Learn the Local Customs: Things to Avoid in a Bar

From my daily survival tips calendar:

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Essential Survival Knowledge: Gesture to Avoid (the Upside-Down Glass on Bar)

In the United States and other countries, turning your glass upside-down might indicate that you do not want anything more to drink. In some pubs in Australia, however, finishing your drink, turning the glass upside-down, and placing it squarely on the bar may signal that you believe you can win a fight with anyone present.

Anyone heard of this before? Or witnessed the unfortunate outcome of some unsuspecting traveler doing same?

It might sound a little silly to folks in the States. But whether it’s true or not, it’s a good reminder to get acquainted with the countries you plan on visiting – especially local gestures and greetings. Seemingly innocuous gestures here in the U.S. – the thumbs up or the simple wave – might mean something altogether different in Asia, Africa, et. al.

Founding Editor
  1. Having been born and raised in Australia, I can safely say I have never ever heard of this. Ever. Never, ever ever, never.

    1. At the rocks area of Sydney I was in an Irish pub and getting gruff from this guy and when I turned my shot glass upside down. We went at it. Broke a couple tables and glasses of beer. After all had cleared. He was buying me drinks. Best time of my life.

  2. Yup my patents owned a pub in Brunswick AUST and it was old school code if it was down generally you don’t screw with they person have seen many of fights from this occurring. Haven’t seen it much in the younger generation to be honest.

  3. This is old school and true. If you finished your drink then placed your glass on the bar upside down you challenge anyone in the bar to a fight. The younger generation would not be aware of this.

  4. That is true Stephen, this practice was more common in the bush and cattle stations back in the 70’s.

  5. this must be true also in the State,s (OD SCHOOL) BECAUSE BACK IN THE EIGHTIES, i turned a shot glass glass upsie down,in Illinios,U.S. on the bar and the bar tender erupted furiously, yelling very loudly” who turned that *** ****[email protected]**!! shot glass upside upside down,.. ill break his ****** neck!

  6. Happen to stumble across this when I looked up the meaning of the gesture having just watched it play out in an old western movie called “Dallas,” in the US. In the movie a guy from the east part of US didn’t know the meaning and his buddy told him to turn it back over and had to save his butt when it the other cowboys at the bar saw it as a gesture to start a fight. So apparently, it may also have meant you were looking for a fight back in the ol’ West and cattle county in the US too.

  7. Rodeo cowboys in Arizona cautioned me before entering a local bar “that if you see anyone take his glass and slam it down on the bar upside down” to beware because it means he’s ready to fight anyone in the bar. He was a professional rodeo bull rider. I listened.

  8. On another note, when in Brazil, never give anyone the “OK” sign with index finger and thumb. Down there it is the same as giving someone the finger in the U.S. Fortunately, Brazilians have a good sense of humor and are forgiving.

  9. in normal bars in America it means your next drink is paid for when a bartender puts a clean shot glass upside down in front of you

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