Thursday, May 26, 2016

Leave Taking, Day 12

Day 12:  Beer Lao

Beer Lao is so much more than a beer.  It reflects Lao culture so perfectly.  There are some cultural rules surrounding Beer Lao, that I quickly found out.

#1:  It must be had with ice cubes.  Many of my Lao friends will refuse to drink it, unless there's a fresh heap of ice cubes in their glass.  These ice cubes can sometimes partially save you from the worst hangover imaginable, which Beer Lao proudly delivers approximately 3 hours after you start drinking it.
#2:  It is shared.  A far cry from American beer culture where every person buys their own bottle and drinks only their own bottle; Beer Lao is a social beer.  It is bought in large bottles by a group of friends, who then go through them one by one together, pouring the beer into small glasses.  You never have your own bottle of it.
#3:  It is finished.  No one is going anywhere, including you, until the entire series of bottles has been gone through.  We are all in it together.  We all go down together.
#4:  You pour for each other.  And, if you have any self-respect as a friend, all of your friend's glasses will be filled up immediately and often prematurely.
#5:  You must clink glasses and cheers, often.  Approximately every other sip, you all have to clink glasses and say "nyok nyok."  Once in a while, someone will "mot" you, and that means you have to drain your entire glass.
#6:  You can't cheat: If you are 'motted', you must respect the 'mot.'  You can't pretend to drink.  Besides, people will notice.
#7:  More beer must be procured subtly, whenever there's the slightest risk of running out of bottles.  
#8:  You most boldly display your drunkenness 
#9:  Any wishes to abstain or 'go easy' will be promptly ignored.  Begging illness, religion, preference, health, will do nothing help you.
#10: Whenever possible, foreigners must be drunk into a beautiful stupor.  This usually isn't too hard, as most foreigners usually haven't shared beer with lao people before.
#11:  Everyone you vaguely know (or sometimes don't know) must be invited over to have a glass.  You must also make them drunk too.

Beer Lao traditions, like Lao people, reflect a focus on sharing, community, openness, and fun/silliness.

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