European Drinking Songs
“Europe has a great culture and an amazing history. Most important thing though is that people there know how to live! In America they’ve forgotten all about it. I’m afraid that the American culture is a disaster.”
Europe is not only the development of political institutions, it is also the special intercultural link that every European citizen can experience in bars all over the continent. Erasmus students all remember the first time they sang the most popular drinking song of their host-country. It is actually an interesting experience to get to know how Europeans have fun and to share national toast or drinking songs. Below is gathered for the first time ever drinking songs from all Europe ! The list is not perfect, as it is sometimes difficult to get a sample from every country, but it will learn you a lot on how to party on this old continent! Click on the name of the song to listen to it on YouTube.
Let’s start with a funny Portuguese drinking song which states “e se o (nome) quer ser cá da malta, tem de beber este copo até o fim, e vai pra cima e vai pro baixo e vai pro centro, e vai pro dentro e vai pro dentro e vai pro dentro…!”. You will need to incorporate the name of the person at the beginning of the song if you want to see him drinking. Translated into English, it says : “and if (name) wants to be part of this gang, he/she has to drink this cup till it’s done and (the cup) goes up and it goes down and it goes to the center, and it goes in, it goes in, it goes in ..” Now just try the song with a couple of friends!
The Spanish toast is quite similar to the Portuguese one. “Arriba, Abajo, al Centro, y pa’dentro!” means “Up, Down, in the middle and inside”. Drinkers just have to raise the glass according to the rules of the motto before drinking its content. This toast can be accompanied by a drinking song, commonly sung during the so-called botellón, those famous meetings of young students in the streets whose only aim is to drink. Wanna hear another Spanish drinking song? A big surprise is waiting for you in the Canción de la bebida, if, at least, you recognize the rythme.
Pastis is an institution in the south of the country. This anise-flavoured liqueur is often referred to simply as 51, Pernod or Ricard. It has a long tradition in France where alcohol with more than 45° alcohol degree was forbidden until 1945. The drinking song simply says “51 I love you, I would drink barrels of it. Till I fall on the ground. Under coconut trees”. You will find the lyrics in a slow version here and another video here.
Drinking songs may be an Irish invention actually. The pub culture in Ireland isn’t something Irish do on occasion, but rather a way of life. Many pubs in Ireland are actually living rooms that just happened to have a couple taps and a good selection of liquor in them. Many Irish have their favorite local watering-hole, complete with free live music and free flowing beer. The up-tempo Irish madness of the drinking song The Irish rover gets everyone in the party spirit.
The spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is used as a drinking song by members of the Hash House Harriers and rugby union players, with obscene gestures associated with the lyrics. This song is heightened to a drinking game by air force fighter pilots. The first person to fail to correctly make the gestures has to buy the next round of drinks. It became the official England Rugby World Cup 2003 song performed by UB40.
In Scandinavia a snapsvisa is a traditional drinking song which is often sung before drinking a small shot of spirit that is called a snaps. The Norwegian drinking song is as simple as a child song: all you need to know is that “øl” means “beer”, “og” means “and”, and “mere” means “more”. It was written by a well-known band from Namsos called 3 Busserulls.
The most famous Swedish snapssång is without doubt Helan går. Helan (“the whole”) is an expression signifying the first (small) glass of spirit (commonly akvavit or vodka) in a series, and går means “goes down”. Thus, it is commonly sung as a toast, typically for the first glass of spirit at a seated dinner. It means in English “- The whole goes – Sing “hup fol-de-rol la la” – And the one who doesn’t take the whole – Doesn’t get the half either – The whole goes”. The song, in an instrumental version under the title Helan, is present as a ringtone on some Nokia mobile phones, possibly as a nod to Nokia’s Scandinavian heritage. Lyrics here.
The finnish drinking song is one of the funniest song of this list. Even if you can’t say a word in Finnish, you will quick understand the spirit of this rhythm. The song means : “I drink drink this boy drinks, I like to be drunk, I drink drink this boy drinks, I like to sway like crazy when I’m drunk” And it continues the whole song with a description how you can drink : “I drink to hangover I drink to hopness, And when im sober I drink, I drink few and I drink anyways, And again I drink”. A Finnish spirit…
In Denmark, “We say cheers to our friends, And those that we know, And those that we don’t know, We say cheers to them aswell”. How could they be friendlier?
The Dutch drinking song is a syllogism : “In heaven there is no beer, No, no, no, That’s why we drink it here, Yes, yes, yes, Give us then our beer” The song was also translated in English by Dr. Demonto In heaven There is no beer. And you’ve got here a Band performing the song. The result is really amazing !
The Belgian singer Le Grand Jojo intepretated “On a soif” for the first time in 1979. Since then, it became one of the most famous drinking song in Belgium and you will hear it in many bars and weddings. You can find the lyrics here.
Bier served at Oktoberfest and in Bavarian Bier halls and restaurants usually come in two sizes: “Large” and “Oh…my…God!”. Proper Bier drinking etiquette at Oktoberfest requires that during particular songs, all glasses are raised and the song belted out. One of the most popular songs played at all the tents is the German classic “Ein Prosit”, which means in English, “A Toast!”. The whole song says “A toast, a toast, that cheerful feeling. A toast, a toast, that cheerful feeling … One, two, three – Drink !”. Here the lyrics.
I hope you are ready to sing a Swiss song? If Vogellisi’s song is not about alcohol as such, you may often hear it in bars in Switzerland, and most often from people so drunk that you can barely catch a word! Ready ? „Wenn i nume wüsst wo s’Vogellisi wär, s’Vogellisi chunt vo Adelbode her, Adelbode liit im Berner Oberland, s’Berner Oberland isch schön. Z’Oberland ja, z’Oberland, z’Berner Oberland isch schön z’Oberland jo, z’Oberland z’Berner Oberland isch schön“. And of course, the English translation. You may notice that the lyrics are stupid simple: “Vogellisi, if only I could know where is Vogellisi, Vogellisi comes from Adelboden, Adelboden is located in the Bernese Oberland, Bernese Oberland is wonderful!”. Just for your information, the idyllic Bernese Oberland is a popular holiday destination.
The Italian drinking song “Bevilo Tutto” is a funny game to sing among friends. The table begins singing “bevilo tutto” repeatedly until a carefully chosen victim drains his glass of wine. The person then turns his glass up-side down, and if a drop falls, the person must refill the glass and try again. The song says: “Drink it all, drink it all, Drink it all, drink it all, etc. – He has drunk it all and it didn’t make her ill. Water makes you ill. Wine makes you sing!” Just as a reminder, Italian have a long tradition of drinking song with their famous Brindisi like Libiamo ne’ lieti calici.
The Austrian drinking song can be learned by anyone. It states “Prost Prost Kamerad ; Prost Prost Kamerad ; Prost Prost Prost Prost Prost Prost Kamerad; Wir wollen einen heben ; Prost Prost Prost! ; Sauf’aus Kamerad; Sauf’aus Kamerad ; Sauf’aus Sauf’aus Sauf’aus Kamerad ; Wir wollen einen heben ; Prost Prost Prost!“ Translated into English it means : “cheers cheers friend ; We want to raise our glass ; drink drink friend…“
The Czech drinking song is not a toast song, but a popular tune about a barrel of whisky. “Tak kopni do tý bedny, a panstwo neèeká, jsou dlouhý schody do nebe a štreka daleká. Do nebeskýho báru, já sucho w krku mám, tak kopni do tý bedny, a na cestu se dám.”
Here a slovakian drinking song. Maybe not the most famous.
“If you don’t drink with us, we’ll hit you with a big stick” The Polish sample is a Polka drinking song very funny and traditional. It can be sung during a family dinner, just as in the amazing video, or between students. Here another link to hear the original version.
The Lithuanian drinking song sounds a bit like a folk song. It says: “Po stikliuka ir po maziuka pakelkim mes mieli draugai, ar tu myli ar ne myli ar myleti negali”. There is unfortunately no English translation available yet…
Even though this adaptation sounds quite organic, the original lyrics are nevertheless clear : “Let’s sit round the table, the girls are here at last! Nothing makes life sweeter – have another glass… ” in the first part of the song, it states : “Friends, why be so glum – it’s just another day, despite your analyzing, pain is here to stay. Face the road with laughter, forget the doom and gloom,any path you take will lead you to your tomb”.
This is not a traditional Estonian drinking song, but quite amazing which means “Let’s drink, drink”. Otherwise, Estonians have plenty of strange drinking songs such as the excellent Lvovi Polka, the really odd Põdrakasvataja (Ikka viin, viin, viin) or the hip hop drinking song Viski.
The popular Belarusian drinking song would be translated literally as “trifle of trifles”, but in this context it would mean something like English: “diddle-a-diddle”. Known under several other titles, such as “Ad panyadzyelku da panyadzyelku” (“From Monday till Monday”), “Basota” or “Halota” (“Poor never-do-wells”), the song is known and sung with numerous variations in text and under several titles. The lyrics says “Trifle of trifles, trifle of trifles ; Rain is mizzling down ; Poor ne’er-do-wells gathered together ; And are getting drunk ; Drinking the spirits, drinking the spirits ; Gonna drink the wine ; Dare someone mock us a little ; Will be beaten down”
This Ukrainian toast song is quite popular in the country. Here the lyrics in Ukrainian : “Ой хто п’є тому наливайте Хто не п’є тому не давайте, А ми будем пити і Бога хвалити ; І за вас і за нас і за Неньку стареньку ; Що навчила нас Горілочку пить помаленьку” It means approximately in English : “Oh poor drinkers do not drink so fast ; And we will drink and praise God ; And for you and for us and old Nenko ; who taught us to drink vodka slowly”.
Romania & Moldova
In Romania, drinking music seems to be just a musical genre itself. You will find in Romania many “Muzica de petrecere” (“music to drink”) which sounds for other Europeans like what we call Balkan music. The rhythm is often fast with a voice singing folk music. You can find examples here and here.
“Down Down Down to the bottom” or “Le Le Lefenékig” This is the Hungarian drinking song which is quite repetitive but for sure efficient. As the funny video with old people mentioned it : After a round or two like this the results were guaranteed!
Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Slovenian drinking song sounds a bit sad at the beginning but becomes more intensive after a few minutes. This song is actually from Bosnia and is sung by Plavi orkestar, one of the most popular bands from former Yugoslavia. Young people tend to sing this song arm in arm in bars or during parties. It means “Better to be Drunk than Old”. Just to know it : in Slovenia, even the national anthem Zdravljica used to be a drinking song !
Unfortunately, we don’t have the true name of this drinking song, it is however one of the most lively of our playlist. It is sung during a show of Ivan Hrvatska, a Croatian entertainer and singer. You will be for sure motivated to learn it and sing it with your friends…
In Serbia, people drink Slivovitz like they do coffee – often, and in large quantities. Most Slivovitz is produced in-home, and consumed there as well. Yeremia is an old drinking song in Serbia. The famous Goran Bregovic interpretated it in his album Alcohol.
“Let’s drink wine, drink wine; the odd drink, the odd drink ; let the spirit Oh, the spirit of wine…” The Macedonian drinking song is an old piece of folk music in the country. You will find the original lyrics here.
Old Albanians seated round a table, they sing an old drinking song together before raising their glass and emptying them. This is pure life.
Our sample for the Bulgarian drinking song is also famous in Macedonia. It is a folk music, but with really funny lyrics: “Do you have wine? Do you have wine? Do you have red wine? Then give it to us ; Do you have money? Do you have money? A lot of money? Then give it as well ; Do you have girls? Do you have girls? Do you have young girls? Then give them to us ; Do you have grannies? Do you have grannies? Do you have old grannies? Then keep them for yourselves”.
Here is not a drinking song to sing in bars, but a really funny song about drinking ouzo. “The whole world is my victim ; When I have Ouzo and I get drunk ; And when policemen see me ; I run as fast as possible ; When you drink Ouzo ; You become at once kind, God and world’s lord ; When you drink enough ; You will get high ;And everything in this world will seem to you perfect”
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