If you wish to come to spend some festive holidays in Slovenia, you may wonder if this is a great country to have fun and go out. Do not worry, the inhabitants of this small country in Central Europe sure enjoy alcohol.
Slovenian people are hard drinkers compared to average, even for the region. Their alcohol consumption is between 2 and 2.5 times higher than the world average. Slovenia definitely has a “wet” drinking culture: alcohol is seen as a way to bond and celebrate, so drinking is wholly accepted.
Let’s discover how Slovenians connect with alcohol, their drinking habits, and the proper etiquette in the country when it comes to getting drunk.
The Importance of Alcohol in the Slovene Culture
If Slovenian people drink a lot, they are not particularly drunkards; alcohol is simply an essential part of their culture and then of their everyday life. Alcoholic beverages play a significant role in important events and celebrations in Slovenia since it can be associated with many festivals and rituals.
A lot of events, whether they are linked to politics, sports, or culture, require Slovenian people to drink because everyone does. Alcohol creates a lot of social bonds. It is also explained by Slovenia’s geographical nature, which is the perfect place in the world to produce any kind of alcoholic beverage.
This way, Slovenia’s alcohol is particularly cheap, accessible, and easy to come by for Slovenians and tourists. Prices are significantly inferior to the European Union average. For example, a pint of beer will cost you about 3 euros in Ljubljana, and 2 euros in a small village in the countryside.
But alcohol in Slovenia is not only accessible but praised. If you pay attention to Slovene arts and poetry, you will notice that alcohol is embedded in it. Alcohol is indeed glorified in more than a hundred folk songs.
Even the national anthem is considered a drinking song: the title means “a toast”, and the lyrics were initially written to make them look like a glass of wine. Prešeren, its famous writer, happened to be an alcoholic that died from it.
However, drinking alcohol in Slovenia is tied to deep beliefs that it has only sound effects on people. Health awareness concerning alcohol is then pretty low, and Slovenians tend to consume it everywhere, at every occasion, and without limitations.
Great Alcohol Producers (and Consumers)
For tourists who want to have a taste of the Slovene drinking culture and habits, the best is probably to try the national beverages instead of the (various) international alcohols. Slovenia is indeed one of the best countries in the World for Alcohol tourism, as it produces outstanding wine and beer and some popular homemade moonshine.
Slovenian people are the proud producers of a significant quantity of award-winning wines that meet the quality of the world’s best producers, as France or Italy. They have a long tradition of wine production that permitted them to improve their goods. This history also made them become huge consumers of all kinds of wines.
Slovenians also rank as the second biggest wine consumers globally, even if wine represents only 47% of their alcohol consumption, representing approximately 43 liters per inhabitant per year. They mostly enjoy white wines, but also qualitative red and sparkling wines.
Nowadays, the country’s 28,000 wineries produce about 90 million liters of wine each year. It means that Slovenia counts a winery for every 71 people.
If you come to Slovenia, you must taste the two leading beer brands in the country, Union and Laško, which is nearly 200 years old. These two breweries, now owned by Heineken since 2015, produce very little for export (except for the Slovene diaspora like Melania Trump), so they are mostly consumed by Slovenians.
Slovenian people are also found of craft beer: I especially recommend you to taste a Human Fish, which is the first brewery of the country. However, Slovenians particularly enjoy more local artisanal and private microbreweries. The Grim Reaper IPA is also an unmistakable option for tourists and Slovenians.
You will find out that Slovenians enjoy beer more than any other alcohol, and more than most European drinkers. Indeed, they consume every year more than 93 liters per person. This number is impressive when you compare it to the French consumption (around 30 liters every year), and even to the Czech one, the gold standard (148 liters by year).
However, if Slovenians have a heavy drinker’s reputation, this is more linked to their schnapps consumption, and even harder alcohols. They enjoy the most plum liquor (slivovka), honey (medica), blueberry (borovnica, that is very sweet and syrupy), and pear (viljamovka).
Their herbal alcohol, pelinkovac, is one of the most interesting ones, with its Jagermeister taste. If you want to stay true to your habits, try one of their excellent brandies or vodka, but remember to drink it sparingly. Slovenians are used to it since they consume about 5 to 7 liters of homemade moonshine every year from the age of 15.
Slovenians are Heavy Drinkers
In Comparison With the World Average
This consumption of pure alcohol is high compared to the rest of the world, even by Central European norms. Slovenians are classified as the 24th heaviest drinking nation according to a ranking carried out by the World Health Organization, as they drink about 11.6 liters of pure alcohol every year. They are notably the 7th biggest beer consumers in the world.
Drinkers But Not Drunken
However, be careful if you come to Slovenia to get drunk. Do not get Slovenian people wrong! They drink a lot, but they barely get drunk in the streets. For example, they are not affected by alcohol as much as other Europeans: this is visible through the beer standards. The French one is 25cl, whereas the Slovene one is more about 50cl.
Slovenians drink most socially and responsibly than French people, for example. Indeed, among people who consumed more than 30 grams of alcohol in one night during the last month, only 18% of the Slovenians got drunken, while 44 out of 100 French people did.
Nevertheless, the least anti-alcoholic advertisement added to the characteristics of the Slovene culture results in a permissive position regarding binge drinking, which could lead some to consider Slovenians as drunkards.
Which Slovenians Do Drink the Most?
Alcohol in Slovenia concerns a vast majority of the population. This way, only 15% of Slovenians have been teetotallers for the last 12 months, and less than 10% of young people, which may be more of a concern.
Surveys show that schoolchildren are very exposed to alcohol since 60% of 10 years old drink alcohol regularly. Only 40% are then teetotallers, while 14% have been drunk before.
Binge drinking is the major issue from young Slovenians, while the oldest are most likely to suffer from excessive drinking, which increases with age.
We can still perceive some gender-based differences regarding alcohol consumption in Slovenia, as in most countries. Yet, they are particularly strong even if they tend to decrease in recent years.
This way, even if women are usually soberer, Slovenian ones really get less drunk. With the same criteria used for men before, only 3% of Slovenian women got inebriated, while 26% of women from the UK and 17% of Russian women got drunk. But this is less true for younger people. However, men are still also more likely to pass away because of an alcohol-related disease.
Current Level of Alcohol-Related Issues in Slovenia
Each year, alcohol-related issues cost about 234 million euros to the country. Most concerningly, two lives are taken every day because of alcohol in Slovenia.
Hazardous and Harmful Drinking Effects
The number of deaths linked to alcohol is higher in Slovenia than in the average of the European Union. About 881 people die every year because of alcohol, with an additional 75 deaths caused by drunk drivers. We also estimate to around 4400 the number of potential lives taken by the harmful use of alcohol.
These numbers echo to others: in 2011 and 2012, almost half of the 25-64 years old drank excessively (did hazardous drinking) or binge drank last year. The hospitalizations for alcohol-related issues may decrease, but the people who come are usually in worse health status than before.
Indeed, the number of liver cirrhosis is then particularly high in Slovenia: about 42 for every 100 000 inhabitants, which is nearly as high as Russia (49) and way more than France or UK (16).
Tolerance to Alcohol and Dependence
Alcohol can then be partly considered a burden for the whole society since no significant consumption decrease has been observed in Slovenia, contrary to Spain or France, which are also wine-producing countries. The average consumption has even gained 2 liters since 1991.
This difference can be explained in a significant part by the proportion of Slovene domestic alcohol production, representing 5 to 7 liters per capita of unrecorded consumption. The increase in alcohol consumption by young people and women, with a decrease in the pressure of the traditional family, is another way to respond.
In the End
Slovenia is a beautiful country imbibed by this “wet” culture, and there is a lot to learn about it and their beautiful wines, beers, and schnapps as long as you consume it moderately.
So, don’t waste more time. Take a tour today to discover the Slovene wine road and have a drink with some nice Slovenians!