How to survive a hangover in different countries

If you enjoy traveling and drinking, you probably have suffered – or will at some point suffer – a debilitating hangover in a foreign country. Hangovers do not discriminate on the basis of race or creed: it matters not whether you are drinking Napa Valley merlot, delicious Belgian microbrews or Vietnamese rice wine (although the latter will almost certainly give you the worst headache). Hangovers are all the more painful for being completely self-inflicted.

While throbbing headaches and delicate stomachs are universal, the ways in which different cultures talk about hangovers and try to fix them varies considerably. Bearing in mind comedian Robert Benchley’s sage advice – that the only cure for a real hangover is death – experts at language learning app Babbel, put together a short guide to help you express your pain, and do something about it regardless of where you are.


What to say
Ich habe einen Kater. The Germans get a Kater (tomcat) after a big night. The expression probably came from Katarrh, a flu-like symptom. Katzenjammer, roughly “caterwauling”, is fun, but rarely used.

What to do
You’ll certainly need a Katerfrühstück (hangover breakfast) to deal with the pain. It might well include Rollmops, pickled herrings with gherkin and onions. Electrolytes are very important. If you subscribe to the “hair of the dog” theory, then try a Konterbier (counter-beer).


What to say
Tá póitín orm” is modern Irish for talking about your hangover (literally “there is a small drinking-bout on me”), which shouldn’t (or maybe should) be confused with poitín, an Irish beverage that was most likely responsible for your discomfort in the first place. “Brown bottle flu”, “in Lego™” (i.e. in bits) and “an inexplicable headache” (no one does irony quite like the Irish) are also good. You can even refer to it as “Irish flu”, but perhaps it’s best not to do that in Ireland. Unless you’re Irish.

What to do
You can follow the Irish proverb, “leigheas na póite a hól arís” (“the cure for a hangover is to drink again”), but, if you’re not a “hair of the dog” type, a full Irish breakfast is the way to go. Bacon, sausages, black and white pudding, mushrooms, fried tomato, fried eggs, baked beans and of course soda bread. You can combine it with a quick dip in the Atlantic to really kick-start that heart attack.


What to say
У меня похмелье (U menya pokhmel’e): a Russian hangover, pokhmel’e, is literally “after being drunk”. Mind you, many Russians claim that if you drink vodka the right way – neat – you won’t get a hangover. Сушняк (Sooshnyak) is that feeling when your mouth’s as dry as a desert.

What to do
This requires some preparation. Get dried black or rye bread and soak it in sugar and yeast until it forms a mildly alcoholic beverage called kvas. Drink and/or throw up and enjoy! If that doesn’t do the trick, try mixing brine and tomato juice, or simply head to the sauna for a bout of self-flagellation with birch branches.


What to say
J’ai la gueule de bois – “I’ve got a wooden gob (mouth)”. Typically happens when you “drink like a hole”, boire comme un trou. If you ever find yourself in this situation, tell your tormentor j’ai les dents du fond qui baignent – literally “my back teeth are soaking”, also used when you’ve had too much food – and they may take pity on you.

What to do
Cassoulet or onion soup are recommended. Having French friends (who are not hungover) willing to cook these delicacies for you is a plus.


What to say
Ho i postumi della sbornia. A hangover is postumi della sbornia, “the after-death of drunkenness”. Not that you’ll ever hear an Italian say this—not that Italians get drunk, mind you (or at least they never appear to be drunk).

What to do
Get a double espresso into you and hit the road.


What to say
Estoy crudo… Did you wake up feeling a bit cruda, (“raw”), this morning? Other Central American countries use goma (“rubber”), and if you head south to Colombia you can describe your hangover as “having a guava tree”, tengo guayabo.

What to do
Give your stomach a bit of a challenge with a Mexican shrimp and shellfish salad. A combination of lime, onions and cilantro, vuelva a la vida, will indeed bring you back to life.


What to say
二日酔いしてる!(Futsuka-yoi shiteru!). The Japanese consider a hangover to be futsuka-yoi, “two-days drunk”. If sake and karaoke were involved, you may require additional Japanese drinking phrases.

What to do
You will be advised to eat umeboshi. These are salty pickled plums, so extreme that they are sometimes soaked in green tea. An energy drink (or three) – good for rehydration – and miso soup might also be on the menu.



The Babbel app for web, iOS and Android makes it easy to learn 14 different languages from 7 display languages. Bite-sized lessons fit into everyday life and are split into useful real-world topics, from introducing oneself, to ordering food and making travel arrangements. The app’s effective game mechanics ensure that learners stay motivated to achieve their goals, with the average user continuing to learn with Babbel for more than 12 months. Uniquely, every course is created specifically for each language pair by a team of education experts, linguists and language teachers.

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