t be afraid of the bar.

madrid bar

When I first got to Spain, I’d walk past small bars full of old men drinking and eating tapas and I’ll admit, I felt intimidated.  I had no idea how tapas worked. I didn’t know a caña from a jarra. After trying it though, it proved to be a lot less scary than I thought and I spent countless hours hanging out at tiny bars full of old men, watching horrible Spanish television. These bars aren’t exclusive zones for serious drinkers or places where being alone while female means you’re looking for a companion. Somehow, Spanish bars are more comfortable than the average American dive. People even bring their kids!

#44 – Learn how to talk coffee.

Though you will find Starbucks in many Spanish cities, you will almost never have an opportunity to buy a venti-latte-whatever at the corner cafeteria so you best learn what your actual options are. This guide sums it up pretty well (except they left off the carajillo – trust me, just order it). You might also be saddened to discover that your coffee seems to be hobbit-sized. You’ll get used to that.

churros and choco

#43 – Wine/Beer + Juice/Soda = Magic.

Wine and beer are not sacred elixirs never to be adulterated. In Poland, they mix juice with beer (and *gasp* drink it through a straw). In Spain, they mix a sprite-like soda with beer. In Germany, beer and cola. Its a big free-for-all over there and we Americans are missing out! I highly recommend skeptics everywhere  get a off their high, alcohol-fueled horses and mix a little Coke Zero with red wine. Seriously.


#42 – Its okay to have a drink with lunch.

Throughout Europe, drinking in the afternoon, isn’t as frowned upon as it is in the US. If you want a glass of wine with lunch (its included in the price, anyway), you won’t be immediately sat down for an intervention. No need to make the excuse that its “5 o’clock somewhere”.

#41 – Let’s take this outside.

Everyone knows it. Somehow life is just better when you’re drinking outside. In Spain, you will usually be charged extra to sit out in the sunlight but its well worth it. Despite the price increase, you won’t find many folks eating or drinking indoors on a nice day. Instead, people crowd around occupied tables, waiting to pounce even when there’s plenty of room inside.

meknes tea


  • Best country for drinking (non-alcoholic) – Morocco. Cafe culture is huge here and the mint tea is ridiculously delicious and available everywhere, all the time.
  • Best Country for the Drunk on a Budget – Spain. I’m pretty sure no one else drinks as cheaply as the Spaniards. I don’t know how they manage to sell a glass of wine for €1.50 when everyone else refuses to dip below  €5, but I love them for it.
  • Worst Wine I’ve Ever Had in My Life – Its so cheap I shouldn’t be surprised, but the worst wine of my life was in Spain at a tiny bar in Chueca. It was undrinkable (and believe me, I aint fancy).
  • Most Undrinkable Drink: Hot Chocolate in Spain. Don’t be fooled. This is hot pudding.
  • Drink I Regret not Trying – Sidra, a famous local cider in Oviedo, Spain.
  • Cutest Sugar Packets EverPortugal. It’s a thing.
  • Coolest Subterranean Setting for a Wine Tasting – Vini Liquori in Lucca, Italy.
  • Most Inexplicable Drink Trend –  Madrid is uncannily obsessed with Gin & Tonic and they don’t at all resemble what you’d get in the US.
  • Drink That’s Surprisingly Acceptable Consumed by Adults – Cola Cao (chocolate milk). It’s funny how cultures determine what’s acceptable for whom to drink. In Spain, if you’re a 40 year old man with a craving for Nesquik, belly up to the bar and get some, my friend.


Have you been surprised by any beverage trends abroad? What’s the worst drink you’ve ever tried while travelling?



7 thoughts on “50 Things I Learned Abroad (#45-41 Drinking)

  1. Cola Cao, I still can’t quite wrap my head around it. Sidra is best artfully poured by someone from Asturias. Otherwise, you didn’t miss much. It’s dreadful if you can’t pour it right. Spain, the country for lovers and drunks. (I say this with love, of course.)

    1. Yeah, I tried Sidra from a bottle and wasn’t impressed but I’m told that’s not the way to go. “Spain, the country for lovers and drunks” ha! I want this on a t-shirt!

  2. I love this idea! I too used to get intimidated by the bar, but I’m not (really) anymore. At least I try not to be.

    Also, while in Madrid good wine costs a bit more, I love returning to Mario’s hometown (Zamora) where I can get a very decent glass of wine for €1,50 or €1,70. God bless Spanish wines.

  3. I LOOOOVE this! I’m a huge proponent of Spain’s drinking culture, mostly for its affordability and variety. And I have beers once in a while on my own at a bar, usually when there’s a match on and my boyfriend’s away, or just because it’s hot out!

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